Sylvia said it best

Metaphors

I’m a riddle in nine syllables, 

An elephant, a ponderous house, 

A melon strolling on two tendrils. 

O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers! 

This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising. 

Money’s new-minted in this fat purse. 

I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf. 

I’ve eaten a bag of green apples, 

Boarded the train there’s no getting off.
– Sylvia Plath

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It is time to believe what we know is true

“Yes, its time to believe in what you know…”

Alexi Murdoch, Shine

In November, an article I wrote was published in Common Ground magazine. I am placing a copy here if you have not yet read it and are interested in doing so.  It is a reminder to take care of ourselves and a simple guide to knowing our truth.

In this vein, I am sitting at home instead of participating in the three classes scheduled in my calendar for today, listening to Alexi sing and watching the seabirds soar about over the contained waves of the Bay.  The nap I took earlier (instead of commuting into the city) was restful for both my body and spirit.  For the first time this year, stillness brings focus on sharing through the written word.

Truly, there is a time and place for everything.  And the journey to gentleness in accepting this has been many things. There was a time that (not having written a blog entry for the last three months) would have brought on the harangues of self-judgment and condemnation.

How good it is, instead, to reflect and accept that my life for the past three months has been quite rich with transitions as I continued grieving and contemplating my friend who had passed on, as I completed a rigorous and challenging course four months early, as I lovingly created and put together gifts for our “handmade with love” Christmas, baked batches of granola and completely, thoroughly, immersed myself into our holiday with family and snow and starry skies…

And then the new year found us returned to our home, turning out the light just as people outside began to wish one another “Happy New Year!”  I hugged my already sleeping husband before drifting off, myself.

We recovered from our travels, reflected on 2011 and looked ahead to ways we wished to grow and live in 2012, all while staying in the moment, in gratitude for where we have been and where we are now.

And then Tuesday came along and the workweek whisked us both away.  I began teaching full-time, and it has been my yoga practice.

And yesterday I was blessed with a day off to take an incredible all day intensive with Jane Austin on teaching yoga for pregnancy.  I recommend it to every yoga teacher, as a pregnant student could walk into your class any day.  Jane teaches a profound course that respects the individual where she is at and celebrates the inherent wisdom, strength, and beauty of our bodies.

I will continue learning with beloved teachers this weekend, including myself, as I listen, and know what I need.

And next Tuesday when we return to school?

Bring it on!

Girded with self-love, I am already ready.

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Remembering Bob on Sunday Morning

“When death comes to find you,
may it find you alive.”
-African Proverb

The saying above was sent to me yesterday in a newsletter, where the author reflected on the recent passing of her mother. I found it comforting, even appropriate, as this month a dear friend of my own has passed.

And death certainly found him alive. He had recently returned from one of his many three-week road trips up to the Northwest to perform and visit family and friends. For the first time, he mentioned to me that he no longer felt ‘at home’ in the Bay Area. We joked that we would all move north together.

He played for our yoga class on Friday night, and then at a book release and birthday party, Saturday night. I played along beside him for the first time. He practiced music with a long-time group of friends that Wednesday evening and went windsurfing at least one day that last week. He was offering healing to elderly folks suffering dementia, young people on the autism spectrum—bringing a moment of lucidity, clarity, relief. He shared with every day people who were in need of a little TLC, and was reaching out to others to share healing with people suffering PTSD, cancer and more. (And this is only a facet of Bob’s many dimensions.)

Bob taught me that healing doesn’t mean living forever. It means living well, now. Health is life, life is now. Do what you do. Bob was in the fullness of life. He was intentional, creative, patient, generous and kind. Each visit began with a ready mug of hot tea placed into my hands and concluded with at least three songs to enliven my ears and heart. And he always brought a smile to my face.

I learned another important thing this month. When we are grieving, we do not always ask for what we need. There have been times I have waited for that request, but the request never came, and I sadly and incorrectly assumed that what I had to offer was not needed.

This time, I made the visit without waiting for the call. And it was hard to show up, and necessary, and right. How good it was to look into the eyes of others who love him still and to embrace and to share with them a modicum of how much their brother has meant and continues to mean to me.

And I am so grateful to my husband, who has gently loved me through these awkward stages of grieving this loss of my friend. And I am grateful to the friends who attended Bob’s memorial service, those who offered condolences, and to neighbors and the friend who stopped by our home to show love to me.

I miss Bob. We were collaborators and instigators. We were in the midst of planning a music session and potluck at his home. Brennan and I were going to sing while Khatch played the flute and he played his twelve string, and steel guitar, and bowls. We had several events scheduled through January to share with the community. There are still flyers on walls and on the Internet. We still had things to do and I still have things to tell him.

Oh, how I want to have his company for lunch one last time. But isn’t that the way it goes, sometimes? We don’t always get the chance to say goodbye.

Bob often reminded me that fear is the absence of love—and humor is what returns us to love. So I laugh. And I love. I go easy on myself, and those around me. Life is a gift, tenuous, unpredictable and precious. And I recognize that which I fear, and love right on through. I practice this bravery, courage and patience– again, and again, and again. And life is vibrant, all around us.

This morning I said a prayer of thanks. I hugged my husband close and breathed him in. I luxuriated in the flannel sheets and kept my eyes closed until they were ready to open. Tomorrow I will arise before the sun, but today linger, and let life live me.

In remembrance of

Robert Donald Kudrna
1947-2011

My friend.

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Staying

It has been awhile since I have written—blogged, anyway. It is not for lack of things to share. Rather, my energies have been directed elsewhere, including having completed a course and begun another.

This fall it is my intention to stick around. This year and for much of my life, I am like a bird, riding the currents, traversing lightly from here to there. As summer transitions into autumn, I know it is what I need, and I have found myself making choices to stay. I will drive away for a weekend or two in October to harvest apples and retreat to write, spend holidays with family who live afar, but between now and March, I plan to be here the rest of the time if I have a choice in the matter.

In yoga, Peaceful Warrior is one of my favorite poses. I love the dynamics of digging deep and holding my ground, sinking from my sacrum down, strong through my legs, my feet, pressing into the earth while also experiencing lightness; lifting, opening, expanding through the heart, out through the arms, and up through the crown of my head. I enjoy the contrasts of deep and light, sinking and lifting, rooting and growing, steadfastness and expansion. I feel strong and whole and powerful. Because I also know the pose will not be held forever, as my body begins to tire, I breathe through it until it is time to change.

Tuesday morning as I settled into this pose, my instructor Brennan came by and wordlessly offered her gentle yet solid adjustments, pressing the outside of my back foot into the mat, and then with her hands aligning my hips ever so subtly, she pulled me even deeper somehow into my full expression of the pose. Though muscularly through the legs I was already there, (and I was already standing on the ground!) energetically, she reigned me in and I stood, complete in that place. I was aware in that moment that I had been (as I often am) both here, and ready to fly away. That I could be here more deeply, powerfully, fully– became immediately evident, and this wisdom, transferred by a knowledgeable eye and kind touch, brought me fully into my being, and into my intention.

Which brings me to what I have been contemplating this month in preparation for tomorrow evening’s class. Each month’s practice is an inquiry into an intention; for September, it is Trust: Change, Fear, and Doing It Anyway.

For me, inviting sameness is a change that doesn’t come easily.

I love variety. I love to take risks, try new activities, taste new foods, rearrange furniture, take different routes, talk with new people… The one thing I have always been able to create, count on, anticipate, make my way back onto my feet afterwards is, change.

Fear for me may arise from sameness, routine, or perhaps simply the ideas or expectations I have of what these might mean. (Though in many areas of life I have found that sometimes ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’) Sharing my intention to stick around is also a wee bit scary, since through sharing, I have declared intent and requested accountability.

Perhaps this season’s practice of transforming from bird to warrior means gracing myself with the time, space, and resources necessary to root and grow, creating a change that is just right for me.

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Bittersweet

I sit at the dining table, sipping upon a cappuccino. Milan’s summer heat is already pervading the flat, but a cool breeze manages to slide in from beneath the sheer cotton curtains and kiss at my feet (which are pretty beaten up from weeks of sandal-wearing and time spent mostly outdoors).

There are three days left of my visit and then nearly an entire day to spend traveling home.  It was about at this time yesterday that I felt that familiar urgency, that pervading awareness that this sweet time will soon conclude. I will be returning to my own life, and my sister will resume the course of hers.

We have already said goodbye to the other third of our tribe.  She had arrived early, and thus, left early.  Happy to have her here, sad to see her go.  She felt so small in our last hug before she hopped into the cab with her sleeping children at four in the morning.  It seemed that we needed more hours in each day (and perhaps an extra car), especially with so many children in the mix (how did our mother do it?).  Time together centered around kids was fun, splashing into, dancing and picnicking around the pool, as were the rare late or early hours where we adults had one another to ourselves (these moments stretched far).  To ease our minds of upcoming departures, plans were discussed for next year’s visit, this time in the  U. S.

Last Sunday evening we returned to Milan after a week in the Italian countryside.  An electric storm had begun to brew, beginning to sprinkle as we raced from car to flat, becoming a light pour as we munched on the margharita pizza my brother in law had delivered just in time for clean hands and faces, and watermelon sliced and chilling in the fridge.

We tag teamed to unload car two of children and bags, as a full downpour tamped down the day’s dust and heat still emanating from the stone buildings and streets. 

Temporarily.

I have been told that this has been a more temperate summer.  Could have fooled me.  When in the city I’d be happy to shower three and four times a day.  In the countryside, I dive into the pool every few hours to keep some semblance of cool within my body. 

The five children of my sisters were watched over between the three and sometimes four of us.  We did not require anything special, our intent to spend our days as we wish they much more often were; simply, and together.  My nieces joked that their uncle M could be their Italian dad.  The kids came along on errands and journeys with each aunt or uncle as easily as their own parents. 

The two eldest came along with their Uncle M and me to Lugano, Switzerland one day for a Larry Carlton concert that was part of their outdoor summer jazz festival. Like many wonderful offerings in Europe, it was free, and did not disappoint.  We arrived early, enjoyed a picnic and walk along Lake Lugano and obtained good seats.  Friends from South Africa joined us and we conversed with an Italian ex-pat who is now living in Hawaii who reportedly made his way back to Europe especially for this event.  

My favorite thing was to arise early and enjoy the already if not still warm morning.  After stretching, some days I would read outside upon the wicker couch by the fig trees.  One morning I baked pretzel rolls, and another, cinnamon rolls. A couple mornings my sisters joined me for the sing song quiet of chirping birds and rustling leaves.  My internal clock for the first time ever has not fully adapted to these hours ten before my own.  A few days early on, I fell into sleep just as the sky began to lighten, and then into deep oblivion until little hands and voices or a cappuccino waved in front of my nose tempted me to up-and about-ness closer to noon than to early.

My suitcase never arrived.  Delta called and said that it was now officially “lost” and that I should file a claim.  I wrote them a note the next day when able to receive spotty Internet connection out in the countryside, and told them that it would have to wait until I returned home.  I did not come to Europe to spend my time dealing with the troubles of lost luggage.  So much for European glamour; my favorite pieces of clothing were in that suitcase.  The nice thing about being with family, is that swimming in your underwear is perfectly acceptable, and they don’t care that you are wearing the same leggings and tank top days and days in a row.  Those leggings kept the mosquitos off of my legs until we made it to a nearby town with time to spare and I purchased a skirt, swimsuit and another item or two to see me through. 

In two hours we will meet up with my sister, so I suppose it is time to conclude for now.  There are more stories of festivals, small scrapes, splinter removals, amazing meals at family friendly restaurants, the best gelato there ever was, sharing goggles, bonfires and barbecues, picnics, parks, soccer, lizards and fireflies, giant spiders, weed-wacking, bedtime stories, guitar music and festivals, interesting art and chalk art, bottling and imbibing in excellent wines, laundry drying in the wind, a colleague staying with the children for adult night out to Bvlgari, drawing countless principessas, talent shows, all these and more will have to last us a year until we gather again to repeat and add to…  In the meantime, we do have three days yet to make the most of, so ciao for now, with love.

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Artist, Interrupted

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A few pics from our amazing yoga retreat in Joshua Tree led by Pete Guinosso this May.

I used to paint.

However, in 2007 I brought my beloved easel to my classroom to hold posters instead of the creative process.  It was a simple wooden thing, and was used widely and well.  By May of 2008, it was out of commission.  In the world of art it seemed, so was I!

For my move to California a few months later, I sold a few items and gave away more; large and small.  Carefully, I wrapped my last large, bare canvas in a towel, and packed it gently into a box for the journey, as well as my blue, sticker-covered tacklebox of paints, inks, brushes, pastels, chalk, pencils, erasers, tape, glue sticks, old pins and other random items accumulated since that first art class in college.

Perhaps there was still hope for the artist crushed, within.

Most of my personal affects that made the cut are residing in a storage unit, biding time until our next move and sure round of cuts.  The tacklebox however, is kept near my sewing kit in our living room, as they are roughly the same size and both accessed often.  Somehow that canvas, too, made it into our home, and each time I organize, I move it somewhere new, admiring its bright wash of possibility.  Make a mark on it?  I do not.

As I type, it occurs to me that perhaps my artist within had tossed out a flotation device for me to hold onto until I reached a new shore.

That is a comforting thought.

I remember a mural I created at my first post-college workspace; it was of a couple in a canoe on Eklutna Lake surrounded by spruce trees, mountains, and an eagle soaring above a rainbow and puffy white clouds.  It brightened up the cottage until one of the youths lost control of his behavior.  Then I painted each of the ‘cubbies’ in the entryway directly onto the wood.  That paint wasn’t coming off anytime soon.

My favorite paintings are of photographs that I love.  One is of tulips that look like ice cream taken from a birthday camping trip with my friend Monique up in the Skagit Valley in Washington, another is of a photo of my mother holding me when I was about a year old; we were both laughing, mouths wide open, at my dad.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the receiver’s perspective, I’ve given away each painting I’ve created.  Often the recipient is in mind before I begin the project.

I am under no illusion that my completed paintings are any monumental, world-changing pieces; but the entire process of bringing them into being, revitalizing a moment into life, meditating upon each stroke, can be described as none other than an immersion in love.

We spent a weekend in San Diego at the end of March, and strolled about fields and fields of ranunculi in a vibrant array of colors.  A tug pulled at my heart.  In Joshua Tree, the May desert was all abloom.  There was another tug.

I wanted to paint again.

Besides a wedding gift, inspired from spirit itself, could it be that the last painting I had created was from a 4×6 photo taken in my pre-digital days?

I think so.

Ummmm…

Last week, I opened my tacklebox with new eyes.  I lined up my brushes, set out the acrylics, and conducted a general catalog.  On a sticky note, I wrote:  brushes, small canvases, palette.  The paint I had would have to do; I would purchase more as required.

I hopped on down to the neighborhood art store armed with a 20% off coupon and purchased a handful of new brushes, a palette just like the one I had before, ten tiny art cards, five 5×5, and five 6×8 canvases to begin again upon.

And upon our return from Chicago; noon-ish on a clear blue day, I did.

(Art in process!  Had to toss a couple colors, a few had the texture of marshmallows, but were useable, and a few were just right…  As far as painting from photos, now I have to have them converted to prints!)

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Lesson from a Fisherman

This past week has held the quintessential days of California; when you imagine being in the Cali sunshine, this is it. What people don’t know is that this brilliant, just right warmth is actually the rarity here on the coast. Somewhat like Seattle with its reputation for constant rain. What people don’t know is that Seattle has amazing warm and sunny streaks that have sometimes lasted the entire summer.

People seem to get out more when it is warm, and the sun feels like the perfect garment, a welcome embrace, a thorough massage, all wrapped into one. I passed a fisherman yesterday, who besides me was the only person out on the dock; he had two poles leaning against the railing, bait, a little stereo, a beverage, and his chair.

He answered that he had not yet received any bites when I asked and with an apologetic grin, said that perhaps he should find a new spot. He didn’t sound concerned. As I began my return, I noticed that he was sitting quite contentedly in his chair, face into the sun, completely relaxed into himself. Clearly, he had no intention of moving. I glanced at him while passing by, he looked up at me, and we both smiled again.

He was in the perfect spot.

I am the nomad, it occurred to me; for this hour of the day, my being was in my moving.

But that didn’t stop me from taking pause on a large wooden bench to soak in the warmth and fullness of the afternoon sun myself, before continuing on my way.

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Why I left the suitcase in the back of Erica’s car

My friend Erica and I were catching up while enjoying brunch at a quaint café in Ballard on the cold, windy, rainy morning of my early March arrival in Seattle. I noticed out of my periphery a man who seemed a little agitated as he walked brusquely out of the restaurant and out onto the sidewalk near the street without a coat. Had he come in without a coat? I hadn’t paid attention.

He took off his short-sleeved button up and held it out into the wind before dropping it to the ground, and I realized as I said to my friend, “I think he is going to take his clothes off!” And sure enough, in seconds, he was out there as bare as the day he was born, staring out onto 85th Street.

Of course, I was on alert about what was to happen next, as my friend held her baby in her arms, we all were, but within a matter of two breaths- inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale—it was apparent through his stance and demeanor that this man had no harmful intentions. He was suffering.

What came to my mind were biblical descriptions of grief; wailing and gnashing of teeth, the wearing of sack-cloths and ashes.

And because he was not bleeding or bruised or externally broken, there was no socially sanctified protocol to properly offer him help. The restaurateur, who I am sure had the safety and comfort of her patrons in mind, vocalized a few exclamations and frantically called the police.

Seconds later, the man entered the restaurant, and stood shivering, crying, facing the door. She yelled at him to “Get out. I have called the police!”

He said, “Good. ”

I asked that he not be made to go back outside into the cold rain and asked him,

“What do you need?”

He turned around, and through tears, said “I was evicted from my apartment today, and I don’t know what to do.”

The restaurant manager was kind enough to have her assistant bring him to the back of the restaurant until the police arrived.

I went outside and picked up his clothes and shoes, now wet. Entering, and hearing and seeing the faces of patrons still indignant “Ugh, how could one do such a thing!” attitude, I announced, “I don’t have a problem with nakedness. I do have a problem with pain.” And brought his clothes to the back of the restaurant.

I couldn’t believe the patrons were twittering about so; it wasn’t as though anyone there had never seen a penis before. Nakedness itself is not a crime, and to make it so without considering the circumstance is to place judgment where it isn’t our place to do so.

Let me be clear; I am not approving or disproving of his actions.

I am acknowledging the situation. Not pretending that it didn’t happen in the neat script of a middle-class dining experience.

In this case, in this moment, in this place, at this time, there was no malice in his nakedness. It was a cry for help from someone who was suffering who expressed and requested witness to his pain.

When I sat back down at our table, my friend shared with me that the homeless shelters were full and that they had to turn people away. I shuddered. Even in my warm and dry coat, boots and gloves at the light rail station earlier, I was freezing. I couldn’t imagine how cold and wet so many were at this very moment when I sat, heart full, mind stimulated, belly satiated, hot tea in hand, feet dry, arms length away from someone I love.

When we find ourselves in a situation where what we face is unexpected, is it possible to take a breath or two and assess the situation; to act instead of reacting? Assess: Is it safe? What is happening? What needs to be done? And then do that.

Eventually EMS arrived and transported the man to a hospital for care.

I have always valued truth-telling. In my eyes, this was one of the most honest acts I have witnessed. However, it didn’t come in a socially acceptable form, and so could have been easily labeled as deviant, judged as wrong, and dismissed.  Sometimes it is less important to appear whole than to show up wholly.

Maybe understanding this, we can see the beauty in the broken.

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A Strong Wind

The uprising in Cairo has been in my heart during these past weeks.  To add to the unrest, I watched Burma VJ, a documentary compiled of video footage that reporters risked their lives to film; evidence of their still oppressive regime and the risks people took in attempt to claim rights for human decency during the 2007 uprising in Rangoon.  My husband opened the door to find me upon my yoga bolster about three feet from the screen, in tears.

Each time I sat at the computer to write, I felt that anything I had to share was unimportant; would be pithy, insignificant held to the light of collective struggle and angst toward an ounce of the freedoms and rights I experience every day.

And a strong wind came through the other night, pounding at the windows, awakening me from my slumber.  I re-fortified the seal, alleviating some of the noise enough for us to sleep the rest of the night.  And the wind continued all the next day, casting white crests upon the water, shuddering against the glass, wailing through the cracks, chilling our home.  And I bundled up.  And paced.  And read.  And wrote and deleted.  Cooked.  Listened to music that moved me.  Cried.  Wrote letters.  Talked with friends.

Was quiet.

I am humbled by the brave actions of individuals who come together for human rights.  I am reminded of people everywhere, every day who make a stand for what is good, just, decent and kind.  I ask myself, am I doing enough?

How little has been my awareness about people’s struggles around the world.  It seems I can barely keep up at times with the challenges in the lives I am directly connected to.   My compassion-barometer has signaled a new understanding; awareness has new meaning for me.

Battling with my own way of being in the world, as one who has been born into freedom, I am brought back to what I stand for– peace.  I have not always been good at it, or successful in achieving it, but it is peace that I believe in, breathe in, cheer on, and continue to strive for.

And it is not just sitting and doing nothing.  We never ‘do nothing.’

Peace does not lie in pretending that everything is okay or that something does not exist.  Peace comes from opening our eyes larger, and larger– so we can see the picture that is even bigger than our own individual lives.  Peace holds a space for people to be.  It is approaching a situation from an honest place and sharing what is true for me, and inviting others to share their truth.  We may not always agree, but we see and are seen.

And sometimes it is simply holding hands with another, or sitting quietly and being, which is no little thing.

To each warrior for peace, I say thank you.

Not all of us will stand at the front line.  But each of us can live in a way that makes real the ideals that people are struggling for still, today.  As Gandhi said, we can be the change we want to see.

We can embody the rights, the lives that those– in Egypt, Burma, Sudan, North Korea, the oppressed in our own country– strive for, dream of, pray for, by living our lives with our eyes open, the best we can.

There is a translation of the Sanskrit:  Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, that is my mantra, my prayer and my practice.

May all beings everywhere be

Happy and free, and may the

Thoughts, words, and actions of

My own life contribute to

Happiness and freedom for all.

The best way for me to show my support, my well-wishes is to live freely, gratefully, self-expressed, vibrant and true.

And maybe, just maybe, others will benefit, too.

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Resting Hummingbird and After the Wind

Even hummingbirds take a rest sometimes.

After the ‘big wind,’ I had to see if the newly-arrived plum and cherry blossoms were still intact.  They were.

 

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