Friday, December 31, 2010

A Tisket, a Tasket, We All Fall Down!

A tisket, a tasket, we all fall down…

This seemed to be the mantra going through my head when I took my young son skating for the first time last week. You see, although I was once pretty graceful on wheels, it has been nearly two decades since I strapped any to my feet. I could only cross my fingers and hope it would be just like riding a bike. And that if I did fall, it wouldn’t be too bad.

The fear of falling…kids don’t even have this, really. They climb to the top of trees, jump out of swings, hang by one arm from the monkey bars. When they do fall, they typically bounce right back up like it never even happened. I remember skating as a child, how the fear of falling never even entered my mind as I whirled around the rinks. And yet now it is all I can think about as I strap my foot into the wheeled shoe and begin a slow, clunky ‘walk’ to the rink floor, my son leaving me in the dust, propelling himself forward like a rocket, falling and getting back up maybe a dozen times in the process. He hits the rink full speed ahead, despite the fact he’s never been on skates before today, while I step slowly out onto the floor, holding the wall, feeling pretty good about the fact that I’ve managed to stay upright for 5 consecutive minutes on the skates.

The thing about skating, however, is that the only way to really do it, the only way to really enjoy it, is to lose completely that fear of falling that makes you hug the wall or move at a turtle’s pace along the rails. The only way to feel the rush of air against your face, to feel the gliding motions, the graceful movements, is to take the risk that yes, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that you…might…fall.

We’re all afraid of falling. It’s embarrassing, it hurts, and sometimes, it breaks something in us. This fear keeps us clunking along on the sidelines, wanting to join in the skating, but hugging the wall instead. It is, after all, wise to be cautious. No one wants to be embarrassed, hurt, or broken. And even though we’d recover from all of these things, our minds wrap themselves up in how horrible it would be to lose our balance. Fear plants itself firmly in our psyche, and eventually, we don’t even take the chance that maybe, just maybe, we won’t fall down.

But falling down and getting up again are as much a part of life as they are of skating. We all fall, somehow or another. We all trust, and sometimes, we have that trust shattered. We all take gambles that sometimes don’t pay off. We’ve all, at some point, been gliding along confidently, feeling on top of the world, when suddenly our front foot goes in one direction, and the back foot goes another, and we only have a second or two to process what is happening before the world turns upside down…and there we are, flat on our backs. Fallen.

I envy the way children bounce back up from a fall like it never even happened. Adults linger in their falls. We stay down for a long, long time, often only rising back up when someone has come along to help us. But the thing is, no matter how long we lie there, eventually we do rise back up. As Robert Frost once said, ‘This is the thing about life…it goes on.’
Before confronting any new situation, I often stop and ask myself, what is the worst that could happen? And if the worst happens, can I survive it? The answer is usually yes. It might be embarrassing. It might hurt. But more often than not, we’ll survive the worst if it does happen.

What is the worst thing that could happen if I let go of my fear and actually began to skate with my son? That I’d fall. That it would hurt. Maybe I’d break a wrist or an arm. Would I survive it? Of course. And so I did let go of that wall, and I skated for hours without falling. But I was only able to skate after accepting the risk that the worst could happen, that yes, I could fall.

Writing poetry is like this. Putting words down onto paper can be such a liberating experience that it feels like letting go of the wall and pushing yourself out into the rink, especially if you choose to share what you write with others. Everything in life is a risk, after all. But when writing poetry, what is the worst that can happen, really? That someone may have a different opinion of your poems than you do? I think we can all survive that. Think instead about the best thing that could happen - that writing can bring peace, clarity and a sense of purpose to your life. That even if you write only for yourself, if can become a way of healing, of empowerment, of release. It can become a path to joy. So why hold back?

Happy Writing!

Poem for the New Year

The promised snow
falls now

I see it in the glow
of lights. It
almost rushes
from the sky
to the ground
melting immediately.

I have felt myself falling
these past few days
as a dream dies inside of me.

I cast it out
and like the snow
it rushes to the ground
but it doesn’t melt,
oh no…

It rises up
coiled like a copperhead
and strikes,
knocking me down.

I lie there for a long, long time
My tears melting into the ground.
I wish I could melt into it, too.

But I don’t.
Instead, I rise
and brush the snow off my coat.

I go inside, where it is warm
I leave the dream outside.
on the cold ground
it slowly freezes.
Fitting, I suppose
since everything else is frozen
in that far away place
where the dream began.

But I’ve been struck
by copperheads
And I know
that being knocked down is
not the worst thing that can happen
to a soul.

Freezing, I think
is a far more terrible

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Letting of 2010...

Tom Hanks, or should I say, Forrest Gump, coined one of the most popular catch phrases of the 90s when he sat down on a park bench in Savannah and slowly droned out to the lady beside him, “Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.” People loved this, because we can all relate so easily to it. Life is unpredictable, in ways that are sometimes good, and other times, devastating. But while getting the yummy cream-filled chocolate is always wonderful, one has not truly lived until they’ve reached into the box and gotten the icky hard jelly thing, too. It’s a yin and a yang, a balance of sorts, but one we usually would just as soon do without.

I come closer to thinking that life is like a Chronicles of Narnia Movie. You’re just sitting around, doing the same old thing, when suddenly you open a wardrobe, expecting nothing out of the ordinary, and find yourself in a place you never even dreamed could exist. You get caught up in an adventure that’s so amazing, so magical, that you can’t even believe it is happening to you.

And then, wham, suddenly it’s all over. You’re right back where you were before, like the door had never been opened at all, wondering what, if any of it, was even real.

Love can be this way. To love another person fully and completely can be an amazing, magical adventure that you can’t even believe is happening to you. When you are loved in return, it is like standing in the sunlight. You have this other being whose soul connects directly to yours; who cares about you just as much as you care about them; who would move heaven and earth just to spend a moment with you. Nothing on earth is better.

But life is as unpredictable as reaching into a box of chocolates. You can be standing in the sunlight one moment, so warm and happy that you think you just might burst, and then, in the blink of an eye, a cloud passes over, and everything changes. You can’t see the sun at all anymore, and the world is suddenly a very cold place. You’re left alone to fight the chill, and you feel so lost that all you can do is stand before the wardrobe door, opening and closing it, hoping against hope for some sign of light…but days pass, and still all you see inside are coats and shadows. And your heart breaks over and over again, like delicate glass being shattered upon stone. Just as there is no feeling on earth greater than having love, there is equally no feeling on earth worse than losing it.

So you do the only thing you can… you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and you stop opening the door, because you know now there isn’t going to be anything on the other side. And it takes a tremendous will to do this, more strength than you have ever had to call upon yourself to have, because there’s nothing you want more than to keep looking for some sign of hope. To keep believing that the next time you open the door, you’ll be back to that magical place, back to the love, back to the sun shining on your face. But there is a part of you inside that knows you deserve much more than being left alone to wait and wonder. You know you don’t deserve the coldness that you’re being dealt. And this knowledge steels you, gives you strength to let go.

Letting go is excruciating. It’s like a birthing process, or a rebirthing process, I should say. There are tears and pain, yes, but in the end, you find your own sun, which isn’t dependent upon the affections of another person. You find that you can be your own source of light, and that no one can keep you in a dark, cold place unless you allow it.

Life is like a box of chocolates, and often we find ourselves holding the icky jelly one while every one else seems to be enjoying the good stuff. But this is all part of the journey of being human. We can build walls around our hearts that are impenetrable, yes, and that will keep us from hurting…but it will also keep us from living fully and completely. It will keep out the magic that makes life beautiful. And it will keep us from believing in, or achieving, the extraordinary lives that we are meant to have.

When we find ourselves back in that same place we were before our wonderful adventure, it’s quite an awful feeling. It doesn’t hold the same appeal as it did before, and it could never compare to where we’ve been. And so we make the obvious choice. We move forward, away from both places. That is the only way.

Don’t try to go back to where you were, and for Goodness sake, don’t stand in front of the wardrobe door forever, waiting on someone else to decide that you are or aren’t worth the effort. Embrace a new path. Embrace the knowledge that you already have, that anything truly is possible. You’ve known this all along. If someone else does not believe, if they can easily cast you aside because they are afraid or unwilling to put forth what it takes to have an amazing, magical adventure, then it is them, not you, who has slammed shut the wardrobe door. But they are really only shutting themselves out of Narnia. You’ve never stopped believing, which means, in time, you will find yourself in the midst of magic again.

Extraordinary things only happen to extraordinary people, and the extraordinary can’t exist without the belief first that it should. Most people don’t believe they deserve the extraordinary, and that is why most people lead typical, regular lives, dreaming of a Narnian adventure, but in the end, lacking the guts to actually pass through the wardrobe door when it opens. But magic is real. The extraordinary is possible. And the power to create it is here, among us, within us. It exists in the sense that we either believe in it…or we don’t.

The year’s end is a symbolic, powerful time for letting go of hurt, for beginning again, for following new paths, for dreaming and believing that yes, anything is possible. And writing is a powerful tool for capturing a little magic with words, for in the end, we create what is possible with first our thoughts, then our words, and then our actions.

As one year comes to a close and another begins, don’t mourn for what you’ve lost. Celebrate what you still have. Celebrate it with a poem, a painting, a journal entry, a song or a ceremony if you wish. But celebrate it all the same. There are other wardrobes, other adventures waiting, possibly even greater magic than what you’ve already known.
So as 2010 comes to a close, let go of those who so easily have let go of you, and you will find your own sunshine. Let 2011 be the best year you’ve created yet, and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate, because you are worth it. And what you will come to realize, in the end, is that the loss isn’t yours at all. Because it isn’t you who is closing the door on what is possible. Your doors are just beginning to open, because you still believe in magic. :-)

Thursday, March 25, 2010


There is always hope. Hope that even the worst of times can spawn the greatest awakenings of human spirit.
We’ve been plodding along our current trails so long the destination has become a blurred spot on the map. We’re equating making money with making a life, and with the economy spiraling downward we’re turning, ever so slowly, and making our way back to our centers, to our source. We’re jumping of the treadmill that keeps us running but takes us nowhere, and coming back to what really matters. Family. Home. Nourishment. Love. Laughter. Creating. What our ancestors knew. What so-called third-world countries around the world still know. After all, economic changes rarely affect those who live simply to begin with. I remember my own Grandmother laughing because her family never even realized there was a Great Depression. They were simple people. For them, little changed during those difficult times.
In order to survive, we must come back to what matters most. We must realize that a happy community might be a worthier goal than a global economy. We must realize that our homes are sacred spaces, our children more treasured than any possession. We must realize the value of nurturing those who love and depend on us. We must realize that less stuff can make for an easier life, and that there are greater goals to focus on than the material-driven ideals of the last two decades. Children are the future, and it truly takes a village to raise them. And village is synonymous with community, a lost concept in our current age. But all around the world, women still harbor this ancient knowledge. We still know. We still get excited over births and baby pictures. We still see promise in the swell of a belly, the smile of an expectant mother.
We haven’t lost our ancient knowledge. It’s just been dormant for a very long time. As the economy changes and we’re forced, sometimes reluctantly, to change our lifestyles and our expectations, around the world, we are remembering what others have not forgotten.
As women and especially as mothers, we must realize that we have to come together as a community to make it through. We have to listen to the soul of the earth the way our ancestors did, to know the cycle of nature, to remember that food doesn’t come from a grocery shelf, but from the soil beneath our feet. We have to remember those who lived before us, and those who will come after us. We must remember the wisdom that our grandmothers were taught, and pass it on to our own grandchildren. And we will. No matter how the great circle of life spins, for the sake of our children and those we love, we will come together and when we do, we just might see that this is where we were headed all along.
Back to center, to source.
Back to community. Back to family. Back to nourishment, love, and creation.
Back to what really matters. Back to looking into the eyes of our children and seeing the children that are still to come.
And remembering.

*I wrote this essay to accompany an art piece submitted to a show with the theme, "The Current Economy." Thank you Cassie for encouraging me to look beyond the obvious!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Sound of Silence

For many years I have craved an occasion of silence. Simple, profound silence. I have read books about monks who go for days without speaking, and studied temples dedicated to silence, sacred places where no human sound had ever been uttered. I have sought silence in the workplace, in the wilderness and within my own home. Now, as the mother of an exceptionally verbose five year old, silence usually eludes me until the quiet hours when my son is resting peacefully in bed. However, even this silence is interrupted by the sounds of modern life: telephones ring; cars race down the road; appliances hum, shake and rattle.
Some interruptions I don’t mind: the low calls of the Barred Owls; the rushing of wind through the leaves; the glugs of bullfrogs splashing in the creek. I even consider these to be a part of the silence I desire, which has lead me to consider what it is I am actually seeking in my pursuit of quiet time.
As a young adult, I discovered that silence could actually be found in a distinct place when a friend and I visited another friend in Alaska. Driving down a remote and winding road, headed nowhere in particular, we stopped for some sightseeing along a clearing. Miles outside of the town we’d passed through several hours before, the three of us were completely alone, and as we walked, our idle chattered died away as the awesome natural beauty of the rugged mountains came into view. Pretty soon, we were all standing quietly, wind whipping through our light jackets, in a speechless state that only the beauty of nature could invoke.
There were no outside sounds, no modern buzzes, beeps, or hums. Occasionally water from a small lake lapped along the banks with the wind. A twig snapped under a foot. Somewhere far off, a Bald Eagle cried to its mate. The mate responded with a more distant cry, and I realized that this was the quiet that my ancestors knew. This was what listening was like in the years before groaning car motors and sirens became etched onto our psyches.
That little nameless stretch of Alaska wild still feeds the hunger that stirs in my soul whenever I see a deer run across the road or hear a hawk’s cry. Some buried part of me wants to run with the deer, feel the wind beneath my own wings. I want to break away from this world and, even if it’s just for a moment, be a part of something wild. I want to spend a day hearing only what my ancestors heard.
When I see the news headlines about violent rampages and the price of gas climbing and how cell phone usage is destroying bee populations across the globe, I want to shake the shoulders of the first person I see and say “What are we doing?” But I don’t. Instead I quit reading newspaper, walk instead of drive whenever I can, and put my cell phone down, reminding myself that it was for emergencies only. And I make time for silence.
What I’m seeking isn’t actual silence, per se. It isn’t even the remoteness of a wild area. It’s something deeper ~ primordial, if you please, and something my ancestors felt each day. It’s the connection to this life-giving earth and all of its sacred beings. But maybe it’s more than that, too.
I won’t lie, I would rather suffer the hum of the rinse cycle than spend a day bent over the washboard, but just how much do the sounds of modern life buffer us from the natural world? And how is it that people can tolerate all manner of electronic whirs, beeps, and whistles at any given time, but let a cricket slip in the house and every family member in residence is launched on a death mission to stop the annoying sound? Meanwhile televisions blare, appliances rock and phones rings incessantly.
In the wilds of Alaska I was over a decade younger. I had yet to delve into any mysteries of the soul, or ponder such things as eco-footprints. But even in my youth, I knew that something stirred deep within me in that quiet place. Something awakened. This something is where I find my peace, whether listening to the sound of baby birds in the holly tree or drifting off to sleep to the sound of rain echoing outside the window. It is the connection to nature that I seek in quests for silence, that feeling of true oneness with the earth that my ancestors knew.
To lose your connection to the natural world is to lose part of the soul. We may wonder what is lacking, why we feel unfulfilled, and why a fistful of black dirt from our patio garden feels so good in our hands, but we already know the answer, because each of us is born with a connection to nature that is as prevalent as our umbilical cords. If not nurtured, however, this connection will recede away into the deep recesses of the soul, stirring on rare occasions, but never realized. And we’ll find ourselves lost and hungry, craving a silence that taunts us like the cry of a hawk.