Friday, December 21, 2007

Dad's New Room

After two weeks of snowstorms, flu symptoms, deadlines, new home inspections, retrieving Max from college, and several upset apple carts at home and at work, I finally made the trip to visit Dad's new room.

To begin with, it's a private room. Unlike the room he left--with two-men-in-a-cubicle (with two TVs going at once)--Dad now has his own space, with a private bathroom and shower and a beautiful view. "It feels like home, doesn't it?" Dad asked, sounding proud.

His room is located at the far end of a hushed, carpeted hotel-like lobby space, divided into four or six distinct living room areas, each furnished with beautiful sofas and armchairs, shelves lined with books, warm lighting and big picture windows overlooking the Hudson River.

On the new floor, nurses pad silently through the spaces, knocking on closed doors, speaking softly and warmly, distributing meds, making up the residents' beds, helping them with their walkers and so forth. The same activities are going on but it feels so completely different we might as well have changed planets.

And I know that for Dad, a quiet guy who has always cherished his privacy, this planet is where he belongs.

I found him in an alcove set off from one of the community spaces, sitting in his wheelchair by a window, reading Chaim Potok. "They have wonderful books here," he marveled. "And you don't even have to sign them out. You just take what you want and leave it anywhere you want when you're done with it."

Driving his own power wheelchair, Dad led me to his beautiful room, showing me the bed from where, he told me, "I watch for the stars each night over the river. But so far, it's been such bad weather that there's only airplanes. But the planes are nice to watch too."

He asked me to punch holes in some papers he'd collected to put in his blue notebook. As I did, he asked me, "When the social worker called about this room... what did she tell you?"
What do you mean?"
"I mean, why did I get this room? I never said anything... never complained."
"I did," I confess.
"Oh," he laughs. "Oh. I knew I hadn't said anything... to anyone... at all. I was still figuring out what to do when she came by and gave me this room."
"I thought you'd be mad at me, actually," I tell him. "You asked me not to call anyone. But I had to."
He laughed, joking, "I think I'm growing out of that phase. Im glad you called."

The only drawback, it seemed to me, was that next door to Dad, there is a man who basically shouts or barks all day long. "Does that bother you?" I asked.

"It did," he said. "But I can close the door or go down where you found me reading."
"I taked to him today for the first time and when you talk to him, he stops doing that. I asked him, 'Why are you shouting? And you know what he said?"
No, what?
"He said, 'What do you mean?' I don't think he knows he's doing it."
"That's wild," I laughed. "How could you not know?"
Dad shrugged. "I didn't talk to him at first. I don't necessarily need to take on another person like I did before so I gave it some time... but," he smiled, all crinkly eyes. "I really can't help it. I wanted to know what would happen, you know, if I talked to him."

"Have you seen Ronald?"
Dad shook his head.
"Was he upset when you left?"
I don't know. He was pretty out of it when I moved
He didn't say anything?
Not a word
Was he maybe giving you the silent treatement?
I dont think so. He was pretty out of it

I was surprised Dad hadn't visited Ronald yet. It made me realize, even more, how trapped he must have felt there. Still, I was kind of disappointed. I missed Ronald. I love the way he lights up a room with life, even from a hospital bed. In fact, I think I fell a little in love with him.

I've been doing that a lot lately, falling in love with the wonderful men I seem to be meeting everywhere. I know this has something to do with re-connecting with Dad, and knowing that, not too long from now, I'll be saying goodbye to him again. But Im not sure how it all fits together and forms this overwhelming burst of love I keep feeling.

Do you want anything to make the room more homey? I ask, noticing empty shelves, blank walls.
LIke what? he asked.
Oh, plants, pictures. A poster of a supermodel in a bikini. Max has one in his dorm!"
No, Dad laughed. Just pictures of the family--you and matt and the kids, jenny and cerulean...
We call him Sassafras now, I remind him
Oh, yeah, he said. (I guess Jenny told him that her five year old had recently renamed himself.)
Tell Beth I want pictures of her and she can send one that Emily's in, too. I like that girl
Tell Jenny I want now and before pictures. I'd like a picture of Rosy, if she doesn't mind.
I don't think she'll mind, I said.

Before I left, he asked me to unwrap some more candies and leave them in his little cup. Then, we called Beth on my cell phone which I held to Dad's good ear, the one with the hearing aid and he got to thank Beth for the TV she sent, which meant alot to him... and he choked up quite abit while talking with her... after about ten minutes, he lost all his energy and his voice kind of died back and he couldn't talk much so we hung up.

I talked for awhile, telling him about the ups and downs of buying a new house: falling in love with it, discovering its flaws, factoring that in, choosing it again. "Kind of like a marriage," he said.

I told him about the project I'd like to try at the nursing home to help residents get more related to each other, to build new connections. "I would visit each resident one at a time talk about their lives, taking down their stories. Then, we'd gather into small groups of 4 or 5 people and read the stories aloud--or they could read their own. And later, the small groups would gather with other groups, forming a larger group and listen to each other's stories, too."

"Include the staff in that," Dad suggested. "That's a great idea, by the way. Youre talking about high-level group social work."

"I am?" I said. "Now where did I ever learn to do that?"

Dad told me about his idea. He's excited about working with the residents' council and he's requested copies of the administrative structure and all the promotional literature the home distributes.

"You know this place sells itself as a place where staff and residents work in partnership. That's the first thing I noticed. They don't work in partnership. They don't know how to. The staff come and go, and like most institutions like this, there's an us and them quality to the interactions between staff and residents.

"I can change that," he said, blue eyes winking with light. "I know just what to do."

As I left, Dad reached up to hug me, saying, "I'm so glad you turned out this way."
"Me, too," I said, and now I was the one blinking back tears. "Thanks." And I meant, thanks for everything... for being my dad, for driving me places, for the money, for loving me, for all the dad things he'd done. And he knew I meant that...

Then, he walked me to the elevator, powering his own wheelchair himself. As the elevator doors closed, he smiled, content.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Your responses to my last post

Dear ones, I love you all... I knew that my last post would bring you circling around me like the loving and gentle beings you are. I love your humor, your wisdom, your warmth and intelligence. Now stop worrying about me. I am laughing as I write this. All is well, the world is turning, the year is coming to an end, and with it, old things we no longer need are making way for the new--like a dusting of powdery snow.

Here are some lovely responses I received:

My friend, Peter, from DMA days wrote from NYC:
It could also be iron poor blood, low potassium or
> despondence over the state of popular culture.
My lost and found again, cousin wrote (from halfway across the country):Try bio cell salts and also, potassium. Take a few of those, too.
(Weird... maybe potassium WOULD help?)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Disintegration II

Help! I am experiencing something that feels, to me, like total disintegration but feels, at the same time, like something is being born.

Is anyone else feeling this way? I know that there is some great cosmic event taking place right now, something about endings and beginnings, and I wonder, is this what's taken over my usually sunny, pretty much sane, generally grounded psyche?

In the past two weeks, everything in my life is up for grabs. I can't write. I can't sleep. I am obsessing over things that make no sense at all. At the same time, I'm watching as my friends are losing parents or telling me things like: I've lost my connection to the light.

It feels like there's a deepening going on in the world--a deepening and a reckoning. A time when we are being asked to face the parts of ourselves we don't really want to acknowledge, the icky, shadowy bits we'd rather keep hidden (with our flyaway hair) under a winter hat.

I know what I'm experiencing could be a manifestation of the natural cycle of turning inward as fall turns to winter. But this feels bigger, more personal, more.. frankly... hormonal. And it feels much more out of my control.

Does anyone have any thoughts to share? You can send them to me privately, at or put them in comments following this post.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Three miracles: Men, homes, freedom, friendship

It's funny what happens at Christmas.At the time when days are shortest, when light becomes scarce and, therefore, more precious, miracles arrive. No wonder the early Christians decided to borrow this festival of "the coming of the light" from the Pagans to celebrate the birth of their savior.

In "fact", historians tell us, Jesus was born under the sign of Pisces, just before Spring--which would have been just as good a time to celebrate his birthday. But the symbolic resonance available in linking His arrival with the return of the light was too good to resist. Plus, it helped dispose of those pesky Pagans, still hanging around.)

This year, I am amazed--and deeply grateful--to report three miracles:

The first two involve the themes of the year: Home and Fathers and the Freedom to Choose. Readers of this blog will know that this year has been all about the moving, packing, buying and selling of homes. It has also, for me and my family, been about Dad.

For Dad, it's been about finally acknowledging that he was too disabled to stay in the little room at the top of Laura's stairs and to make the untenable but necessary choice to move to a nursing care facility. Once there, it was about adapting to the idea that his new "home" was precisely the sort of place he'd railed against in his career as Self-Advocacy Coordinator for United Cerebral Palsy and more recently, ACLD (Adults and Children Living with Disabilities).

It meant adapting to hospital-like rotation of nursing staff, aides and social services workers, and the constant noise and interruption of televisions blaring from every room and in the public spaces. It also meant living with a roommate who, thoug he was charming and delightful, was becoming increasingly demanding, controlling and exhausting. As the 80-something roommates got to know each other, and as the roommate's condition worsened, his dependence on Dad increased until, during my last visit, I could see it was taking a toll on Dad's health--and had, I realized, probably caused Dad's shingles--a very painful inflammation of the nerve endings, triggered by stress.

So I called his social worker.And though she told me it would be a long wait, somehow, in that way that things always work out as they're supposed to, she called me a few days later to say: I pulled some strings and got your father a private room in a quiet area with a picture window view of the Hudson River. The halls are carpeted, there's a hush in the air. It's nice. I think your father will love it. So do I.

I reported the second miracle, also involving Home and Fathers and freedom, in a previous post...It was about how, when Emily's father was called "home", he died doing something he loved doing, surrounded by friends, living life his way. As I learned more about this remarkable man, I was touched by Emily and her sister's description of the beautiful community he'd chosen as his home. The uncanny parallels in the lives of Dad and Emily's father, Steve, how against the concerns and protests of doctors, family members and friends, each had chosen to live out of their freedom. For Steve, this meant living his life to the edge of its fullness, in spite of his weakened heart. For Dad, it meant, as it has always meant, mobility.

Ever since he struggled to his feet at age five, Dad, born with Cerebral Palsy, has been moving. From the two-year long quest to get his driver's license to his more recent fight to keep his car keys, he simply won't give up. When I was 18, as he drove me to college, I still remember Dad telling me, "I always wanted to be a truck driver. To drive and drive all day, every day."

Dad loves moving, loves wheels. He loves it from a place deep in his soul. I suspect that, when Dad goes, he will go dreaming of (or actually having) wheels under his butt all the way.

Finally, our third miracle, which amazingly, also involves fathers, a home and freedom. The fathers are my husband, Matthew; and Tom, who, along with his 22-year-old son, is living in the home that my family is about to purchase. Though I don't have time to chronicle every detail of this miracle (I promise I will soon) I will summarize: We were about to sign a contract for a house we didn't really like when my daughter walked by and saw Tom's "For Sale" sign and she called me on my cell phone and I called the number she read to me from the sign and left a message. About a week later, I stepped into the house and fell in love with it--and with its inhabitants. When I showed it to Matthew I never expected him to like it, we have very different taste (his, more modern, mine, more cosy, country). But (and here is the miracle) he loved it, and with tears in his eyes, the man who took a year and a half to make a decision on the other house, said, "Make an offer." And we did, and Tom accepted it... and here we go.

Like all miracles, this one is not "simple". It affects us--and Tom's family--in many ways, bringing us their friendship, and with it new dreams. We will have a fresh canvas to paint on, a new community to meet--Tom and his son will be free now, to make their next steps. It's a beautiful story, perfect for Christmas. For just as we come into the darkest time of the year, here comes the light.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The magic house

Two weeks (or a lifetime) ago, once upon a time, our family was buying a little blue house that I did not like. But, in this way that I have of not following guidance, I was going along, imagining that the yanks and tugs at my intuition were just me being full of myself, thinking I was more special and deserving than I actually am. In other words, I was telling myself, "Oh, well, now. This is the house you can afford and Matthew likes it and we'll make it work."

I was telling myself that if I just let us sign the papers, buy the house, and move in, we would make it, through some alchemy of intention, blueprints and hard work, into something we'd like a little better.

It's the "We'll make the best of it" way of life. The thing is, we don't make the best of it. We want to... we try to. But we simply don't have the time... or the money... or the energy. We work so hard, and at the end of the day, the last thing Matthew or I feel like doing is ripping up old tile or knocking out kitchen cabinets.

We want to watch Grey's Anatomy in our pjs and go to bed. Of course, this way of doing things completely eclipses the real longing--for the things we really want: Sunshine on a hardwood floor (which is really a longing for beauty), a bright room to write or make art in (the symbol of our longing for freedom and creative expression), a quiet conversation over a steaming mug of tea, the touch of a familiar hand, a smile (intimacy, deepening love, shared history).

So anyway...
There we were making our way toward signing the contract, stashing away the cash for the down payment, sorting through paperwork and making plans to renovate the entire house when suddenly, out of the blue, I got slammed with a killer migraine and wound up lying on the sofa... sobbing.

As migraines go, I can honestly say that this was the worst one I'd ever had. It was two days after Thanksgiving and we were all exhausted. Matthew lay down on the sofa across the room because he was really worried about me--what with the sobbing, which I couldn't seem to stop and the vomiting and the way I couldn't stand up without his help.

And since he was there, just across the quiet, dark room, I started telling the truth. I told him that the little blue house represented failure to me. First, because it was so damn ugly--charmless, really. But also because, knowing what I know about dreamwork, a house represents the self--and this house had nothing to do with who I am.

Second, there was no bedroom for Max, who, though he is in college, needs to be able to "come home". Third, the house needed so much work--and it was so unlikely, no matter how good our intentions, that we'd really get around to doing it.

I knew what I was risking. It had taken us two years to find that house and, even then, it had taken Matthew several months to make a decision to buy it. I knew that if we didn't buy it my real estate agent and the seller of the house would be furious with us.

I knew that my daughter wouldn't get to live near her school or her friends and, taking the dark fantasy to its extreme, we'd lose our jobs and never be able to buy a house of our own.

On the other hand, I knew that the real estate market could crash and we might discover that just after we purchased the house, it would lose half its value and we'd be stuck there forever.

On the other hand, I'd been longing for a home of my own for so long... nine years and counting... and maybe I was just unrealistic.

But mostly, I admitted into the darkened room, I was sobbing because I'd failed to give my children the magic house I'd promised to them in a dream before they were born.

You know the magic house Im talking about... it's the one with a fireplace and a sunny porch where you can sip tea and read a great book. There's a big white clawfoot bathtub upstairs and in the kitchen, there's always something simmering on the stove. It's the one that sits on its site like a little gemstone, glowing at you--the archetype for "home". You've seen it in Thomas Kinkade paintings.

It's not a big house, it's cozy like a gnome cottage with a pretty garden and in the winter, twinkling white lights around the front door.

That's the house I wanted... and I'd seen several versions of it around Nyack. In fact, there was this one little house that Katie and I would drive by every now and then and each time we'd pass it, one of us would sigh and say, "Now if THAT house were for sale..."

But it wasn't. And even if it was, I sobbed, we'd never have been able to afford it.

Eventually, I realized that Matthew had fallen asleep. But I still needed to talk... so I turned to God. I told Him everything. And then, I prayed: Fix this. You know what I mean. I prayed that the situation would resolve itself in the best possible way for every person involved. It was the kind of prayer that comes after a deep cleansing sickness. The kind of prayer a person makes when they are at the very end of their rope, a prayer made with the very last drop of hope. I felt it connect--felt that soft pop, click, wooft feeling I feel when a prayer hits its target and the Universe lobs it back. Then, I fell asleep.

A few days later, Katie called my cell phone. "Mommy!" she said. "That little house is for sale!"
"What house?" I asked.
"The Thomas Kinkade house, the one we always say we'd want.... it's for sale!"
"Give me the number!" I said, feeling like a CIA agent. Then, I dialed the number, which Katie read to me from the For Sale by Owner sign.

The rest is more like a dream than a story. It goes like this:
The owner invites me over, saying, "I hope you can see the house through the mess because we are not cleaning up." Laughing, I assure him that I can--and that I am no stranger to messy houses.

I knock on the front door--which has, enchantingly, a stained glass window. I step inside. The house opens up around me like an embrace, pulling me in. I step up from the entryway into a living room with high celings, and a stone fireplace. In the dining room, multi-paned french doors open onto a sun porch, with a wood burning stove. Upstairs, three bedrooms--yes, one for Max! There are ample closets, plenty of light. And even viewed through the mess (the owner calls himself and his son, "the lost boys"), I can see that this is it--my magic house.

I ask Matthew to view the house and he comes, without protest--and falls in love with it himself. Amazed, we look at each other. How did this happen?

At a cafe, an hour later, he tells Katie and me, "We need to make an offer." We are stunned, and laughing, I ask him, "What have you done with my husband?" What I mean is: Where is the man who takes forever to make a decision? What magic is afoot?

With tears in his eyes, Matthew admits that he never liked the little blue house either. And that, the reason he'd taken so long deciding to buy it was that he knew it wasn't worthy of us... he, too, wanted something more. "And this house is perfect for us," he said.

I call the owner's cell phone. He is at dinner with his son. I make an offer. He laughs, saying, "Let me finish dinner first." He calls the next day with a counter offer and we agree on a price. We can afford it! We move seamlessly through the steps of the purchase process.

I should also add that, part of this dream is the seller himself, a thoughtful man of 60, with a bright, warm smile, an engaging intellect and his smart, handsome 22-year-old son.

They welcomed us into their home--and their lives with open arms. In an email, I told him, "We will be friends for the rest of our lives," and I believe it.

And one day soon, I imagine we'll invite them over to share a meal around the round wooden table I will place by the bay window in the dining room. The table my childhood neighbors gave me. There'll be something fragrant with spices simmering--through the French doors, the garden will be overflowing with hydrangea, iris and daylily. We'll uncork a bottle of wine--a Napa Cabernet or an old vines Zinfandel--and we'll talk and talk, late into the evening, old friends sharing gratitude for the miraculous forces that brought us together in a little, magic house in Nyack.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On chaos

I was thinking this morning, as I drove Katie to school, about chaos--and about how we are all so ashamed and afraid of our chaos, building all manner of defenses to hold it at bay. And how, even so, inevitably, it creeps into our lives. I was thinking about messy houses and money and how we all think we are supposed to be so on top of it all and so organized, with our laundry folded and our checkbooks balanced and our balance sheets... well, balanced. And you know what? That is just such a load of crap.

There's no shame in chaos or in revealing that we are behind in taxes or twelve dollars overdrawn (as I so often find myself) or that we can't find the piece of paper we just had a minute ago. This is just life pressing us up against the edges of limits--and that's what's supposed to happen as life flows through us. These little breakdowns in order or systems or structures are just evidence of the ways that we are learning to turn the spigot of the hose up or down to "control" the force at which our lives flow.

Chaos has been coming at me full throttle ever since I woke up at two in the morning to watch the barn in my backyard burn to the ground last April. Paradoxically, chaos, like fire has turned out to be the most transformative force I've ever known... and I AM getting to know it, that's for sure.

The thing is, the more it comes at me, the more I'm getting used to it. And I've discovered that when I stop resisting it and just let it flow in to fill all the cracks in my life, some pretty amazing things happen!

Things like transformed relationships to my husband, to money, to friends. Things like finding my cousin, Laura--and rising to the challenge of getting my father into a nursing home, and now, the new challenge, of getting him (possibly) out. And things that I've been wishing for for years, like a real shot at finishing a book, and attending stellar classes with kick-ass teachers and going back to school... oh, and last week, in a wave of chaos that I can only describe as glittering with golden flakes, I stumbled across the house of my dreams, (one week before I was scheduled to purchase another house) and we made an offer that made us hold our breath (because it was quite low but it was all we could afford) and found it, to our incredulous delight--accepted.

Caroline Myss says that human beings spend more time trying to "control" chaos than any other activity. She makes fun of us, how we bargain with the gods ("If I am a good girl/boy, and I do all the things I am supposed to do," we plead, "wil you agree not blow my house down?")

Can you just imagine the gods, hearing this, looking down and saying, "I am not listening to you right now. I am over here making the wind whirl around the earth and aligning the stars and planets and lighting up the sun each morning. Your life isn't about me giving you anything. Your life is about you, harnessing your own universe and sorting through it like a pile of pretty shells."

The gods say, "What you send out returns... that is how it works and chaos is all there is. But the chaos is the reason it works. For in chaos, there's an infinite, unbounded supply of energy rushing around, swinging like a pendulum from yin to yang. Reach up, if you want some and take it--use prayer to focus your intention and let it flow into your life. If it blows you over, pray. Prayer is your tool for focusing the energy of the universe into form.

The gods say: Ask for what you want, we will send it. Then, grab it--and use it however you want.

And when chaos comes, be very clear that it has come because you have asked the gods to change your life in some way. And then, instead of trying to hold back the surging flow, grab it by the tail and see where it takes you.

New Post on my Everyday Miracles blog

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My wacky water angels

For those of you who've been following the continuing saga of my angels' water guidance, here's another chapter: (Note: if you missed the first post, this one wont make much sense. You can catch up by clicking HERE.)

So anyway...
I'm at Barnes and Noble tonight, working on my book. I'm kind of hiding here because Matthew is all worked up about losing some paperwork and he keeps trying to rope me into getting worked up with him (which is his way of soothing himself, I know, but I am not in the mood tonight--so I am hiding out in the world of internet cafes until it blows over or until he comes out and goes to see a movie with me, which would also soothe him)

Anyway, I'm here working and then, because I am always trying to distract myself from getting any work done, I get up, buy myself a skim chai (after consuming a large iced tea already) and when I come back to the little green table where I left my jacket and my laptop and my notebook there is a book sitting there - on the table right beside mine - and on the cover there is.... you guessed it a glistening glass of water with some ice cubes

And the title:
You're not sick, you're thirsty! Water, for health, for healing, for life.

Heh - heh.
Those wacky angels.
I threw out the Chai and got some water... lots of water. Which I am sipping now.
I also read the book (which was an excellent distraction from doing my work... and so is this post.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

One World/One Soul

Question: Is each person's soul individual? Does it belong to us? Or is the soul a collective being, shared, responsive and interdependent? When we experience "our" soul, are we not really just hooking into the collective, partaking of, adding to and sharing in all that went before and will come after?

And if we are, indeed, each part of a collective soul, how can we build on that connection, nourishing and supporting the health of the collective while feeding and nurturing ourselves?

Author Thomas Moore notes that our ancestors “taught that our souls are inseparable from the world’s soul and that both are found in all the many things that make up nature and culture.”

Hermes Trismegistus, legendary author of esoteric texts, is credited with writing, "God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

Expressed this way, we are each at the center of the universe--and, at the same time, we are each but a speck in a an unfolding whole.

In an interview in The Sun magazine, Shaman/Author Martin Prechtel discusses this question magnificently. "Shamans are sometimes considered healers or doctors, but really they are people who deal with the tears and holes we create in the net of life, the damage that we all cause in our search for survival. In a sense, all of us — even the most untechnological, spiritual, and benign peoples — are constantly wrecking the world. The question is: how do we respond to that destruction? If we respond as we do in modern culture, by ignoring the spiritual debt that we create just by living, then that debt will come back to bite us, hard. But there are other ways to respond. One is to try to repay that debt by giving gifts of beauty and praise to the sacred, to the invisible world that gives us life. Shamans deal with the problems that arise when we forget the relationship that exists between us and the other world that feeds us, or when, for whatever reason, we don’t feed the other world in return."


See, this is what I'm sensing--that there is this "net of life", this connectivity abuzz and alive in every particle of air, every speck of dust, every shaft of sunlight. There is this way that I am able to perceive the world when I stop hurrying long enough to really look, when I close my eyes and take a deep breath and ask my questions about how it all works, when I step out my back door into the wildness.

Humankind is poised on the precipice of a paradigm shift as earth-shaking as the discovery that the earth was not flat. We are hurtling toward a new truth, one that has been along time coming. The truth that ALL IS ONE, that we live in a net of life that includes every creature, object, thought, cloud and particle.

The shift toward ALL IS ONE is not all gentleness, as the world awakens to the environmental truth that we live on a ball of water, trees and winds that is fighting for balance--and for OUR lives. For win or lose, the earth will go on spinning. But the terrifying realization that it may spin without us has finally dawned--making people suddenly line up for hybrid cars, bio-fuels and solar panels. It absolutely astonishes me how quickly this shift happened. Tsunami, Hurricaine Katrina, Al Gore's film and voila, the whole world is going green!

And here we are, at the edge of a paradigm, looking ourselves in the eye--and the soul. Mystics and shamans and yogis and native persons and buddhas and dalai lamas and avatars of all stripes have been explaining this idea to us for centuries; and for the most part, that's just the way we've taken it in--as an idea.

But now, for the first time, I sense a turning in the world--a genuine shifting in EXPERIENCE--a great big global AH-HA!
Now, instead of mindlessly repeating this truth (ALL IS ONE) in synagogue, mosque, ashram or church, we are experiencing it as a real, palpable fact. The Earth herself is demonstrating it to us, the Internet is subtly implanting the day-to-day activity of it--so that for the first time, we have the technology to prove it coincident with the experience to "feel" it and the awareness (ever since the dawning of psychotherapy and the new age movement) of what is happening to us AS WE GO THROUGH IT.


Imagine what will happen when the churchgoer in Peoria is holding the same picture of reality as the aboriginal in Australia and the Shaman in Guatamala and the stock trader in Hong Kong and the Native American elder in the Southwest and the astrologer in Greenwich Village and the movie star in Paris and the African schoolgirl and the surfer in hawaii and the oil worker in Alaska! And we are speeding toward that Tipping Point moment when people of all languages, all walks of life, all faiths wake up to the idea that ALL IS ONE.

Okay, back to my original questions: Do we share a collective soul, and if so, how do we nourish and feed it? I'm going to assume that we do. And Prechtel's suggestion to "try to repay that debt by giving gifts of beauty and praise to the sacred, to the invisible world that gives us life," is a sound one.

Many spiritual teachers suggest that exploring the arts--whether actively making art or simply appreciating its beauty--builds and feeds the soul, collectively and individually. So do contemplation, meditation, walks in the natural world.

As Martin Prechtel writes, "For there to be a world at all, every indigenous, original, natural thing must start singing its song."

And to me, that's the place to start: Sing your song, paint your mural, dance yourself into the wildness and beauty of the world soul. And as you do so, invite and encourage every other indigenous, original, natural thing to do the same.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

August Rush

Struck through the heart I am by beauty... Struck through...
I will write more but for now, I am simply struck straight through the places where I thought I could no longer feel... by music and magic and hope... and I am wanting to feel this way for awhile, wanting to just sit here in the feeling, before I write about feeling this way

Not lazy... just wasting time

Good morning. Im working on my Sacred Story blog today.
I am also going to the dentist, taking my car to the mechanic to fix the scary gratiing, squeaking, clattering that happens when I step on the brakes and putting my Valentine's Day column togather. It's a good thing Althea, my wonderful cleaning woman is coming by this afternoon because, even though we cannot afford her services, we need them! What a world of boxes and laundry and chaos my home is this week after Thanksgiving the month before we move.

Yes, we are moving. And I'm pretty sure we're doing it in January. Yesterday, I carried home another eight cardboard cartons--the big ones that paper comes in--from the mailroom at work. I also submitted the paperwork to dissolve a large chunk of my retirement account and Matthew sent out bills to his big clients and when it all comes together it should be just about 5% of the asking price of the little blue house we've found--a down payment on the next part of our lives.

The walls of our current home are well-insulated -- carefully packed and marked cartons tower from floor to ceiling containing my enormous book collection, precious objects wrapped in newspaper, table linens, fabric scraps, Matt's magazines--there are over 100 boxes already and we have barely begun!

Remembering the last-minute packing madness at my mother's house, just two months ago, I am determined to be ready when the moving vans pull into the driveway. And yet...

As I pull each object from its shelf, I am so distracted by memory... I sit with the blue ceramic bunny far too long, stroking its cool surface. I open each photo album (just to see..) and find myself, an hour later, blinking awake from a dream.
I simply must play a few notes on the worn wooden flute and pull the miniature books from the little box they come in to read about The Bunny Planet.

Just two months ago, I was helping my mother pack up her home--and remarking on this blog and joking with my sisters about the way she seemed to be stalling, the way that she seemed unable to part with even a single stone or shell. And now, faced with the same challenge, I, too, hesitate at the strange threshhold of change.

Last night, I made myself simply throw away two little objects from my son's childhood--a silverplate cup and brush set--that I never liked. A minute later, I was rooting through the trash can, pulling them out. This isn't easy.

Yet here I am, doing it again. I promised myself I'd work on my Sacred Story blog and instead, I've been sitting here, with barely half an hour left before the dentist appointment looms--wasting time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Archetypal Story Pattern: Rags to Riches

Matthew asked me to outline the pattern of the Rags to Riches story.

Here's what I told him:

Ultimately, here's the bottom line: Cinderella, Wizard of Oz, My Fair Lady, Oliver, Annie, Alladin, etc. are all examples of Rags to Riches tales.

The story pattern goes:
Down and out person (usually an orphan in a terrible/scary/humiliating situation) pines for love/family/a place in the world. Usually says a prayer or makes a wish... (which symbolizes the tapping into one's higher self)

Finds a benevolent helper (fairy godmother, eager college professor, Artful Dodger, Genie in a lamp) who gives them a chance to prove themselves. The benevolent helper symbolizes the higher self. In real life, our higher self rcognizes the benevolent helper and acts on this recognition. (Because, essentially, the Rags to Riches story is saying: Youve always had the power to get to Oz. It's says: The power of the genie is in the wishes (not the lamp). To me, this pattern is an allegory for the relationship between self and the Universe

They do prove themselves, beyond anyone's wildest dreams, sometimes teaching the benevolent helper a profound lesson in the process (as in My Fair Lady)

Accessing their own true power/authority/beauty/goodness, they face a choice point: How shall I now use my newfound money/position/title/fame to help others?

When they make the right choice (which is: following their heart/guidance/god toward benevolence--essentially becoming a benevolent helper in someone else's story) they live happiliy ever after.

When they make the wrong choice (which is: selfishness, greed, cruelty) they end up poor again (as in the story of the Fisherman's Wife)

--- The point of this choice at the end is to emphasize that the power is the connection the hero has to God. In other words, the hero makes the wish or rubs the lamp (which focuses his intention/will/soul choice) but it is the universe that responds, rushing in to fulfill it. This story pattern beautifully renders the message that Abraham offers: You ask, the universe answers, you let it in. Keeping yourself moving downstream keeps it flowing. Putting yourself upstream (battling the curent) stops the flow. Reorienting yourself downstream, starts the flow up again... same idea as this pattern.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Correction posted

My post "Reversing False Mirrors" was not as clearly articulated as I'd wanted it to be.

I've made some corrections and I invite you to view it again at:

Expecting Miracles/Following guidance

I dont expect miracles--not always. You'd think that I would, or should, given all that I've experienced, the hundreds of angel columns I've written, and the thousands of miraculous letters I've read. Still, though I try to hold myself in a state of expectant anticipation, when life gets hectic, I shift into automatic pilot... and for me, that means, losing touch with the angels. So, sometimes, they have to amp up the guidance to get my attention... that's what happened this weekend.

Regular readers will know that I have been guided, for some time now, to reduce my intake of caffeine. Each time I reach for a cup of tea, I get a gentle nudge (I usually experience these nudges as a kind of "attention blip" in which my stream of thought is interrupted for a split second and a message, usually in the form of a feeling or impression/image, flashes across my consciousness. It isn't subtle, it's specific--and when it happens there is no doubt what it's about--or who it's from.

The impression, regarding caffeine, has been a simple one: Lemon Water. I get it as words, I get it as a picture of a clear glass of water, glistening with dew, in which two slices of lemon float, backlit by white light. It's a lovely advertisement for Lemon Water, actually--one that would make Madison Avenue proud. And what do I do when I see it? I ignore it.

Why? Because I don't like lemon water--and I love tea.
But it's also because each time this happens I get a kind of inner uprising which roughly translates to, "You are not the boss of me."

And, you know what, they're not. The angels aren't trying to control me. That's not their intention, nor is it their function on this Earth. The angels are here to support and love us, to help bring us peace. And, in that light, the second impression they send to me is always: We don't want you to get sick. And then, they give me a pinch in the kidneys.

I should mention that this message (about drinking more water and taking special care of my Urinary Tract) has been coming at me for about 35 years. First, it came from MB Dykshoorn, a world-renowned psychic--the same man who predicted the conception and birth of my son and then my daughter. He also told me, "You are too dry. You need to drink WAY more water or you are going to have trouble with your kidneys." When I asked for more details, he said, "This one is entirely in your hands. You will decide--through your choices--what is going to happen."

After my visit to Dykshoon there was a long pause in the guidance (or my awareness of it--and this may have been because I was FOLLOWING it) and then it returned--whispering at me from books, magazines, TV talk shows: Drink more water. And I did, and then I stopped. And the guidance returned--and I'd drink more water, until I'd stop. And now, for the past four years--roughly the time that I've been working on the angel column, it's been increasingly and persistently pestering me.

So anyway, this weekend...
I worked late on Friday evening and my editor asked if I'd like to take a walk with her and as we walked I told her about the lemon water/caffeine guidance.

I described the many ways the angels have tried to get my attention: Sending a complete stranger to stand beside me at the iced tea spigot at Panera Bread to say, "Caffeine is bad for your kidneys. You should try lemon water. You can even add a little Splenda."

And the incident, which I captured in my journal on August 21, 2006: Last night, I awakened suddenly and, half-dreaming, reached for the book on my bedside table. Turn to any page, a little voice told me. Clicking on the blinding light, I winced at the page. It read: "For the next three weeks, consume upon awakening, the juice of one lemon in water." When I looked at the clock it was 4:44--the number that, according to Doreen Virtue, means: You are surrounded by angels. We are guiding you in all ways.

You have to have a sense of humor.

The day after the walk with my editor, I went to Panera Bread, which is where I write. I set up my little work area in the corner--laptop, notebook, pen. All that was missing was... iced tea. (We writers love our rituals.) So I stepped up to the cashier and ordered it.. and the moment the words were out of my mouth, whoosh. I felt a yanking, tugging feeling in the middle of my body and a flash of what felt like... could it be?.... indignation. We heard you say it! the guidance flashed. We heard you tell your editor that you are getting our messages. You cannot pretend any more. Now stop it!

Well, okay, I gulped. And then I took my iced tea cup from the cashier.

I walked to the back of the store debating (stupdily) whether to follow the guidance or not... and (stupidly) decided that having iced tea (ritual is REALLY important to some writers) was critical to my success as a writer and human being and I held my cup to the ice dispenser and pushed and it clicked and .....

The power went out. Yup. all the lights in the place. The music went off, the room went dark, the ice did not come into my cup. "That's never happened before," the manager said, as if to put a very clear point on things.

And when the power came up a moment later, I made myself a cup of lemon water.

That night, I had a dream. and in the dream, I remember asking for help with something. And on Sunday, all day, I had a conscious, lively, very real discussion with my angels. I told them how much I love tea and how giving it up felt sad and painful to me. They told me, to my surprise: You needn't give it up. But you must drink more water.

They reminded me of the research I'd read (which they told me they'd sent)about caffeine's down side. Though it is wonderful for certain things--antioxidants, mental clarity, phytonutrients--it tends to leech calcium from the bones and to act as a diuretic.

Oh, yeah, I remembered.(As if I'd ever forgotten!)And finally, with an open heart and a willingness to (finally) follow their guidance, I asked: What should I do?

And you know what? They didn't take my tea away! Rinse away any ill effects with two glasses of water for each cup of tea, was the simple, clear message they sent.

A few hours later, as I straightened the kitchen, I found myself sorting through about a dozen little packages of herbs in the back of the tea cabinet. Herbs in little paper sacks that I'd bought months earlier but hadn't even opened.

I found some glass mason jars and emptied the herbs into them, labeling each one--Nettles, Dandelion leaf, red clover, red raspberry leaf. I set them in rows on the shelf and admired them there, feeling really pleased with myself. And I thought, Tonight, I'll have a cup of herbal tea. But right now...

I poured myself a glass of water and drank it in,

One last thing I should tell you... this morning, I awoke before dawn (had a glass of water) and flipped on my computer to check my messages. I spent about 15 minutes there, to send an email to my editor, describing all that had transpired since our Friday night walk.

Then, I made myself a cup of tea and fully enjoyed it. I didn't feel guilty or petulant. For the first time in a very long time, I let myself have what I wanted to have with pleasure. I rolled out my yoga mat and flipped on the morning news where an announcer was discussing....

How important it is to drink plenty of water in the winter.

I sat there on my yoga mat, appreciating how truly whimsical my angels can be which is when I had one of those "blips". This one led me back to my computer and there, on the center of the keyboard I'd been working at half an hour earlier, was a perfect white feather.

Sheesh. Talk about miracles.
I love these angels of mine.

To read the next installment of this saga, click HERE

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Walking Our Talk

There's a line in the mission statement on my AS IF Magazine website that reads:

As if... explores the notion that we can live in a conscious, actively spiritual way while creating wealth, vitality, great relationships and strong communities.

So this week, I am asking myself, how are you DOING this?
Cuz it's one thing to "explore the notion" and quite another to live it.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reversing False Mirrors: True Self and Soul

"After I fix what is imperfect about my appearance, education, personality, work, home, clothing, children, husband... I wilb be able to go after what I really want without risking exposure or humiliation. "

This is such a LIE. Why do we perpetrate such nonsense?

We all do this--some more than others. Everyone has a list, conscious or unconscious, written down or stored away in their psyche, of the things that, until they are remedied, will keep us from everything we want.

It's so *&^%$ frustrating. I mean, here we are, these enlightened spiritual counselors, yoga teachers, Reiki masters and still, this chatter, this daily wrestling with the most negative self-talk, and we know better!

Here are the most obvious examples from my own thoughts which I offer as an illustration. But as you read them, please don't worry about me (when I posted this originally, many readers wrote to reassure me that I am really not that bad!). I know these thoughts are ridiculous. What I'm trying to show is the way that they work as as kind of inner gatekeeper AGAINST our success. (In archetypal terms, this is the voice of the Saboteur and, in some cases, the Victim--the guardians of self-esteem and boundaries. Their function, though it may not appear this way at first glance, is to keep us on the alert to violations of self-esteem or boundary. In other words, the FEELING of, "I am sabotaging myself is actually a sign that the Saboteur is awake on on the job, pointing out something you've done to damage your own self-esteem) Does that make sense?

Here is my list:
1) My teeth are kind of crooked. Having refused to wear my retainer in my teens, after thousands of dollars of othodontia, my teeth shifted back. Now, they are caving in on the right side of my face. No one else seems to notice but I am ashamed of this and wish I could get it fixed. I could get this fixed. (This is the positive, hopeful action I could take.) But I'd have to wear those railroad tracks on my teeth like Ugly Betty and I am 50 and it's too late for that. (This is the sabotaging thought where I trip myself up.) This makes me look really bad in photographs so I avoid having them taken and resist public appearances where people would see how bad I look. (This avoidance is really about fear of humiliation, as is the resistance to "being seen", and both are the net result of not having taken action to resolve the problem.)

Let's skip the rest of my list which includes stretch marks, cellulite, and an extra 35 pounds I can't seem to shed. When I initally wrote this post, including my entire list of flaws, I received so many concerned responses that I had to revise it, reminding my kind-hearted readers: I do not walk around all day feeling sorry for myself. I was exaggerating my problems--and my inner dialogue about them--to make a point.

The point was that each attempt to resolve these so-called imperfections creates a cascade of negative self talk. Frozen by self-doubt, it is difficult to take even the smallest steps in the direction of improving what are, supposedly, the roadblocks to happiness. But as in all psycho-spiritual work, there is a light side to every darkness.

All of that negative self talk is mirroring a genuine TRUTH, one that feel very threatening (and makes a part of us feel incredibly vulnerable about revealing it). For under the lie that we are bad, ugly, wicked, and shameful lurks the TRUTH that we are good, beautiful, strong and proud.

But if we're wonderful, why in the world would be afraid to reveal it? Because it's dangerous.

In a stunning reversal of our natural instinct (to shine, to create, to be joyful) and of the teachings of every avatar who has ever walked the earth, we have picked up the idea that expresing ourselves fully is wrong, bad, selfish and shameful.

Where in the world did this reversal come from? Did it come from the world? One might think so, pointing to our culture's obsession with appearance over substance, with wealth over humanity, with being served over service. But those are actually the SYMPTOMS of the reversal, not its cause.

The reversal started way back, before our parents or grandparents were born, long before there was a media to distort our self-image, a deliberate and conscious decision was made to suppress the authority (and the power) of the divine feminine. This event (or series of events) has been discussed and explained by historians far more eloquent than me and I refer yo uto their texts: When God was a Woman by TKTK; "A God Who Looks like Me" by Patricia Lynn Reilly, Elaine Pagels' "Adam, Eve and The Serpent".

The brilliant work of these and many other authors and historians illuminates this conundrum: How we come into the world filled with bright, shining light and are literally TRAINED to self-suppress, to tamp ourselves down, to live lives empty of creative expression that leave us feeling, this can't be right.

It's not right. The soul has a different plan for us.

Throughout our lives, we;ve been encouraged to "play small", as Marianne Williamson calls it, but when we do, we lose touch with our thread to half of the wisdom that we need in order to fully shine. The wisdom of the completed union of masculine and feminine.

Think back to age 7-9. There she is, sitting outdoors on a summer day without a shirt, playing a drum that she fashioned out of a tree stump. There she is, swinging as high as she can, trying to beat the record the boy next door set when he touched the highest branches of the oak tree with his toes. There she is, digging a huge hole in the earth with sticks and setting a protective ring of stones around its edge to mark it, "mine". There she is, swimming naked, rolling in leaves, experiencing and expressing the fullness of her body, the wildness of her spirit, the deep, penetration of her curiosity into the natural world. Desire, creativity, experimentation. There she is.

Now I will share a little secret: This true self, expressed so fully, so wildly, so freely, by that little girl is simply this: Grace, also known as Holy Spirit, Higher Self, God, the Universe, Allah, White Light--shining straight through the focused, clarity of the Soul.

The Soul is a structure, a vessel, which holds, shapes and directs the shining white light that streams through us. The Soul is the structure and form of our life's intention, the vessel through which our true self is focused into the world.

The Soul is experimental, asking: What if? What would happen? How about this? The healthy soul is experimental

The seeks expression, it directs our light toward creativity, building, speaking, singing, dancing; The soul expresses honest outrage and the fullness of its physical body.The healthy soul is creative, expansive and expressive.

The Soul wants to connect with others. The healthy soul is related--invidually and collectively--to people, to the world community and to the natural world. The healthy soul seeks and shares reciprocal energy.

The Soul wants to use the body at its peak potential; it craves peak experience, peak performance. The healthy soul guides us toward fitness, health and wholeness.The healthy soul seeks embodied joy.

We nurture the Soul (so it can support the shining through of spirit) by creating an environment that is rhythmic, warm, responsive, fleible, welcoming, honest, and free. The principles of FLOW come into play here. For the healthy soul is fed by experience that is: Free, Light, Organic and Whole.

When we nurture the soul, we are reversing the false image in the mirror--building the spiritual muscle we wil use to reclaim our birthright: To shine our gift into the world.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I have to admit that I never much liked the last name I was born with: Ozarow. I didn't like its sound, and I didn't like its differentness. Almost everyone I knew had nicer names like Berthen or Koval, Weiss or Bluth. Names that rolled off the tongue with a more melodious, rhythmic quality than the clunky "Ozarow" I was stuck with.

As Id learned in grade school, monikers like Smith or Tailor or Brown or Johnson were linked to specific trades--blackmith, tailor--or to famiy history: calling someone Peter Johnson identified him (at least for one generation) as "John's son". I liked the way names told a story but what was ours?

My sisters and I had little contact with our paternal grandfather, Meyer, who died before we were born. I don't remember meeting any of his siblings or cousins. My father shared few stories about the Ozarows--there were no famous ancestors, not even one of those shady types most families "don't talk about".

But we knew everyone in my grandmoter's family--her sisters, Tillie and Pauline; her brother, Ruby. My father's cousins were mentioned often--especially my "uncle" Ray Parker, who owned the Concord Hotel.

We also knew their "story", beginning with the terrifying pogrom that drove my grandmother (then 3) and her siblings from their village--and their parents. There was a ride in a hay wagon, hidden under a blanket, a voyage to America, Ellis Island, the Lower East Side where they were taken in by cousins (I think). As I understand it, my gradmother's eldest sister, Pauline, pretty much raised the others. And eventually, they all moved to Bayside, Queens, where they established several businesses, including my grandparents' store, M.Ozarow Shade and Awning Company.

I go searching...

Google turns up hundreds of listings, most regarding Jewish cemetery in the Town of Ozarow, Poland, that saw its population of Jews deported on October 22, 1942. There is a town of Ozarow!!!???

Apparently so, and it's on Wikipedia!żarów.

There are listings about other Ozarows, some of them familiar--my cousin Robert, my sisters, Beth and Jennifer, and, to my delight, when you type my maiden name into a search engine, my blog pops up! Now all those high school friends and all the boys who had crushes on me way back when can finally find me.

And here is another one, my cousin Laura, beloved in childhod. Laura, whose trundle bed I slept in, who came to Nantucket with me, who taught me about Eric Clapton and Cream and Yorma Karkunnen. Beautiful Laura, a year older, sensitive, creative Laura with her halo of white blonde hair. Haunted Laura who woke up in the middle of the night strumming a dream guitar, who wore a white cotton nightgown, who gave me her hand-me-downs. Laura, whom I lost as our lives twisted in oppostie directions. Now, here she is, found in a photo on MySpace.

My immediate reaction is awe. Her beautiful spirit released in music and color on her blog. But our relationship was comlicated and when I try to send her a message, and I'm stopped by MYSPACE, requiring a password that I've forgotten, I hesitate. Maybe I shouldn't do this? Maybe it's been too long to reopen this... I want to write friendship, but the word that comes is "wound".

Still, the urge to connect is strong and I sort it out, sending my message across cyberspace to the cousin I recognize in the photo on a blog.

This urge to connect comes up often lately, as my children grow up and out of the house. As I "deal with" my parents, instead of simply loving them. If you're new to my blog, you'll find much discussion of family here, especially since this August, when I turned 50 and my parents fell apart... when I dove into the heart-breaking ocean of confusion that was getting Dad into a nursing home--and the equally heart-breaking (at least for me) experience of helping Mom pack up her home, her artwork--her life--and move to an apartment.

What other Ozarows are out there? What memories does each connection carry back to me?
Linda? Ellen? Mark? Elaine? Dave? Ruth? Each name rings with energy, with reminiscence, with story...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


What more can I say? My sister Beth's work.

Her website:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Martian Child: Movie, real life

And aren't we all? I mean, Martian children--aren't we all?

I am; and I can't think of a family member or friend who isn't. Each of us fallen to Earth in our little space ship, each alone like the beautiful little boy who plays the orphaned, abandoned child in this touching, slightly imperfect film. Each of us having spent some time feeling as if we were living in a cardboard box, staring out through our little peephole at all the "normal" folk.

I mean, you've felt this way, haven't you? And even as I ask the question, I'm asking it from the point of view of my inner Martian, wondering if I've revealed, perhaps, a little too large a helping of my wacky bits. I mean, you still like me, don't you?

A week after viewing the film, it's still resonating. I look at Dad, who grew up desperate to be a real boy. I look at my son, Max, 19, trying to make a place for himself in the world of university life. I look at Katie, swinging so wildly between the extremes of high-school insider and misfit outsider, that I am dizzy with watching. I look at my mom, ever searching for a family, for approval, for safety, asking, like the little duck in one of my children's books: Are you my mother?

I don't look at myself, doing all of the above, and never quite making it. I dont look because it's too painful. So I look at you, reading this, making your own connections, thinking of all of the people you know who will never, ever fit in, no matter how hard they try.

And I wonder, a) why are we trying to fit in? and b) fit in to what?

Why do we, orphans all, feel just a little bit like Pinocchio, missing some essential fleshy bits that would make us just like everyone else; or missing, at least, the idea that we're real, that we're complete, that we're okay just the way we are. See, NO ONE is like EVERYONE else. So where do we get this idea?

In the film, in order to socialize the little weirdo, his adoptive father, played by John Cusack, takes him to baseball games, teaches him to hit a homerun, convinces him to take off the gravity belt he's constructed out of duct tape and batteries to hold him on the ground ("Mars has different gravity," ) Cusack's character literally loves him down to Earth. Something that I find myself doing often, for my kids, friends, parents, sisters, and the clients who consult me for readings and counseling.

I'm reminded of Barbara Kingsolver's story about the time when, returning to her hometown after publishing her first book, Pigs in Heaven, a best-seller, she was greeted with a huge parade fit for a celebrity. Overwhelmed, Kingsolver describes her amazement, having always been kind of an outsider. Then, at her book signing, person after person approached her whispering, essentially, "Thank you for writing about me so respectfully, with such insight. I had no idea you'd even noticed me." Kingsolver was again amazed, since none of these people were, in fact, the inspiration for her character--she'd written about the outsider she knew best, herself.

In Betsy Lerner's book, The Forest for the Trees, which I am still reading--and loving--Lerner suggests that all writers are outsiders, that, in fact, it's a requirement of the craft--this ability to observe, as if from outer space (or at least another continent) the habits of the inhabitants of the "strange land" in which we are, and will ever be, strangers.

She tells of Truman Capote, who, when he lost all of his high-society friends after spilling their secrets in his novel, "In Cold Blood", protested, "What did they expect. "They knew I was a writer. We use everything."

We are all Martian Children. Especially writers... and painters, accountants, sculptors, teenagers, photo editors, lawyers, stay at home moms, and indian chiefs. All of us using everything, every nuance of behavior, custom and language, to disguise our differentness. At least I am... aren't you?

This post is not done... but I am putting it out there anyway, where you can see it, with all it's bumpy edges. I know that seeing it sitting there, looking all incomplete and imperfect like some sort of ... I dont know, Martian Child will catch at me all day, make me return and return and return to fix it up, make it presentable... until then, here it is.

Here's a piece of a novel I almost wrote once...

while plumbing the depths of postpartum depression....15 years ago


In the endless time between November and April, food will lose its texture, music will go flat, colors dull. Though the bins at the supermarket may spill over with brightly colored fruits and vegetables, she will not be fooled. She knows those shiny red apples will be mealy, those fat orange tomatoes stiff as cardboard.

Picking through the smooth cool fruits, examining the bright stickers that cling to the flesh of each peach, sack of grapes, each pear - she imagines these places-“Guatemala”; “California”; “Ecuador”, on the opposite end of the earth where right this minute the sun is shining, people are packing up beach bags with sandals and swimsuits, rubbing sunscreen lotion into the browned skin of their children.

Once biting into a nectarine in December, the taste of distant sunlight on her tongue was so sweet, so painful that she burst into tears. She can't help it. In winter, almost anything makes her cry: The sad stories in picture books, commercials with children in bare feet. More than once she has burst into tears of protest when darkness encloses the world before five o’clock. These tears frighten her, coming so suddenly, dissolving instantly when some distraction - a skinned knee, a broken toy- presents itself.

“Do people in Australia walk upside down?” Joey asks when she points out the continent on the globe.
“No,” she says, lifting the cool metal sphere into her hands and pointing to other countries below the equator, explaining about gravity and the global curve. But she can't help feeling she is not quite telling the truth.

"Let's go there!" he says. So she lifts him off his feet, "You will need to practice walking on the sky," she says, holding him upside down. "Just in case we do." Topsy-turvy in her arms, Joey laughs wildly, kicking at air.

Later, when she looks in the mirror and finds new tracks on her cheeks she remembers the tears. Maybe they are the reason these lines have suddenly appeared at the corners of her mouth and eyes. “If only I could be happy,” she thinks. But she has forgotten what that means.

Sometimes she can feel, on her heart, the dull bruise, as if someone pressed a thumb against the tender red beating thing for a long time. But, except for a shadow just out of reach, a tip-of-the-tongue, kind of “wait! I can almost remember...” feeling, she has no idea what makes the tears come.
Chapter Next

We run away.

We drive right onto the ferry and park on the bobottom deck. As we climb into the sun, I feel the boat rock beneath my feet. I have never taken the children on vacation before and everything is new to them—the new extra-blue of the sky, the fish-salt smell of the sea, the wind. And seeing it through their eyes, it is something new to me as well.

There are new signs to read, new corners to turn. I want to keep moving, to feel this wind, this sun, to see that surprised expression on my children’s faces when the ferry fires its engines, forever.

We pull away. The dock recedes, the water churns, gushing away from the sides of the boat like freedom, like laughter. It’s the color of sea glass and salt, the color of mineral baths foaming, the color of a vase I remember on a windowsill somewhere, catching light.

We cut a line across the flat-green bay, speeding toward the other side where, on the island, we’ll become something wind-tossed and fresh, something we’ll invent as we go along. On the other side, I will fill my mother’s beach house and this color…this perfect green.

The mainland shrinks away. The sun burns our heads. Our hair blows behind us like a sail. We like the blue benches, the blue painted floor. We like the crew’s blue tee shirts. The blue sky. Blue.

The children sit beside me until they get the feeling of the ferry in their feet, then, they run away, racing around the deck, clattering up and down the metal stairs, drifting in and out of reach like the seagulls that follow us, chattering on the wind.

Time spreads out around me like a new deck of cards to peel the wrapper off. It crackles and shines, fresh and as full of promise as leaving.

The money flutters in the ticket man's hand. Joey’s baseball cap hat blows right off his head, lands in the wake, a speck of red left behind.

“It’s OK,” Grace says, tenderly patting his hand. Joey's face twists with confusion, surprise, outrage – then tries to pull itself together. Soon, he forgets his hat and starts chasing his sister again.

I am wearing my ivory interview blouse with buttons made of seeds from South America. This blouse is sustaining the rain forest, I thought, as I put it on this morning. As I painted my cheeks with red clay, ringed my eyes with smudgy brown pencil, I thought about the laundry, about the bills piled up on the counter beside the stove. I thought about the tiny wrinkles gathering in the corners of my eyes like curtains, pulled back from windows.

This morning, as I pulled on my shoes, and realized I was leaving, I thought about the laundry and Richard and the way I’d been preparing for this day for months without thinking about his smile, or the way his muscles moved under his shirt or thw way our leaving would crack open his heart—and all of our lives.

I will need sneakers and jeans and a bright white cotton tee shirt. I will need a blue cotton sweater. My credit card has a thousand dollar limit. I have 300 dollars in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. I will buy Joey a new red hat. I am going to Far Island to find this blue, this green.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cindy's blog

Cindy Breninger first came to my attention when I was the editor of a national magazine that featured stories from readers, along with inspiring quotes, little messages and a seasonal verse.

Cindy immediately became one of my favorite contributors. She had a wonderful breeziness in her writing and could quickly invent the perfect little poem or "little lift" with ease and humor. Now she's a blogger...

And this week, the Sacramento Bee covered her blog! I feel like a proud parent and thought I'd mention--and support--her success.

You can read the article at the link below.
Link to Cindy's story in the Bee

Growing up with the hero archetype: on Writing

This Sunday morning, I am thinking again about how Dad's refusal to give up, in spite of his obvious physical limitations could be the very inspiration that I need to press on.

In a weird crucible of twisted wires, I have inherited both his dogged determination and my mom's self-effacing, uncertainty. (I have also inherited somebody's megalomania, self-involvement and arrogance). So I am a combo-pack of shyness about self-promotion coupled with certainty of my talent, pluckiness and determination coupled with exhausting periods of couch-potato, remote clicking depresion, embarrassment over the slightest mistake coupled with a complete disregard for anyone else's opinion, acute perfectionsm couple with personal sloppiness.

A difficult combination.

This morning Ive been reading Betsy Lerner's "The Forest for the Trees" an editor's advice to writers. It's a very good--and I mean VERY good--analysis of the writer's psyche... kind of like having a person hold a magnifying glass over the top of your brain and point out all the wiring--"See, here's the tendency toward addictive, compulsive behavior," and "See, here's the place where self-doubt bleeds over into self-confidence," and, "Look, here are the memories where everyone in this writer's life told her how special she was," "Oh, and, here it is, the telltale signature of every writer's brain: Crossed wires."

Writers are historically drinkers, outcasts, acter-uppers. Or we are dressed all in white, hiding in garrets stuffing our brilliance into drawers. It's a feeling, at once lofty-making and humbling, to put oneself into the company of great writers, to begin to imagine one can sit on the same bus or in the same cafe... But how else can we pick up the pen and write but to assume that our words are just as important--at least to us--as those of Plath, Hemingway, Pound, or Sexton.

Reading this book, I find myself thinking of Dad... as I said earlier, and of how I can use his life as an example--and use my mother's struggle with self-esteem and mental health, that way, too. That they keep going, little Energizer bunnies of faith, Little Engines That Could, working, sifting, standing, walking--under the wonderful illusion that one day they'll get it right, get better. One day, they'll escape from the past, and break into the light.

Which is why, I guess, I write. Why Im going back to school--again. Why people get up in the moring, why any artist creates, why any nurse pulls on her white, rubber soled shoes.

Because of that illusion (which we call hope), and that light, off in the distance, calling us home to ourselves.

(As Shakespeare wrote, in a Midsummer Night's Dream, "That was lofty.")

high school

It occurs to me that some of the seeds of things that my 16 year old daughter, KT, and I have been talking about are contained in my last post.

This is a note to myself to ponder the following:

How much of what we make of ourselves begins (and ends) in high school and the self image we develop/receive/accept there? Katie and I have been pondering the way that our whole life seems to revolve around the choices--good or bad--that we make when we are at precisely the age--tempest-tossed by hormones, self-doubt, acne and body image issues--when we are most likely to make bad choices.

So that a teen who can't handle this onslaught of forces may get lower grades than her potential, and as a result, be forced to attend a school of lesser quality, and as a result, be less likely to make the contacts and build the resume of more grounded peers, and as a result, have less options, less choices, lower paychecks, lesser partners in business and in love.

Of course, Katie and I, students of Abraham, know that is is how the stream works. You flow in the direction in which you focus your attention. So, at any point in that list of consequences, we can make a turn to follow the flow toward better outcomes. Still, we can't help coming round to the question: Isn't this ridiculous?

I mean, we are in high school for three or four years. Why is it, at least in American life, such a determinate in how we turn out? What happens in the psyche then, what is accessible then that is harder to get hold of later, in our 30s or 40s, say, when we are more aware and better able to make choices that serve our higher potential?

How can awareness of this help Katie? Can it help Max, struggling to find his way at college? Can it help me or my husband, at 50? Can we go back to that time, open that potential back up and use it now, to compel us forward, now that we know what we're doing? Can we use that unused potential now, or has it gone stale? Can we access it like a buried treasure and use it to untangle what we've done wrong?

Is it ever too late?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

From a dream analysis

"It seems you are not YET up to the task of using the Sacred Word to cleave asunder the real from the unreal, to release the soul from the agony of the hold of the ego," wrote my friend and dream analyst, Linda Ohair.

Boy, that's the understatement of the century. Now my dreams are pushing me out there, demanding that I begin to take up the sword of my pen and do my job. You can see our analysis and conversation (so far) about this dream on my dreams blog under "Three Deer Hearts"

The link is: (or simply click on the link in the sidebar to the left of this post)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Osho's ten commandments

I like this, received from my e-friend, Julie.
Osho was asked for his ten commandments. This was his response: "You have asked for my Ten Commandments. It's a difficult matter, because I am against any kind of commandment. Yet, just for the fun of it, I write:

1. Never obey anyone's command unless it is coming from within you also.
2. There is no God other than life itself.
3. Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.
4. Love is prayer.
5. To become a nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.
6. Life is now and here.
7. Live wakefully.
8. Do not swim - float.
9. Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.
10. Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see. "

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Things I should be doing instead of blogging

helping Matthew
registering max's car
visiting Dad
doing Katie's homework with her
calling Max
cleaning the house; doing the laundry; washing the floor, etc.
closing my garden
packing to move

is making it hard to write today


There is a new post on my FLOW blog.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Autumn cleansing? What is compelling this urge to purge closets and drawers, file cabinets and hard drives?

Some housekeeping notes:
- One of my favorite self-starting writers, Barbara McNally, publisher of A REAL LIFE, one of the best "zines" on family life and whole living I've ever read (and one of the inspirations for AS IF Magazine), has a new project, hosting retreats on Fire Island.

- Robert Ohotto, my friend, teacher and astrologer--has a wonderful book coming out from Hay House any minute now. I helped him with early edits--my first book editing project! Find it on

- Joyce Maynard, my earliest mentor, is teaching a writing class in Guatemala this Winter. for details.

- MY book, co-authored with Doreen Virtue, will be released this January! You can preorder a copy from Amazon or wait to read it with a latte at Barnes and Noble!

- If youre local, Katie's play, A Midsummer Nights Dream, is on at Nyack High School-tonight and Saturday, at 8 pm. Get there by 7:15 if you want good seats. Katie is playing the rold of Mugwort, a fairy with one line. She wanted me to tell you that.

- I had another bad haircut. Why do I keep going back to that place? Argh. DO YOU KNOW A GREAT STYLIST IN THE NY AREA? Rockland would be great but I'd drive to the city if you know someone great/

Thursday, November 1, 2007

These things dont freak me out anymore

Yesterday, I met a friend at Starbucks and we spent a couple of hours discussing enlightenment and how I tend to avoid it by not doing what I am guided to do--specifically, meditation, giving up caffeine and yoga. Those are really not very big things and, so my angels tell me, doing them consistently would change my life. I pondered, with my friend, whether perhaps I don't really want my life to change--and told him how, usually, when I am wondering about such things, my angels amp up the guidance, kind of hitting me over the head with it.

I received this in my daily, DAILY OM, email today:
Avoiding Your True Power
Afraid To Meditate

There are times when we feel the pull to meditate but are swayed from it by the excuses that spring to mind. We may think that we are too busy, have no time to ourselves, or that we do not have the right place to meditate. Our minds can think of dozens of reasons to put off meditation. But those are even stronger reasons to look past the illusion of the hustle and bustle of daily life and to connect to the place within that intersects with the timeless power and limitless potential of the universe. From that place we can experience that potent stillness that exists at all times, and it is only as far as away as our breath.

It might be useful to ask yourself why you would put off something so beneficial to your peace of mind and general well-being. There may be fear that if you were to stop your frantic pace, your world might fall apart, and then you would have to face the undeniable reality of who you really are and the results of the choices you have made. You might be afraid that you will be forced to make huge changes in order to align yourself with the universe and harness your true potential. Sometimes the frustrations of the known world seem less scary than the possibilities of the unknown. But the truth is that when we cooperate with the universe by creating our lives from the truth of our being, life becomes less of a struggle and more of a process of living blissfully on purpose.

Finding yourself alone for a few moments can give you the opportunity to turn within to infuse a sense of calm wisdom to your work. Whenever you can take the time to recenter and refocus, it will remind you how beneficial it is to connect to your source. Then you will make the time for longer sojourns of spirit, because once you are rejuvenated and enlivened by knowing that you are made of energy and light, you can channel the power to create your life in alignment with the highest potential of your soul.

Need I say more? I was planning to go into the office today but instead, Im heading back to Nyack to meditate, go to yoga--and to meet with our attorney about the new house. Tomorrow I will go it without caffeine.

Hooking Up

Yesterday, I wrote a rather long and incoherent post which started out as a question from Katie about "hooking up" and sexuality and somehow ended with me ranting about TV and blaming it for everything that is wrong with the world including fast food (which I do believe but it would take a book-length research project to even begin to prove it).

Today, if you'll bear with me, I'm going to sort that last post out a bit.

I'll begin, again, with Katie's comment, "People are always making movies about high school but no one has ever made one about how kids "hook up" and call it love."

By hooking up, I think Katie means, going to a party and connecting with someone in a way that gets you and that person alone in corner together. The way Katie has explained it to me, high school hookups don't usually end in sex (though I'm sure that some do.) It's more about reaching out for the closest person and getting, you know, even closer. And then, when the party's over, you un-hook, in whatever way that is accomplished--awkwardly, sleepily, gratefully--and that's that. No phone call. No hand holding. No swooning the next day. No expectations.

We used to call it making out. Today, it's called hooking up. And just to set the record straight, this is not TV's fault... people have been hooking up, making out and making whoopee for as long as there have been boys and girls on the planet.

Of course, nestled into Katie's observation is her longing for a deeper hook up, a real connection: Love. But this sort of thing isn't about love. It's closer to weight training. Think about it.

When you first start out, you have to build a little muscle. You can't just go into the gym and lift the barbells; you start with the five pound hand weights, doing as many reps as you can manage before heading home to soak in Epsom Salts. You have to work up to things.

Hooking up (as I recall) is like that. It's about trying this and trying that. It's, "Where should I put my tongue?" and "This feels weird but kind of nice." and "Do I hold my head tipped to the side or straight?" and "When is it okay to touch her body--and where?" and of course, it's about "How far is too far?" and "Will s/he respect me in the morning?" It's about experimentation and exploration and preparation for the day when you hook up with someone who kinda sticks to you--in a Velcro sort of way, a way that doesn't quite let you forget about the night before, a way that makes you want to pick up your cell phone and, you know, I.M. the person. And that's when all the preparation pays off, because when it is about love you want to be ready--and you want to know where to put your tongue.

Our entire culture is fascinated by high school--and even more fascinated with sex. We remember the excitement, the groping, the dark closet where, exiled in a game of "Seven Minutes in Heaven" with the boy with bad breath and damp hands we tried something new. We remember the moment, a while later, when the other boy, the one with the incredible eyes and the megawatt smile walked up and, because of that time we spent working things out ahead of time, we were ready.

I remember. And so do you.

"People would like a movie about that," I told Katie. "And if this is a fascination of yours--then that's a movie you should... I mean, could, make." And if Katie does make this film, people will also learn from it. People, including me. They will learn the difference between hooking up and love; and how one doesn't necessarily lead to the other. They will learn about being 16 and creative and eager and curious, while also managing the panic, self-doubt, and general weirdness of that age.

I don't want to brag... alright, yes I do. My daughter is an extraordinary filmmaker, already. She's also a strikingly beautiful young woman, poised on the very edge of her sexuality. She reminds me, at this moment in time, of Venus, freshly emerged from her scallop shell, a little timid, but also curious and eager; just about to dive into the fullness of her body and her beauty, just about to "hook up" with something new. The questions she's asking, like the comment that started this discussion, come every day--hooking up and strengthening her connection with her core self, and her discernment, as she decides what works and what doesn't work for her.

Observing this process, I alternate between awe and memory, protectiveness and the tiniest bit of envy. For I have no doubt that Katie will meet this new stage in her life with thoughtfulness, tenderness and artistry. And that's a wonderful way to hook up with, and fall in love with life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

But not all media is like that....

Life, once removed

"People have made all sorts of movies about being 16 or 17 and in high school in America. But no one has ever made a movie about how people hook up and call it love," Katie said to me this morning.

"Then that is the movie you should... I mean, could, make," I said. "We make art out of the issues and questions that haunt us."

I learned this from Sam Keen, who taught me that our thorns, or, as he called them, "the things that get under our saddle like a burr", are the things that shape our character--and are, ultimately, the gifts (or problems) that shape our destiny. They are also, let me add, the themes of our lives. What I mean is, these are the callings, the hauntings, the issues and questions that get us out of bed in the middle of the night. The things that call to us, again and again, all of our lives.

They are our passions, our key frustrations and the undergirding structure of every moment of truth. These fascinations, these allurements will lead is to the most profound satisfaction and if ignored, will lead to our deepest regrets.

As Katie and I continued talking, I asked her, "Why do you think kids today do this? I mean, what is it about the way this generation was raised that's making you experience things this way--once removed from real experience?" Which was, I admit, a leading question.

It led her right where it was designed to lead her, back to one of MY thorns: Media, especially television and the way that, as our attention is drawn to watching other people people experience the things that we BELIEVE that we never will, our "real" lives are taken up, more and more, with meaningless, programmed activities--and by this I am referring to the daily grind, 9-5 jobs, any work that we hate or are bored with yet are compelled to continue doing to pay our bills or debts*, activities performed by rote such as driving long commutes, sitting in bone-numbing conferences, or, as Katie puts it, "going to high school so you can go to college so you can get a job so you can have some money to buy you the things that you think will make you happy."

It can be so tempting to throw ourselves onto the sofa and tune it all out. Believe me, I know, and I wrestle with it every night. But as we watch other people sort out their relationships or do stand-up comedy or climb Mt. Everest or survive a winter in Alaska (or a week on American Idol), the fact remains that WE ARE SITTING ON THE SOFA. And though we may think we are very clear that TV is not real, there's a part of us that doesn't really get that--and the more we set our lives aside to watch, the more agitated we become, the more powerless, envious, angry or, as Katie calls it, "pointless."

And why do we feel pointless? Because that part of us that doesn't get it is the part that needs to be activated so that we can live these experiences ourselves--and it's not activated this way.

Im reminded of a story: When Max was little, he was absolutely hypnotized by the TV, so much that I grew concerned--especially when I tried to draw him away, into other activities and he didn't hear me, and when I did manage to get his attention, threw all-out tantrums when I turned the TV off. I consulted a man named Jaimen McMillan, an expert in spatial dynamics, asking him: Where does Max go when he watches TV? McMillan said, "He goes into the TV."
He explained that children, who are wired to interact with story, as Max clearly was, have a greater tendency to "go in" to TV taking it in so deeply that it becomes a need that must be fed...

Sounds like an addiction, doesn't it?

TV doesn't mean to do this to us. But, it's a narcotic, you see. It draws us in with our taste for story, then, zaps us with white light, hypnotizing those of us who are most vulnerable: The Story Readers.

Stories are, I believe, meant to be drawn into the psyche differently--through words on a page or words spoken in a classroom or around a campfire. When they are delivered by television they are delivered in a base of something else, some emptiness (perhaps it is the lack of interaction that causes us to swallow this emptiness, perhaps it happens as that bright white dot closes the screen when we turn off the set)--It's this emptiness that is doing the harm--not the stories, not the programming, or even the inane advertisigin.

It's the emptiness that we swallow with each dose. An emptiness that makes us crave something to fill it. Like any other addictive substance it numbs our pain, initially, then strips us of our power--and our energy. TV can be especially damaging to our creativity, which requires long stretches of silence and deep pockets of down time in which to spread out and develop. Just the kinds of time that TV requires of us.

But I want to get back to the discussion with Katie, which, interestingly, began with a comment about movies, another form of media that, while not as addictive, is potentially as influential--for better or worse.

Katie and I started taking apart this "hooking up" phenomenon and some of the other monsters that come out from under the psychic bed when we shove our problems underground (by watching TV or engaging in any other activity that numbs us to our real experience.) These are the things we came up with and some of our observations about where they come from and how, perhaps, to address them:

1) Hooking up - or as Katie called it, "hooking up and calling it love" - alienation from the other
2) Cutting, anorexia, addictions to porn and shopping (social addictions) - alienation from the self - in an attempt to control the flow of feeling (patients describe feeling flooded by or numb to normal feeling sensation) ; in the case of shopping, patients are trying to fill an emptiness with things
3) Acute envy and powerlessness - alienation from our own authority/power, no sense of the inherent talents and abilities and soul-callings/longings with which we were born
4) TV keeps us inside on a sunny day; not going out to play/interact with neighbors or with nature; over-consumption of processed/fast food (eating food that's been prepared by machine and is several times removed from the healthy, fresh ingredients with which it began - alienation from Mother Earth/nature's life cycles - no grounding in life itself
5) Alienation from society - our news, politics and underlying social structure is fed to us through media "sound bites", "talking heads", "media analysts" and pundits (or films with a specific socio-political agenda) vs. getting out in the fray and sorting it out for ourselves. In US politics, we can feel so far removed that we cast our vote based on little more than a few minutes of TV coverage, a synopsis in our favorite newspaper, an endorsement of our union's leadership. Where is the discerning self in this?
6) TV Culture - references to TV shows and ways of behaving that one can only pick up by watching, thus requiring those who want to fit in (and who doesn't) to go sit and watch more TV


But now I'd like to open the discussion about how to connect to real experience; indeed, I'm thinking that before we even begin to try and solve this problem, we'll need to go back and define what real experience IS. For I think that many people have moved so far from interaction with the core self that they/we may find it difficult, at first, to even identify those experiences they lack, even though, at a deep level, their souls are longing for very specific things. It's just that we have not been taught (or have not practiced enough) ways of bringing those soul-longings to the surface and processing them in a conscious way (with language, imagery and "real" experience.)

Is that clear? I hope it is. If it's not, please ask me questions. (in comments or by email: I want you to understand what I am saying here.

So, first, what do we want to experience and how to get to that, but in a real way, touching on core/soul longings.
Second, how can we open to the core/soul? Through the arts, certainly. Through collage and other psychic "mapping" and "building" tools, through physical movement (something I sorely need), through group singing??? (an idea that comes to me that would connect us to others without needing to "encounter" too closely; through dream and imagery work...

There are many ideas in this post, and I have recently promised not to post "too long" so I am going to break up my thoughts in several related posts, perhaps over the course of a couple of days. I am also going to bring in some thoughts from other blogs (mine and those of other bloggers) and from some books and other research materials to enrich the discussion.

Ultimately, because this is one of my thorns, I expect to be writing a book about it... today, next month, eventually. This is one of the first steps--and, reminded of something Mary Eileen wrote in a comment on a previous post, perhaps it is time for me to get to this, writing an imperfect first draft. (Or a blog post) and pressing send.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How to Write a Book: One

Start by starting. We learn to write a book by writing one. Each book we write teaches us something new.

In "How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead", a wonderful book by Ariel Gore, Julia Alvarez quotes Robert Frost, who said, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." (I'm not sure what that has to do with this discussion but writers love to quote more prominent writers, as if by association, our status will be elevated. On that note, note the way, in that single quote above, I managed to pick up Frost, Alvarez and Gore in one sentence!)

And then note the way that, for some reason, the minute we start thinking about writing a book, we digress into discussion of publication--and celebrity... at least, I do.)

It’s about the work. It’s about the work. It’s about the work.
It’s not about my picture in a magazine, or book signings, radio interviews, or Oprah’s Book Club. It’s not about sold-out lectures or my name in the Omega Institute catalog. It’s about the work.

It’s not about the money or the big house I will buy on the water—and how, when they come home to that house with a friend, my children (who will be in college by then) will not say, “Sorry there’s no bathroom upstairs,” or “We keep it kind of casual,” or worse, “We could go to your house.” It’s about the work.

Not about my brother in law, Roger, and how, every time I see him he asks, “How’s the book coming?” And how I always say, “Great!” even though we both know that, unless it’s finished, he doesn’t believe me. It’s about the work, and not about the day when I tell Roger, “Oh, haven’t you heard? It’s done and it’s been published, and it’s a best seller. And how are you?”

Spike Lee said that the only way to be flashproof is to remember it’s about the work. I have to remember that. In the meantime, I should probably go work on my book.

Next installment... (because I wasn't really finished thinking about this and because I am putting off working on my book)
Keep your pen moving. Show up. Make writing time an appointment that you keep at least as responsibly as you get to the dentist. Imagine that, if you don't write, someone will send you a bill for 150 dollars. Show up. Make it important. Dont stop when you hit a wall (hump, setback) write through it, around it, over and under it. This is the moment that separates the writer from the journal-keeper. This hump-wall moment. This moment when you stand before your embarrassment, your uncertainty, your "I dont know what's next", your "I know what's next and I am terrified to go there" and you write anyway.

Installment after that: A poem by Billy Collins

Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.


Note: Don't do this. It absolutely never works. No matter how clean you get things. No matter how neatly you align all the cups in the cabinet, even if you scrub the black burned bottoms of every pot, pan and roaster until it gleams.

Just sit down, even if you are sitting in a puddle of milk that was spilled by a toddler during breakfast, even if the laundry isn't done and the undersides of those rocks look positively grody, sit your ass down and write.

That's what I'm doing, see? Though I have to admit that, before I began, I did clean out the car.