desire lines

leavesThis study I am undertaking now, the study of how we construct the mental worlds in which we think and breathe and act, the study of how to listen, the study of being creative, the study of being human: it seems to unite all that I have learned before and cast that knowledge into a new light.  It seems to remind me why I have learned all that I have learned, how to braid it all together even.  Above all it asks me to stop and observe, to notice patterns. Continue reading

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October 1, 2013 · 1:11 am

a rant.

"Reserved for Parents with Screaming Kids...

In class today, one of my professors related a story:  he was attending a psychological conference with a counselor from another country.  While there, she attended a forum on motherhood and was struck by its negative tone.

“Tell me,” she asked him over dinner, “why do American women hate motherhood so much?”

Please understand before you read the following rant why exactly this question hit me so hard.  I am living a double life, attending graduate school three days a week and returning home to my children for four.  I am trying to make all of it work: job, studies, motherhood, selfhood.  I am drowning in every area and yet I know—with every way I have of knowing!— that I am on the right path. I know that the worst possible thing I could do to my children would be to abandon myself.  And yet I have been accused of abandoning them.  It is an impossible, constant tightrope walk. Continue reading

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September 25, 2013 · 4:07 am

drawing water

English: Pine trees in the fog

Full moon, and female rain–that’s what the Dineh call these long, soaking, gentle days:  as opposed to male rains, which are the lightning storms, sudden and dramatic, an onslaught that is quickly over.

I love the female rains. Yesterday, waking to their gentle music,  I smudged the whole house with cedar and took off on a walk through the low clouds. Everything seems to be breathing on these days, rain-soaked and calm and alive.  Tiny reminders of the sacred are everywhere–curling wisps of fog reaching skyward, birds flying silent. These are the days I remember to take a bath of salt as the evening winds down, reconnecting with the ocean, the way the full moon draws tears to my eyes as it draws waves to the sky.  I remember on these rainy days to simmer the peelings and cuttings of vegetables to make broth for later.  And now, brewing up this month’s pleasure packages for Briana, the whole house fragrant with balsam, I feel rocked by the rain, drawn into memory.
I’m studying Jung again, and it draws me back to those months at UCLA when the Hammer Museum acquired his Red Book as part of a visiting exhibit. I remember taking my Theories of Personality homework  there every day that I could, writing and reading amid the colorful art and scribbled journal entries of that wonderful man. Continue reading

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September 20, 2013 · 4:04 pm

persephone, again

Aidoneus - Hades (Pluton) & Persephone (Proser...

Persephone has hold of me.  I know I’ve written about her before, but she won’t let go.  What is it about her life, characterized by the journey to hell and back, over and over again?  Light to shadow, shadow to light. Jung wrote that in order to truly individuate—to mature into our full self-expression–it is important to integrate the shadow side.

What is the shadow?  The shadow is patched together of the ugly brutal truths, the parts of ourselves we’d rather deny or ignore.  Syria is a shadow right now, use of torture by our military is a shadow, nuclear poison washing into the sea is a shadow.

So why would we want to integrate such a hideous reality? Wouldn’t it be better to rise above these things?

Persephone says no.  When I listen to her–rarely, because I don’t want to , because the things she says are hard to hear–this is the message: Continue reading

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September 13, 2013 · 3:52 pm

my dear friend joe

My apologies to my newsletter family—I promised a good sweat and I did not deliver!  Let me tell you about my dear friend Joe Pye.

There is a strong oral history about Joe; some say he was a Mohegan healer, some say he was a freed slave.  In any case his power of healing was such that even now, hundreds of years past his time, this amazing plant still bears his name here in the Appalachians—far south of where he wrought his cures during typhus outbreaks in New England. Continue reading

5 Comments

September 10, 2013 · 4:08 pm

i have a body

20130908_114201I woke up buoyant this morning.  Rose-gold early morning sunlight was just starting to filter through the leaves of the tulip poplars into my bedroom.  A few shreds of my dream still lingered, something about dancing in the night, in a clearing.  I started to reach for my phone to check the time.  Something stopped me.

Instead I noticed the soft weight of my hair on my shoulder.  After last night’s sweaty contra dance I celebrated with a long, candlelit shower, pouring rosemary infusion through my hair…now the scent of rosemary lingered there, a fragrance in the morning, mingling with the warmth of my quilt in a sleepy cocoon.

I noticed how clean this cool air feels as I breathe it in, here in the mountains.  My feet were tingling from last night’s long barefoot dance.  I drew my knees up to my chest and hugged them in, breathing slow. Continue reading

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September 8, 2013 · 3:51 pm

telling the truth

motherSlowly, as friends and family find this blog, I am discovering it is harder and harder to tell the truth.  The whole truth, I mean. It’s easy to write the sugary bits and tie them together with swooping metaphors and a moral at the end, but the really gritty stuff gets harder and harder to write.  Why is that?

I was talking with my housemate today about singing:  it is so much easier to do in front of strangers.  I had no trouble whipping out my guitar and playing eight original songs to a club packed with strangers last summer at the Viper Room. But when I’m asked to play for people I know…that’s hard.  I think it has something to do with the fact that my friends are stuck with me.  They can’t walk away, for fear of hurting my feelings, and they are sort of duty-bound to scrape up something nice to say at the end.  Ouch.  Strangers, on the other hand—they’ve got no reason to clap; so if they do, they must genuinely like it.  Or, they’re drunk.

So I’m beginning to wonder if life is like this—if we save our deepest truths for strangers, if we set up our lives to avoid intimacy with the ones we are closest to.  As an aspiring counselor, this interests me very much.  Time after time, studies of therapy show that it is the quality of the therapeutic relationship itself that is the greatest predictor for healing.  Even though the answers are coming from within, even though it is not the therapist’s job to give advice, somehow the quality of the relationship is the vital piece.  Is it because the therapist is a stranger?  Is it because we are safe in the borders of that room, knowing we’ll never have to face up to the truths we told there again?  Can that be right? Continue reading

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September 5, 2013 · 11:11 pm

learned helplessness

English: Broken glass, off Queen's Road, Titan...

Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well — he has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun.

                                                                                            ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I’ve moved into a home in Boone that is beyond perfect.  Bamboo floors, deck aerie, lots of garden space, a stained-glass yoga/meditation sanctuary, a shower with TWO massaging nozzles (!), set way up in the mountains amidst ravines and gorges and soaring trees.  I wake each morning to the sun dancing on the floor, filtered through layer upon layer of mountains and leafy trees. I am so blessed.

The previous inhabitants of this house had, ooh, different methods of appreciating it.  The landlord did a lot of work, but signs remain–broken glass scattered throughout the lawn, piles of beer cans in the woods, and most obvious of all, the remains of a huge bonfire in the backyard into which had been put (if I hazard a forensic guess) most of a bed, several semesters’ worth of textbooks, and a lawn chair.  Plus at least three quarters of the contents of an ABC store.

This morning, preparing my tea in the kitchen, I looked out at the ugly heap of twisted metal and ash and knew it was time to start a garden. Continue reading

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August 21, 2013 · 3:48 am

nourishment

Blackberries

I write this from Boone, North Carolina; I moved here yesterday to begin a master’s degree in expressive arts therapy.  The air here is cool, with that slight edge that whispers of coming autumn, lightly scented with apples and woodsmoke.  The mountain roads are lined with echinacea and blackberry.

Walking on the street this morning I came across two women bent over the carcass of a goldfinch that had flown into a window.  They invited me to help them with a ceremony, and together we placed the tiny body in the grasses and wished its spirit well.  From my medicine bag I took some acorns harvested from the tree we camped beneath at the elements gathering and placed them by its side.  I thought of how the things we see reflect our inner questions. I listened for this tiny bird’s message:  pay attention. move slowly. don’t fly full-bore into walls.

I remembered when I was eighteen, studying permaculture and ecopsychology at the Findhorn community in Scotland.  Each morning I walked the gorse-lined dunes to the soft shoreline of the Firth.  One stormy day I came upon the carcass of a bird washed up among the driftwood.  That afternoon I sat down and wrote this song. Continue reading

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August 15, 2013 · 7:16 pm

the crow feather

crow

A weird thing happened the first week of June. June! You know, that lovely, gentle month when everything is just beginning and the air is soft and scented and the soil is warm so the garden is really beginning to take off? When the rivers are calling out for you to swim in them and every weekend has a new puppet festival or outdoor theater celebration? Yeah, I spent that precious first week of June indoors. Continue reading

16 Comments

August 10, 2013 · 3:18 am