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Inside My World



“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.” ~JOSEPH CAMPBELL

island duckies beach3 beach2 beach

My inner world, this place inside me that is sometimes filled with self loathing and angst, finds peace, finds a serene place to rest in which the warm winds blow and the sun is warm, and the moon rises over quiet small lakes, and streams flow over broken rock, dragon flies dive float at eye level, inspecting me and finding me worthy.  These moments of quiet, these days of learning, this life of self discovery, I am held aloft by the arms of angels, how lovely I am here, in this place where no one else’s love, or absence seems to matter.

We walk each morning up the climbing hill, and down again.  He panting old and reluctant behind me, but never really leaving my side, loyal friend, best friend, I could never leave you, you with your salt flavored fur, you with your joyful smile upon my return, you with your charming hugs upon my knee, I could never leave you, just as you would never leave me for long, not for long.  The other dogs thunder up to me, the scouting dog cutting in front of me and him repeatedly, you dogs whose DNA is so similar to his.  The other, shyly approaches, shy affection, and I can see, a degree of loyalty, which I will have to work hard to continue to earn, when I rise you are the most excited as you leap in the air and spin in circles.  And she, the scout, chasing turkeys cutting back around to me, but on the way home, my own stands by me, she goes ahead, and he  peeks around curves to make sure I am there, before journeying forward.

And this is all a salve, an ointment, made of air, and abiding friendship, of laughter, of years of loyalty, of going away, but coming back because we must, because the love is too strong to leave behind.  It smells of rosemary, for truth, of rose geranium for mental clarity, of citrus lemon, or grapefruit for refreshing quality, and juniper berry for some unnamed spiritual purpose, something akin to being deeply ones self in this increasingly homogeneous culture, a salve to sooth all the broken places, to replace all the empty places or perhaps to make the emptiness bearable.

A moment of quiet here, with its rustic gardens, its mountainous vista, its island of cool, its balm of loving loyalty, friendship, acceptance, its quietude of spirit and centrality of purpose.

I am not an artist in residence so much as a spirit in flight.




Endless gift.

All things melancholy · Great Quotes · Musings · Pirates · Small Joys · Strong Woman · Treasure

the winding of the cuckoo clock


I wake earlier than I should for the late night, watching the ball drop as I rested in his deep embrace, his firm masculine kiss warm on my forehead, telling me how good I am at hosting guests in our home, how great I did taking care of everything, how pleased he is with me, in some ways it makes me happy to hear this from him, but only because it confirms what I already know, I don’t need someone else to cook and clean for me to make people feel at home and there is nothing special about it, it is part of who I am.  I make coffee and take out the dog, feed the cats and start a load of laundry before I sit to check the internet.  The strings of the cuckoo clock are low near the arm of my chair so I reach up and wind it.  At some point many months ago, he stood over me in this same spot, and in his gruff and grumpy way, informed me that he should not be the only one to wind it.  In other words, you can wind the clock if you want to.  Ordinary.

Mary Shelley said something about life being an accumulation of anguish, and I think as I hear it that though she used it to justify life, it is a statement in and of itself.  Life for me has never been about the accumulation of joy.  The joy has been highlights and nothing more.  But the ordinary, yes that has accumulated as well.  We come back from lunch with his aunt who in her way is showing the kind of meal we should eat while we try to lose weight.  Our mutual resolution, I suppose, though when I ask him what his is, he says, drink more water.  And I adopt it immediately, it solves so many problems.  You can say, I am giving up soda, but still be putting cream and sugar in your coffee, you can say, I won’t eat sweets, but fill up on diet cola, or cola, or carbohydrates, you can say I will eat less and exercise more, the highlights, and the darkness, but the ordinary, yes that is it.  Drink more water.   Ordinary.

We work together scraping ice and shoveling the dusting of snow off the front driveways, and then together he shoveling off the back deck as I shovel a path around the yard for the arthritic dog, who cannot hump across the drifts as he once did.  He grins at me periodically, I think he likes this, me outside helping him do the work of the two houses.  And I know I like the fact that I don’t have to ask him to help, the bane of the American male, he doesn’t need to be bossed or told what to do, he does it.   The dishes get washed and the vacuum run and his bills paid, and I have nothing to think about.  As I lay in bed earlier I thought of this, how we have separate accounts and neither one of us would have it any other way.  I don’t have to think about how his bills are going to get paid, I only have to think about mine.  What a gift this is, one I appreciate more than I would have ever imagined.  The the dog and I do a lap around the yard, he calls out to me, wait up for me and he does a round too, smiling at me and wrapping his arms around me, the brim of his hat burning a line across my forehead as he rubs noses with me.  He goes in, the dog and I go around again.  Joy.

Inside again I finish hooking up my Wii fit to his Wii console, don’t break it, he hollers, in other words, what is this thing and how does it work, will it somehow damage my console?  Then begs a Mii for himself, and tries ski jumping, besting me right away.  Though I love it best of all the games.  I spend the next 40 minutes trying to shed my midsection of extra weight.  I resolve to start walking again, though the injury to my foot has been preventing it, okay, then maybe the bike, the dog stands in front of me, between the Wii and the TV, he knows when I am using this, it means less time in the woods for him.  My heel hurts after.  And I click my teeth annoyed.  Getting old really sucks sometimes.  Anguish.

And in the late hours after he has gone to bed I spend several hours loading music onto my ipod.  Surfing the internet for the biggest CD wallet money can buy, and dream of the day I can get rid of this CD tower, and make room in this house for space.  Yes, space, there is a great gift in making space in a home where there was none previously.  Slowly bit by bit, I open up the space in this home.  I open up space in his heart.  He sat on the sofa and lifted his hand to wave at me, in that cute way he does, his curly hair standing on end and smooshed from sleeping, his face tired and his eyes sleepy.  I wave back and blow a kiss, which he laughs in way that says he likes it and cannot believe I did it, then he pushes it away.  Hey!  I say don’t push my kiss away you are supposed to catch it, I do it again this time he puts it in his pocket.  Okay seriously, I say, you are supposed to smoosh it on your face.  He reaches into his pocket takes it out and smooshes it on his face, then he says there is the other kiss, its a boomerang one, and smooshes that on his face too.  Then he yawns really big, and like a little kid rubs his eyes.   Go to bed, I say.  You just want the remote, he says.  Yeah, I do.  But I don’t really, I really have no desire to watch TV rather I am looking forward to the quiet of the ticking clock and my thoughts.  I look up and see its weights are hanging low again.  I reach up to wind them.  And then reach not for a glass of wine, but instead, for a glass of water.  Ordinary.



All things melancholy · Books · Energy work · Magic · Small Joys · Strong Woman · Treasure

fire lit

I crack it open, this book that I no longer remember where I first heard of it, perhaps on NPR, perhaps not.  I only know that it exists in the after time, the rift that I realize now will never be healed.  I lost the name of the author, the title of the book, and without either, there is truly no way to find such a thing in the search engines of bookstores.  Like this science fiction book I once read:  Woman on an expedition to another planet, loses her oxygen suit and is saved by aliens who have the ability to adjust her physical body to their allergens, her partner is not so lucky and when she returns to the human world she is forever altered.  I wish I could just remember this other book though that sounded intriguing and then by some accident, it comes to me and I add it to my list, which remains unread for some period of time.  There is a certain joy in opening a library book, the crackle of the cellophane cover, the smell of other people on the pages, their squashed bugs, the smell of their bathwater and their perfume, and the red splash of spaghetti sauce they were eating while they held their book behind their bowl with the non dominant hand.

“The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation.  Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration–how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?”  A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

I am not, as I wander in this valley, sometimes the cut is so deep I find myself cold and huddled in the darkness, there seems no way out.  A friend by in the way of six degrees of separation calls the beginning of this rift his box of shame, but I am stuck in this rift, in this darkness.  And yet somehow the darkness is a relief from having to be bright.  Do I choose the yellow and sunshine and the cheerful way of the  flighted, or do I choose this damp cavern of sorrow?  I say there is this endless quest for meaning but all the philosophy on planet earth can not delve into the darkest depths of this human despair.  I frame it properly, I tell the history, I tell the insanity of my thinking, the magic that I find imbued in the journey, he understands this magic in his pagan mind.  The philosophy, he says, isn’t meant to though, to delve into that despair.  Instead, he says, it addresses those depths of true meaning and then walks away.  I want quit of it, but deep down, I know that it is more meaningful than the veneer of joyfulness than the frame of its all good this frame of perpetual happiness, for I cannot feel true joy without this riverbed carved from the rock of my being, this valley of my soul, gully in some places.  It has been carved with a flood gate of tears.  And like a lady slipper in the forest, the smallest patch of sunlight brings the greatest gift of beauty to me.  And my goddess how gloriously beautiful it can be.

“It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves that we miss the depths of the loveliness, beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy that lie at our core.”  Thomas Moore

I sit on the steps in the sunlight, arms sore from raking, and I tell the constant yammering of my inner voice to be still now.  It fades to the background and I realize without thinking it, that there is something to be said for acknowledging and embracing this darkness.  Yes, I am broken, yes I feel I will never recover from this, yes, I still ache in the darkness, and also in the light.  But this is no shallow pool, it is a crystalline feature of who I am.  I revel now in being lost or of not being, or the transformation of my self, this is who I was once, but that ended so abruptly, and was never reopened, well at least by him, mine is still gaping, I scratch at the scab, it bleeds, the stitches so carefully sewn tear, and it is rent open again. I am lost to this thing which caused my befores and afters.  And as I read I recall that day when I was lost in the Adirondacks, not even my dog by my side.  How I cried, and felt not sorrow for myself, but fear for my daughter alone, and how I carefully walked back until I found the trail sign, on the ground and took the right path instead of the left.   Oh I know lost.

My moral compass led me in the right direction, I have integrity we have already established this.  I know that not everyone can say the same.  I suppose there must be something though that carries them through their journies, something I cannot or maybe will not comprehend.  I ask, is this a sign?  My friend of six degrees says, maybe it is just location, location, location.  And in this case, the location is a thousand miles from home their own heated separtion.  And yet I am home, I just don’t trust that the hearth will warm me, nor that the fire will stay lit.

How can I when I am shivering here, shivering so in the dark and the damp.

I must light my own fire.

I know the answer at least, that I can lit my own fire, and that the damp and darkness matter only in relation to the light and warmth of my own hearth.

In the immortal words of my hero, Tim Gunn, “Carry On”.  “Make It Work”.

Buddhism · Great Quotes · Musings · Small Joys · Strong Woman · Treasure · Zen Center of Syracuse

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” – Buddha

In a flash of insight I am brought back to the teachings of Buddhism that I was so deeply practicing in the first many months of my greatest heartache.  I remember Dr. Cross saying that I have to stop looking outside myself for approval, a notion echoed only a few days ago by the Pirate, who said, I am always saying “notice me, pay attention to me, love me” by my words and actions.  It may seem mean or cruel but the way he said it, I could only say, yeah, that is so true.  I do that.  Dr. Cross said that I needed to turn inward and start to find my own way, to find acceptance from within myself, to find my “laughing place”, my place of joy.

There has been this arching emotion for me, I am finding it difficult to express what the actual feeling is, what it stems from and how I got here.  It is a sense that everything is falling into place just exactly as it was meant to.  That feeling is a feeling that seems to come from a number of events, sign posts, and signals, that have been hovering swirling in my life.  It feels almost as though I have been hiking up a very shadowy, dark and dense path, and suddenly I have emerged on the rocky surface and can see just exactly where I came from.  Like any mountain top, I will continue on and I know there will be valleys, and rushing rivers, and my view will be obstructed once again, but for right now, alot of “shit” is really making sense to the grand and general scheme of my life.

I kept saying I don’t want to compare the Pirate, but I cannot help it, the comparison is so rich, so deeply meaningful to me, that it is hard to express it really in terms that anyone can understand, but here is where that insightful flash happens.  How can I express what is happening to me, how this is working in my life and then Kaboom.  I see.

It is not that there is a need to compare this shining gem, to that meager fruit, it is that I am seeing myself lit from the inside.  It is the comparison of me now to that me that was before.  It is not an approval from without, it is an approval from within.  It is not that the Pirate approves of me and the other did not, it is that I approve of myself.  I accept myself.

When I was in that terrible place, keeping the path as my metaphor, the quick sand, swampy, off course, basically lost, bushwhack brambly place, I returned to the Zen Center of Syracuse to meditate formally, to do yoga twice weekly, and to attend group stress reduction classes once a week, along with volunteering at the Zen Center as part of my practice.  More than one person was telling me that I should take medication, but I knew what I was doing, and when I checked it with Dr. Cross, he confirmed my assertion that I was taking “medication”, meditation medication.  I am not sure how it is for other people but for me, this was what I needed, and so grateful, in retrospect that I did not take drugs.  Ultimately because the insight that I now have is invaluable, and the clarity of what has transpired is so brilliant and crystal that I do not imagine I would have gotten this view under the influence.  But right now I can see so succinctly how important that internal work was to managing my heartbreak, to getting to this place I am right now.  One of the things that Buddhism teaches you is that you are not alone, and the realization of that is also truly important to being in this place right now.  Because for many years I was removed from the friendships I had built earlier in my life, and removed from most of my family, and removed from the authenticity of myself.

Reconnecting to long out of contact relatives on Facebook was vital to this rebuilding process that began for me when I was hammered apart and left for the dead.  This morning a college friend who is going through some medical problems expressed what I have been thinking too, that Facebook allowing her to reconnect with our college group, has been so important to her, she was asking us (specifically the college friends) to keep her in our thoughts, and the outpouring of genuine caring from so many of us was just exactly what I am speaking of.  I know people make fun of “Crackbook”, and in the end it is truly just another corporate marketing ploy, but on many levels has been a part of my recovery.  Oh yes, I do have people that love me, that are like me, that think like me, that talk like me, and yes those that don’t and that is okay.

The me that was left?  She was always concerned about what the other thought, did he love me, were my clothes right (they never were and again I told Dr. Cross late in our sessions, why do I dress better now than when I was married, why now when he isn’t all judging me?  His answer, if you know someone is going to judge you negatively you live up to their expectations).  If I don’t put texture in my paintings it is not grounds for disapproval, if I burp after a big drink of beer, it is not grounds for not being spoken to, that I don’t feel a need to have some smirking approval of some random bit of flotsam.   I am fine just as I am.  My work (painting, knitting, drawing, writing, walking, photographing) is fine just as it is.  The only person judging me, in my leggings and dress, in my outdoorsy shoes, is me.  And again ironically I think I look better than I ever have in my life.  Truly.  And yes I still feel a little guilty that I have sewed a stuffed animal in a few months, but then I remind myself, yes dear but you have written almost every day.  What of that?

Here from this mountain top view, I see that all of my life has led me to this place, and that it is all so very perfect.  That brambly, lost, quicksand path?  I was actually on it, and I literally got down on my knees and prayed in the middle of the woods, because I was lost, the sign posts were blown down, and I had turned around after stepping knee deep in the quicksand.  The strength and growth of my teaching has been just blowing me away.  Reconnecting with those friends from college, my cousins and my uncles, realizing that those who melted away are not in my lives for a reason.  And finding that it isn’t just about my painting, but the intense pleasure I get from writing too, that I am not just a painter, but an artist, all around not a fabulous money maker, but an artist by my very nature.  All of these realizations are right here in the palm of my hand.  It is not the pearl of my deepest self, it is instead a shining golden ambrosia that pours out of me into my cupped hand, that drips like thick oil from my fingertips.

I am so thankful, not just for the difficulty of this path, but just now for the clarity I have from this vantage point.


Truth that is Life.

There are days when sleep is a blissful slide into not knowing.  Where you neither wake nor dream.  How I sometimes seek this status.  Where I do not plead with God for warm arms to once again embrace me, where I do not plead with the cat to get her furry butt off my pillow, where I do not notice that I am getting older as the mattress creaks under my shifting weight, where the worries of this life do not settle on my shoulders like a heavy blanket.  I just close my eyes and then when the alarm goes off I open them again.  When I was younger these blissful nights came more often, now it seems they can only be induced by a cocktail of Valerian Root and Melatonin and perhaps forgetting to turn down the furnace before I go to bed.

But when I wake all the things that did not come to me in my sleep seep under the covers with me.  I muse on this quest for love, or more accurately a lover.  I argue with my cousin, I don’t want just anyone.  I could have just anyone.  I want the right one.  I think I find it and again and again I wait.  What I want apparently doesn’t want me back.  But I keep this candle flame of hope that at some point the two things will come together.  That at some point what I want WILL want me back.  I am not patient.

I muse on the transient quality of life, the utterly unstoppable changes that whip the air from your lungs, that leave you shivering uncontrollably as you weep on the bathroom floor, echoes of criticism like icicles in your veins, is this insanity to be shaken by loves promise abandoned?  Your ghost clicks its tongue as it stands over me.  I want to be angry but I cannot be any more.  I think of death and the small signs of the spirit that gives us hope, a butterfly sticker on a photograph, a cardinal or a killdeer singing at a time when you need masculine energy in your life, a doe and her fawn when you are worried about your child, a lost dog returned at the wake of your mothers funeral.  The stories we tell to satisfy the spirit.  And the butterflies that now flutter in my stomach. As I contemplate the beauty of such messages.

I speak of the multitude of layers that this life has to offer, peeling them back like the skin on an onion, open it sheaf upon sheaf.  The great stinking onion, which is  a vegetable I am convinced if eaten regularly will prolong your life.  The lotus, tattooed upon my back, a more beautiful thousand petaled extravagance of life, a life of the sound of buzzing dragonflies, the tintinnabulation of water’s aural caress, and inside this flower a pearl.  Another thing to be peeled back layer upon layer of nascent light.  All woven into this blanket of teeming life.

I rise from the warmth of my lonely bed, the dog annoyed by my early waking, the cat clearly annoyed by my chastisement early on in my quest for sleep, no where to be found.  I feel the ache of joints left to stiffen, and I shiver in the cold morning, the automated setting kicking back in at a pleasurable 57 degrees F.  I am barefoot on the hardwood floors, my toes cold, I ache for human touch.  My neck cries out for lips, and teeth and a tongue.  My back wants for a firm hand to pull my body close.  My legs ache to be wrapped around another body.  I wish for the bliss of sleep again, but I know the only satisfaction for the savage beast that twines itself around my thudding heart is making art.  Is writing it all down.  Is trying to find meaning someplace else in hopes that someone will see my joy, and my sorrows, and my hopes, and my passion as a gift.  Will see that I don’t just have this to give to myself day upon day, but that it is freely given like the scent of the flower, like tears that fall from the chemical breeze of the onion, and of the light that is cast by the jewel that shines within.

I express gratitude this day.  For all of this.  The good, the bad, the ugly, smelly, itchy, aching, truth that is life.