Thursday, March 26, 2009

From the Latest Reports

I read a lot more "science" blogs and mags lately, being very interested since last year's visit from Acharya Jeremy Hayward in this "language" we all speak: science. Or rather, an adaptation of science, a development of cultural laws and rules that rule us every day without our noticing it. I'm not talking about the fundamentalists of science: the determinists and Richard Dawkins feverent anti-God world; however, the way science interacts with us from an early age is a form of fundamentalism. Physics, biology, chemistry: these claim, through the guise of sixth grade teachers, to answer it all.

Most scientists I know in person realize this is far from the case - having ventured far afield and back again they can see how the more you learn the less you know, and experiments show this more to them than even to poets. This poem, which came to me spontanenously this morning (which is rare, usually I don't think in poetry anymore, ironic since my first book of poetry is due out in two weeks), addresses no one critically and all of us ironically. After all, I believe it's not the "nature" of science to be problematic, no, rather the cultural demand of it to answer questions that gets us into trouble.

"From the Latest Reports"

Scientists say the snow is impermanent,
That dogs will die (especially on dog days),
Those dearest to you become nearest, then farthest
As they fade off memory and into infinity.

Research seems to support
That sounds as loud as Sawsalls
Will disturb your morning writing and
Frighten the cats into friskiness.

The latest data enumerates
The hours of sleep you got last night
(And especially the quality)
Were disrupted by dreams of failure as clear as memory.

What scientists cannot elucidate
Is how the sparrows entertain themselves,
Whizzing past your window in lines
Or how the crocuses know where to find the sun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Today is my father's birthday. Or would be, if he were alive.
He died 19 years ago as of 3/15/09. I was 12 years old.

I feel extraordinarily sad. This isn't always the case, but today was an intuitively sad day. One of those days where I felt mired in dreams upon waking, unable to shake off the plots, and underneath it all, a sadness lingered. A body clock watching the calendar, knowing what day it was. It took me a few passes of calendars until I had the heart to check; check-paying bills until I confessed that is what it was.

Today is a writing day. Usually they are Mondays, but my writing buddy and I both couldn't do it this last Monday. So it got moved to a Wednesday. I often overlook simple things like, say, my father's birthday for things like this. Today I will write, a lot, in fact - work on one or the other novel, send in some flash fiction - but I will do it at home, in bed, instead of at Bridge's. I just couldn't leave the house this morning, needing to stay within the square circle of my home.

My cats are here and they spiral around me, playing with anything they construe is a toy. My computer backs itself up to the system Dylan set up. Our sheets need washing but at least they smell like us. Giving myself the break of a slight delusion of permanence helps for this morning. Call it a handicap (I don't, actually, I think it's fine) but it's all the space I need.

I've been reading an essay in Harper's Magazine this month which talks about getting older and dying in a really intriguing way. "Curtain Calls (The fever called "living" is conquered at last)" by Edward Hoagland. Here are some quotes, which have been particularly fruitful for me today:
On the impermanence of life: "We're here to feast our eyes and hug loved ones, with our joy perhaps analogous to photosynthesis in plants -- an energizing process of oxygenation that I like to imagine helps keep the Big Bang's spin to life's origins going on and on."
and on death:
"Accepting death as a process of disassembly into humus, then brook, and finally seawater demystifies it for me. I don't mean I comprehend bidding consciousness good-bye. But I love the rich smell of humus, of true woods soil, and of course the sea--love rivulets and brooks, lying earthbound, on the ground. The question of decomposition is not pressing or frightening. From the top of the food chain I'll reenter the bottom..(want a minimal coffin, to speed the transition to multiple energies)."

The fact is, though, that I don't think of my dad this way. There is no solace in an image of peace for him. This is my grief. It may be universal but the pain pours through my own heart at the moment. So I will make space around that heart, let her write, drink lots of tea and just be. Maybe some Buffy later. Easy does it. This is no concept, which though that writer tried to be truthful, the article is. This is it, the real long haul, the role of those who miss and not those who are missing. Coming to terms with one's own death isn't the same as accepting someone else's. They may be intertwined - that I would accept - but definitely not the same.

Last night I dreamt of theater, of being stuck stage managing a show (this was my first career, and one I don't miss). I was stressed - didn't know the show somehow, and others had their roles all figured out, though I didn't. I woke laughing at the obvious imagery. Today I will accept that others do have this pain, it is not mine alone. This will help, to some level. Then after that is done, I will accept that part of it is mine alone, as much as there is a me, and be with that. The curtain never falls on sadness. Sometimes it's a scrim, sometimes velvet, but there is always a heart within, beating until it becomes a stream without a body.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Having made a commitment to "practice" going to a gallery once a week, or, in the least possible situations, at least look for an hour at one of my many art books, I have really enjoyed in the last month a re-invigorating feeling in all of my expression. Visual art is something I have strangely overlooked (pun intended) in the last few years, mostly due to writing and to any photography I have been doing directed toward Miksang. Side benefits come from both, yes, but the direct act of looking at any visual art unconnected with my teaching or learning fell by the wayside. And now the wayside is the highway. Yum.

This week has been a flurry of art. Last week in LaCrosse my students and I saw some especially funky pieces. One was a gum tree (featured at top with Marolyn). It's interactive art - you pick off one of the pieces and chew it, then add it to the stump to make a new sculptural element.

Then, I came home on Saturday and, not feeling I had had "enough" art, I leafed through a book I've been meaning to read since Dylan gave it to me last year - Shock of the New, based on the series from BBC about turn of the century and 20th century art. The series I had taken out from the library years ago and it really turned my understanding of Impressionism around - from being bored by the Lillies of Monet to literally seeing just how radical that time was, and still can be, for us, visually. I read all about how the Impressionists direct influenced the Surrealists in funny ways, then, in a very immediate overlap, the Surrealists came over to NYC to escape the bitter war(s) and hit head on with the Expressionists. What a lineage, as Nat would say. The early paintings of Pollock, for instance, are dream-like and contain many more figures and "ideas" of a direct conceptual way than his later work (which is what he is better known for) express. Of course he had a lot of "proper" art training, so that's where I figured (in the past) those faces and shapes had come from. But fitting them in with this transition makes far more sense - in the way that any Surrealism can make sense.

Then, just when I thought I might be full, I attended the opening for the Museum of Material Culture, in the Commonwealth Gallery, here in Madison, just down the street from me. The blend of archaeology, psychology and art is fantastic. It's a very subtle show, but engaging. I wrote a review of it for Dane 101 (which can be found here, with photos).

Watching as my impressions of particular kinds of art, my preferences and ideas, meld away into something that can come out expressed in my own writing or cartoons (the main kind of visual art I am doing nowadays) is fun. Enriching my own lineage. What a great practice to have!

Monday, March 23, 2009

One Hand Loves the Other

Title from "Unison" by Bjork

Here's the plan. I will write on this blog as my writing practice. I have often sort of informally thought of this blog that way, but never actually committed to it that way. I think it's a good idea to give it this structure, and you all seem to like it. Works out well.

So what is there to say today? I got tired enough this last weekend to wear out my own words. I caught myself changing the order of words, or saying the wrong thing entirely. Punched beyond punchy, my tired mind made mincemeat of the most basic conversations. Exhaustion wearing the robes of Miriam. My hair curled and skirts unfurled, most thought I had just had too much to drink, even with no alcohol present. Giddy joy of Natalie combined with many-miled Wisconsin between me and the week before, all of this filled me until there was no more room for thoughts, for feelings, for feelings about thoughts.

My hand scrubbed over each other, looking for hangnails, tensing at the texture of dryness. Cold, shaky, worn. Some strange new skin condition that kicked in a month ago reaching a fever pitch of tender points on my palms. Is this the beginning of when my body tries to tell me how I am hurting? I thought that was over. Listen to the pores, listen to the heart as it beats out my needs: Alone. Alone. Alone. Give me some time Alone.

This morning, all slates wiped clean. I woke after 12 hours of dead sleep to two cats on my chest and a rainy March sun creeping its way into my eyelids under my facemask. The pure bliss of a rested mind. I thought immediately of a conversation with a student this last weekend, when she ventured that perhaps there were few women of color at the writing conference we were attending because of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If you are poor and oppressed, you don't have the cash or concern for this "level" of need. I reflected on my own personal of the week before - working hard to keep the money coming in, traveling too much, stressed and also over-stimulated, even in a good way, or with good content. Add on to that kids, possibly being an only parent, not enough money, or if the money is there, not enough time, or if both are there, not wanting to go somewhere where she might be one of the only ones. The sun shines in and she has to get up to work, not go talk about writing beyond work and into joy.

I am grateful for that weak sun, like a tea trying to take me from sleep to wake. I am grateful for the time, no matter how skewed into overwork it gets sometimes. I am grateful for the work. And facing major car bills, overdue credit cards, payment due for higher spiritual and writing retreats, I still know I have a liberty, a wake up in bed with some space liberty, a Dylan would never leave me liberty, for now. Funny how facing impermanence with such certainly gives me some comfort. Rested up now I realize that while all those things are real, and therefore I can have gratitude toward them, their not being wholly real doesn't worry me. Only when I am well-rested can that even approach the truth.

One hand rubs the other and for now, they can type and be assured. We exist. We exist enough to effect change, to range over the keyboard and pluck words from air. No longer jerking the strings of despair, the playing returns. The learning recommences. Digesting fences, comprehension, distended guts and retention. Joy dispensed. Recompensed with sleep. "We love one another!" my hands leap.

Let's go enjoy even this rainy weather.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Walls, only Walls

So much to process. How can I even begin? "Just do it," Nat would say. So I will.

First, this is how my last week and a half has looked:
Thursday before last through Saturday: Milwaukee, teaching and working, lots of socializing.
Saturday: party at our house
Sunday: Hung out with friends most of the day
Monday: Grade all day and write
Tuesday: Drove to Wi Rapids and back to teach, help Natalie Goldberg out at night
Wednesday: Drove Natalie Goldberg around, spend time with her, go to her reading
Thursday: Graded all day, watched some Buffy
Friday: 6am Left for LaCrosse
Saturday: Returned from LaCrosse (attended conference, lots of socializing)
Saturday night (tonight): Friend's birthday party
Sunday (tomorrow): Shambhala Arts Day at Madison Shambhala Center most of day
Monday: grade all day and party at night (sister in law's bday)
Next Weekend: three day weekend in Chicago socializing and teaching.
Let me just be clear that I am not complaining. Just realistically assessing. Thanks to all who have spent time with me this week. Very good things! Just too much. Like too much cheesecake.

In the last 5 or so years of teaching, there are some things I have learned about myself and what teaching does "to me"
1. I need at least every other weekend off. No teaching, no traveling, just chilling at home.
2. I am good at social and love people but I MUST have time alone and quiet.
3. Large chunks of #2 are crucial for my sanity, and so is 9 hours a night of sleep.
4. No matter how happy I am with the content of my life, if I don't get 1-3, I suffer greatly.

More recently, I have set it up so that when life is steady, I do the following:
5. Meditate every day for at least 15 minutes, do yoga or stretching, exercise 3x week and write every day.

However, this has not been one of those weeks. Despite taking out adult classes (on spring recess right now) - or maybe because of that, plus happy circumstance (Natalie), I managed to fill my "vacation" with stuff to do. This next week I will have some time, but until then, there's more talking and listening to do. I keep making language mistakes - I am tired and can't track my own speech, as if I am drunk. Luckily I won't actually be "teaching" anything in the next two days, and tomorrow night, I can sleep as much as I need.

Solo time. Unstructured solo time. For me, more and more, this kind of time, which I didn't understand at all and judged as a waste when I began this adventure of self-boss-ness, is crucial. Maybe it has been all along and I didn't see it. But now I know that I need it. Time to choose to watch tv, meditate, read, do nothing. Pet the cats. Walk. Buy groceries.

The last two days I was in LaCrosse attending a conference called "Awakening the Soul of the Writer" with 5 of my students. I didn't drive, I didn't have to teach, but it was busy - full of ideas, lots of concentration and not much sleep. Despite near utter exhaustion, one stream of thought emerged out of all of the workshops (well, more than one, but this is the strongest one): that everything we fear, all self-hatred, all Acedia (the main concept at the conference), all depression, all - as we Buddhists put it - dukkha or suffering (more commonly now being called "anxiety" to match the language of our age) is caused by a fear of impermanence. Of death. Of loss.

Why do I hate myself sometimes? Why waste my time creating a self only to hate it? Because if I can hate it it means there is a self to hate. Ridiculous? Who ever said life made sense. All of these games are walls to "protect" the vulnerable heart, which can, which does actually feel the raw temporal state of the universe. It knows the truth. Feelings touch you and let go - your ego is what keeps them in tandem for too long after. We cling to suffering because it is a veil we can wear against the truth. Our fig leaf of shame.

"I don't exist and I cannot handle that," our inner Eve or Adam says. I am filled with Biblical images, as Acedia is ostensibly a Christian concept, though the word was born of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Chrisitian mystics of the 4th-6th centuries.

The walls we put up against this vulnerability, the truth our hearts know and can try and tell us about through our bodies, our blocked-with-distraction arteries, these walls are made of the bricks of distraction - even when they attempt to pave a road to good intention. I need to not build these walls - even if they get me to truly inspiring conferences like these. Too warn out and I serve no one. Without space, this heart cannot breathe, cannot feel and misses the truth.

Solo time is that space. My heart rejoices and reconnects with the world. The fevered pitch of busy-ness may just indicate exactly that, in fact - trying too hard to fill because I can't feel the space at all. I need to do things to know I can, instead of appreciating the potential and leaving it at that. Some do not enough. I do too much. But I am working on it. And playing with it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tea with Natalie

I just got back from Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, aka MoFo's, on Madison's eponymous Willy St. "The second I got off the plane here I felt better," Nat said, and as we drove slowly down Willy, "and now I feel 'uman again." She doesn't say "Human," rather, 'uman. East Coast accent still holding strong.

The call came this afternoon, as I drove down 73 South to come home from teaching creative writing to JHS kids. We had fun all morning - exquisite corpses, Mad Libs - playing with storytelling while sneaking in what last minute lessons - grammar and use of detail - I could while not having them notice we were doing anything more than having fun. I'll grade their final papers over the next couple of weeks, then off to the next class.

So I had Fiona Apple blasting, windows down, 70degree wind coming in, and I barely heard my phone ring. Barely. I picked it up, even though I was going 70 and had to reach for my ipod at the same time to turn off Fiona. "Hello? Miriam? It's Natalie Goldberg."

I had offered my number anywhere I could find a connection to her - not having her direct email or phone - earlier last week, since I knew she was coming to town. I imagined she'd have handlers - folks to take her places, interviews, etc, but just in case she needed some "'uman" contact, I put it out there. I'll be her lackey! And her buddy! Whatever she needs. I've been a teacher on the road and it isn't easy.

Turns out she was calling me to see if there was a natural foods store near her hotel, downtown Madison. Well, Mifflin St Grocery Coop closed, so that leaves Whole Foods or Willy St Coop. "How about I come get you and we go there?" "Yeah! Then we'll get time to hang out."

After a couple of delays (her plane got redirected), and after I had Dylan's birthday dinner with him ("Tell your partner THANK YOU for letting me have you on his birthday," said Nat when I dropped her off later), I picked her up at the hotel and took her the long way around, showing off our lakes in the setting sun. She was at bliss, sat back in her seat, asked a million questions and smiled the whole way. "I've been here before but I never even guessed there was anything outside of the downtown area," she mused, and then "I can tell this is a great place to live."

We talked about Shambhala and her issues with Chogyam Trungpa while we wrestled open string cheese. Debated black bean hummus or regular. Plenty of OJ and Kombucha. So hard to be on the road. On the way back, we began to talk about dead parents - mine gone now many years, hers just a few, despite her being almost twice my age, and she asked me if I wanted to get coffee. She loved Mother Fool's of course, and while I was paying she snuck two chairs out the side door and we watched the rest of the sun and felt the warm breeze as we drank and chatted.

I was frankly shocked not to run into anyone on a Tuesday night in Madison on Willy St. And glad. Glad that somehow just the two of us had that time, no one to meet (she'll meet plenty of you tomorrow at her reading!), no one else she had to talk to. Just the two of us. She's estatic that I am teaching (without prompting she said "I'll send the folks who ask me to come teach to you, ok?") and in love with life. You could tell none of the people who served her knew who she was. For me, it was like I was walking around with - I dunno, Tammy Baldwin or (I'm struggling to think of similarly famous figures who would be totally recognizable to people in other circles - a big sports star, say, or not a rock star, but maybe Ani or Dar Williams or something. Part of me was like "Um, don't you know who this is?" and the other part, the bigger part, was like "How nice for her, that she can just be, you know, 'uman for one night. Only I know 'who she is' and that barely matters in comparison to who she *is* as a 'uman."

Thanks for the tea and company, Natalie.

Tomorrow I'll tool her around town so she can get a better taste. Of Madison, that is.

If you don't know already, please come hear her read/get her new book/get it signed at Borders West ("Why did they put me at Border's?" "Canterbury closed." "That's a shame.") at 7pm tomorrow night, 3/18/09.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who Can Stand In the Way

(Midnight Oil song title from the album Red Sails in the Sunset)

Talking with a very independent and strong female friend recently, she revealed a vulnerable side to say that she feels cheated in a sense by the way society has demanded of women to show their independence with very little support. She's been in a weird relationship the last 7 months - on and off with a guy she finds very little satisfaction with anymore, but she admitted that while part of her doesn't want to hurt him, she also is sure she is in it just for the sheer affection, basic weird love feeling she gets from it. It's not abusive - just - bland.

Now, why would someone who is gaining in her career, has traveled and lived abroad, owns her own home and keeps very fit stay in something like that?

"It's a backhanded compliment and I get it all the time," she sighed, referring to all of her coworkers and friends who say, upon meeting her or not knowing her well, that they "Can't Believe She's Still Single at 31, and What With Her Being So Pretty and Smart and All." Guess what? She can't believe it either.

Even when it is said in the most ostensibly supportive and encouraging manner (not to mention all the times it is literally laid down as a thinly veiled form of relief or insult), she feels the whip of it. For so long, she felt so "ok" being "alone." "I didn't really *need* relationships for a long time," she pointed out, and I well know this to be true, following her independent escapades all through out her 20's, the length of our friendship so far. I think maybe something happened a couple of years ago. One, she hit her Saturn return, that powerful turning point of no return, where what is working gets smoother, even if challenging, and clearer. She focused her career, went back to school, bought a house. And what doesn't work? That falls apart. She got into a very satisfying - or so it seemed at the time - relationship, and eventually it showed its true colors. That relationship revealed to her all the places she'd been avoiding for so long, and it hurt horribly, beyond measure, upon break up.

Since then she has had to hobble through the field of living and being alone with only peripheral support. Being wounded, open-hearted, and vulnerable may be a sort of "goal" in the sensitivity sense, but the fact is that it hurts like a Biatch. I managed to survive about a month of the state she's been in now for a couple of years and then I found Dylan - or we found each other. I cannot even imagine being there again, something Dylan and I talk about again and again. Not just the early 20's part of flailing around in habit, trying like crazy people to do the same thing again and again and expect different results, but then the part where we KNEW what we wanted, needed, or a hint of it anyway, and we didn't have it.

Would I put up with something mid-range, hoping it would tide me over until the real thing appears? Hell yes. Sitting in her house, talking with her, at one point she paused and said "After a busy day at work, at school, I come home to my home and this is what I've got:" (silence, not even the sound of cars or birds). "You see?" Oh yes. I do.

She's not dumb. She knows she has friends - me and others who understand, her family, and a world that needs her. But increasingly this request, this admiration of the world that those things are somehow enough when in fact, they aren't, pains her. Understandably. The double-standard puts her in her own way. Independent her in the way of Vulnerable her. Putting up with it just to get some love her in the way of Knows what she really needs her. In this way all the others who commentate on her life (myself included) contribute to the double standard with backhanded compliments and advice. Behind all of it, a sense of (and I am guilty of this, too) "Thank God It Isn't Me."

There's no advice to give. Slowly but surely she is learning to believe in her core self and feel the thirst for love. One day all of this will synchronize with the right person at the right time. In the meantime we drink wine, make fun of her crushes and the back hands of others, and I give her all the hugs, text messages and goofy presents I can, knowing it is enough, and yet also not enough.

There is no replacement for the kind of love she is seeking. I know you both cannot seek it and yet must seek it, my dear. If I could give you a formula, I would. So I'll give you laughter instead.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Rarity of Community

Rarity of Community

For my Contemplative Writing students.

Don't cook the meat too long. The juices escape out the skin, making even the inside brittle and crisp. Return to the center again, palpating the outside of the brisket. The center may be bone, but inside of that is marrow, from which butter-like blood cells are born. Cut into that stone, that diamond in the rough gristle, and serve the meat to each other on a gold-rimmed platter. Eat in silence to better appreciate each other. The heart can be cooked and rise again. Puree it, process it, and serve it to company with parsley, and yet it regenerates like a many-headed worm. The more you divide the heart, the larger it grows until all you know is heart; even hate will have so much heart in it that you won't be able to escape the love.

This is how we feast with each other. This is how we need one another and our selves, the very cells that expose themselves to the air each time we cry or cough or laugh in the witness of instant acceptance. Presented as is, always as cooked or as raw as needed for the dish, and always enough to feed the ears of those who attend. Take some extra with you at the end. We're surrounded by a city, a world, starved of this kind of marrow.

The French prefer their beef bloody, but hide their true souls from each other until they are certain it is safe. The Brits cover over even that safety with sarcasm and irony. And Americans don the armor of adolescent bravery - a faux strength that belies our weakest spots in the very act of putting it on.

Try all you want, but an Achilles Heel will ache its way out of your high-heeled shoes and sexy attire. The fire will continue to cook you until you let off steam and write with your finger the words that linger on the face of your reflection in the bathroom mirror. This is not an argument for willy-nilly expression, no, but for finding what's needed for all of us that can escape through a constructive hatch, light the right match, pump into the valve and feed the blood of many boys and girls as they listen to you live your actual life, not some fantasy, but reality. Your broken knives, your previous wives, the five hearts of your own you've hidden from everyone until every bone in your body moaned to go free. Let yourself breathe with the world and when the pain comes, receive it and you will find love and when the love comes, give it away and you will find five more hearts worth of love waiting to refill your coffers.

Every fable tells us of the people poverty mind infects. The Emperor who must wear the best even if naked, Rumpelstiltskin, who needs the most gold. And yet nothing you hold weighs as much, fills as much, feeds as much as Now. We try to pretend that while makign love or winning a race or getting a raise or feeling the grass on our toes we've done the best we can and if we could stay there the love would last. But we miss it the rest of the time; love the marrow feeding the blood of Hate. The storms that blast poor families into space, the infections that take 40 year old friends in two days.

Khandro Rinpoche said once at a talk to a woman next to me who had expressed that she didn't personally understand how Karma could be so cruel, that the woman "understood perfectly well how the world and Karma worked. (She) just didn't like it." Didn't like that hibiscus blooms next to rust, that not all babies grow up to be adults, that all suffering can be, already is, ameliorated with love.

I'm not sure I like it, either. But I do now believe in the love. And I'm starting to believe it's not as medium rare to rare as we usually think it is. Stick your fork in. You are all ready to serve the world.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Time keeps on ticking

The mailman at my postbox. The sound of a garbage truck passing, or Budweiser truck stalling illegally, running for fifteen minutes now across the street, outside my newly opened window. The pain in my foot from where I dropped a corner of a table on the crux between ankle and tendon after class this morning. The pain in different parts of my heart.

I am trying to pay attention. Not run away. Not grasp one over the other. When I am sad the first thing that I want to know is "Why," followed quickly by "How can I Fix It?" or "What Can I Do to Make It Go Away?" How about just staying with it? Squirming under my own microscope. I want to go buy books for the next session of Taos retreat with Natalie. Plunge myself into an escapist book and not even really enjoy it. Go watch an afternoon of Buffy.

Anything but cry. Anything but go for a walk, call a friend, write more and again about how I don't know why, I don't know when it will "go away," (if at all) or if there is indeed anything to fix (doubtful, of course).

When did it start? With true sadness. Two of my favorite students who are also friends are leaving their classes as of today, after a long time attending. One is just taking a session off, but the other is moving far away. Sure, she'll probably join the online forum. And sure I never really got all the drinks with her I meant to. It's not like I am losing her, really. And yet here comes that impermanence (I wanted to write STUPID, my inner crankster says) rearing its head again. I almost cried in class, since others did, and boy was I feeling the love. But there's nothing like feeling the love when love is moving on to love others. Not a personal loss, not even a loss, just a movement, like all of life is.

Today, a message in my Facebook message box. Don't check it real often, til I discovered sometimes people are contacting me - or trying to - quite urgently there. So today I made a point to check it. Turns out a former co-worker from the Overture, and a woman I thought of as a friend, though we were little more than queer compatriots with similar senses of humor and art, died. I only found out because the woman I was trying to get her email address from (the woman who died has recently been "downsized" from the Overture and I wanted to make sure she was doing okay) emailed me back to say there's no her to send it to. She had medical issues, was in a wheelchair, but an infection hit her fast and hard and she left this world on Sunday.

I took it as evidence: see! No wonder I am sad! Muckiness is afoot in the universe! But the fact is that everyday feels this way one way or another. Miriam Greenspan calls it a healthy dose of despair - the truth of the world, how it is impermanent and problematic, how things and people break and die and go away on a whim. I just need to keep reminding myself (I laugh at the word "just" as if this is a small task) that this is normal, that, as one of those students who is leaving wrote today in her final piece "the vulnerability we have which is often seen as sharp and dark is in fact normal and accepted in this space." I can do that. I can take sad. I've done it before.

Phew. Nothing like feeling blue then getting bad news. I'll limp around to take a "walk" and go get my hair cut as scheduled. Read a book but also write. Make sure there is chocolate in there somewhere. And light a candle for Rae. My apologies, my dear, I did not get to you in time.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


I have returned now from a week of writing in Taos with Natalie Goldberg and 24 new friends. Intense, sunny and psychologically, and also beautiful. The last day some folks were saying how much they would miss the structure of the practice in a group: in silence except to share, meals cooked beautifully and on time for us, a teacher to come back to if we felt lost. As always leaving a retreat like this I felt so blessed - still feel so blessed - because I have worked hard to make sure my life is filled with those kinds of experiences, constantly, even if I am often the facilitator. Over time, though, my students are in so many ways taking up reins, and that is the best blessing of all.

Many, many blog posts could come out of what I wrote, and I wrote a lot over the last week. All by hand, and for today the demand is placed on laundry and loving my partner and kitties. But I'll be back soon enough.