Navigating the Sacred and Mundane

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dream at the Helm - Revised

This is a revision that was inspired by Jennifer Lauck. She challenged me to write what I did not want to write. "What are you not saying?" she asked. I really struggled to find a way. And I cried all the way through reading it. But this is the great power of being in the circle of writing women....really amazing. It does take a village to pull us through sometimes. Because it's not about writing. It's about how we grow more truthful and more accurate in rendering our truth.


Tibetan nuns whisper in my ear, their melodic syllables weave through this tight mesh of muscle; mid-back down to the sacrum, pain, taut and inflamed. I didn’t want to wait until I was thirty-seven to have a baby. My back - old, devoted workhorse, carried a thousand boxes between seventeen and thirty-seven; now, with the baby, muscles are bungee cords that snap from the wear. I wait way too long before tending to the ache. It’s always been that way.

When the massage therapist runs her elbow down the highway on each side of the spine, she gasps, “Ok, feel this? These are supposed to be three separate muscles, moving in relationship to the others.” I hold my breath, try to remember to let go, but that feels like more work. Breathing is not something I know innately. I have to say: Breathe, Prema. Letting down, bone to table, a fan of nerve-lightning spreads through the hips until I hold again. “On you it’s a bed of rocks,” she moans, and continues to grunt, making sound affects for the tight spots. “Thanks, I get it.”

But I don’t really get it. You’d think I want to be in this body – I came into it three months early, weighing four pounds. In the beginning, on my back, warm light moves across paper-thin eyelids, striations of tiny veins, red rivers illuminated from behind closed eyes. Air purrs from small whirling fan blades and echoes in my ears. Buzzing florescent lights, heat upon my cheeks, tubes down my throat – not even the first impulse to breathe, I am being breathed by machines. I wait there for thirty days, the incubator, but no one comes. No touch. No one says, welcome, this is your body.

So I learn to travel.

Now, face down on the table, I am in the air, over the Atlantic, looking down upon a bug in the landscape. In this direction and that, the expanse of green pasture, vividly burning color of forest, but flat, unpeeled, rolled out for miles and miles. Ireland. I drop down through rain, through thick milky clouds, out into open blue. Down below, closer now, I see a woman. She is alone, small on a wide stretch of road. Head down, heavy-footed. She carries a backpack in the rain, soaked through. She cries. She prays. I hear her. But the words are not new to me. They are my words, spoken twenty years ago, utterly bare.

I hover above her. My eyes blur with the recognition that I am looking at myself; young woman who walks the world. Shipwrecked. Weeks ago she runs down the airport corridor, still sore, ribs throb, where he held her down on the staircase that night. Hours and hours, after kicking the door across the room, a knife at her throat, cold steel turns hot and burns. He keeps his nose a half inch from hers, sneers, smiles and haunts her with dangling threats. When the sun was up, a neighbor stands in the doorway. “Get up, Prema, run.” Even blocking the doorway, she runs through a small opening in his legs, out into the morning air, down the steps. She’s still running two days later. Denver International. One hundred feet behind her he clips people like flies, running, screaming, “As long as you breathe, I die.” Her friend makes up the space between them, stopping mid-stride and the man falls to the ground, security closing in on him. “Go, Prema, run. Run, girl. Go!”

She runs all the way to Europe, son of a bitch, that’s how it feels. On the plane, nine hours, thigh muscles trigger and fire. Strong horses, they can’t stop running.

She’s only twenty.

Days ago she sits on the ground, gazing at a vast circle of stones. Finally, rest. Finally, freedom. A guard motions for her to rise, he lifts the rope, and escorts her to the very center. “Why are you letting me do this?” she asks, as tourists point and cackle. “Hurry up,” he says, “I could get in big trouble for this.” And so she walks, and without reservation, presses her forehead against the cold monolith: Stonehenge.

That was enough for one day or one year. Almost enough to keep her going, except for the guy in the back of the bus, who stares at her all the way back to town. Bath, England. Everything in her says no and everything else in her that wants attention says yes, please. He gets off at her stop, smiles, follows her to the front desk. By the evening, tired, shaky, she finds resolve, she’s learning to say no, and settles in to read her book with a warm cup of tea. But the doors at the inn are old, latches old, locks old. She spends the darkest hour of the night until moments before sun up under his weight, saying no, but it doesn’t matter.

She runs to the train station, she runs to the West Coast of England – that’s how it feels. Wretching over the side of the ferry all the way across the English Channel, she can’t escape being in the body, and she wants to escape. Walking the streets of Dublin, 3am, she’s still crying, heading west.

She thinks she’s alone, but I’m right here. Looking, as far back as I can see, ruin. Gazing ahead through time, great falling. But we make it and I need to let her know that there is a great river up ahead, twenty years ahead but just around the bend.

So I call out, first to my friend the wind. Next to the old winged-ones. Finally, to the elixir in the blood of plants that I know. Together they arrive; birds deliver medicine, carried by the wind. And they have a message.

The girl looks up – she hears, no she feels, no, she is embraced by a sensation of many arms around her torso. It’s me, my arms, around the midsection. It’s my mother, I call her because I can do that now. And I tell her just how to approach, just how to place her hands: “Hold her like this,” I say, “just the way she wants it.” She’s only been dead to her for a year, but now, two decades later, even in death, my mother wants to reach her, and I show her. Held together, altogether: mother-daughter-mother embrace.

With the help of all the guardians, I lean close in, pause for a moment by her ear, caressing with breath – the way I rock my baby, and then I whisper: Dear One, all is well. Keep your faith. Let these tears show you a river. All your people traveled down it, and they hold you now as you walk down this lonely road. Feel the path. Find the way. Know how it feels to fall, and in falling, pay attention to the way it feels to rise slowly in appreciation. You will have your body back.

I awaken with a start. Lavender on the forehead, I peel the eye pillow slowly away, and swim, swim, swim back to this place, this room, this table. It takes a full sixty seconds to figure – how to move? I do move. I do get up because I want to, and the way heat is all in my limbs – it’s starting to feel okay. Six thousand nerve endings.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wild Writing Women

I'm off tomorrow to Portland for yet another Jennifer Lauck writing workshop. That would be enough, but it gets even better. The same women from the last workshop in October are coming from afar to gather again.

It's almost midnight and I'm running around doing laundry, packing, making sure everything is in order for my family before I leave. I haven't gotten around to choosing a piece of writing to bring to the workshop. The irony is not lost on me! These past few days I've been watching how everything else comes first. As if the writing is extracurricular. Luxurious.

And really, truly, this weekend will have nothing to do with writing and everything to do with spirit, soul, calling, connection, and areas of womanhood that will only become clear from within that circle. Something happpens in this circle of writing women...

To those who read my blog, thank you. I'm going to stoke the fire.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


After all was said and done, I lay in the dark with River, time for night night. In the quiet I wonder if I should tell her what I am feeling. Yes.

I confide, "River, I like being your mama." I say it like a woman.

From the one who barely strings words together, tonight a strand of pearls. "Mama, I wike bean River." She says it like a wise one.

And it's one of those moments, roles fall away. Just darkness and silence and strong feeling. We slip from time and this could be any place, just now or our last lifetime.

So full we turn toward each other, giddy.

Tiny hands grab my cheeks, and she kisses.
"Tank you, Mama. Tank you."


Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Secret

Like so many others, I've been thinking about The Secret intensely for the last week. Friends has emailed me about it for many months, but it wasn't until my sister called from the road to say that I had to listen the audio CD that I paid attention. Then Oprah featured it on her show last week, with a follow up show this week. In the meantime, I ordered the DVD and made my husband sit down and watch it with me.

Days before The Secret wave hit, I began a liver cleanse, went to a detox center for an infrared sauna and colon hydrotherapy. was on my way to clearing out toxins in the body, changing my habits of eating, when I listened to The Secret.

Might as well have the intention to shift all levels of the system at once. Only, I didn't really intend it that way. I just started with one firm intention....but so strong is the law of attraction that the next steps appeared clearly before me.

People in my web, some from far out strands, contacted me about The Secret. When I mentioned it to others, almost everyone said that their relatives or friends had already mentioned it to them. And so the conversation continued.

The information is not new. So why the strong response? I just feel open and attracted.

For a day or two I notice how I find myself pulled toward other, familiar states of being. Anger. Frustration. I see how I have the script perfectly in place to accompany those feelings - usually with a qualifyer that says 'it's always going to be this way.' The difference being, now I look at that thought/feeling and think, "Huh, interesting. Why do I actually want to believe that?"

Even though what is clearing out has some force to it - afterall, these are my long-standing survival skills, still, it's good to be centered in the strong conviction that I am what I have always, since I could first vision myself, seen in my heart. Now it's about allowing. Allowing. Not efforting because I don't really believe. But allowing myself to flow in right relationship with all things.

It doesn't mean that ungraceful ways of being go away. Balance is balance, light and dark. It's just being firmly planted in love rather than fear. It's not static. It's the willness to return again and again...and again to that place of love. Make it home base. Let it lead.

Despite genetics, childhood wounds, and poor adult choices, what's true about our soul has always been true, and will be true throughout our days. Step into that boat.

So the paradox: yes, suffering does exist in this body, in this life. And all the great teachers and teachings encourage: Accept the conditions and love. Love as much as possible. Love isn't fluffy. Love can pierce a life so radically that we never recover - it's the best kind of wound. To be taken by something greater than what we presently understand.

Looking over to the couch where River tumbles off the arm, onto the pillows below, I caution, "Be careful, sweetie!" "No! Mama. No. Mine!" Turning back to the screen, I see her radiant future, with the full-view knowledge that anything can happen along the way.

Ok, so we put one foot in front of the other. Doing our best to watch for all good road signs.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Love after Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

- Derek Walcott

Happy Birthday, Carrie!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

No Retreat, No Surrender

I walk into River's daycare this morning and ask, "Is that Springsteen playing?" "No, are you a fan?" Reeling back twenty years, "Well, I used to be, yes."

I'm seventeen and driving to Alpine Meadows, an outdoor ampitheatre in East Troy, Wisconsin to see Bruce in concert. I stand with throngs of screaming fans waiting to get in to the show. The crowd parts and he walks right next to me. Jeans like I have never seen on a man before, cut off faded T-shirt hangs loosely over a maverick neckline. He raises am arm high above his head, "Hey, everybody, thanks for coming out. We're gonna have us a wild night under the stars."

Just like that, heat rises from my body, and I am in the erotic, communal celebration. It's all I can do just to scream out under the full moon with everything I have, raise a light to this bard who weaves story straight into the heart.

I don't go home that night. The parking lot is alive with gypsies, and I find a place that I hardly leave for the next decade: the road, the car, soul ablaze with longing and the dangerous, flaming questions.

Five o'clock the next night, I wait again to ride that train. My body sweaty and open and ready. I take that pill of philosophy and passion and music and rebellion and integrity and stubborness. The moon is brilliant and Bruce saves my life over the next few hours. He sings The River and I am transformed.

The following night at home, alone in the kitchen, stoned, I stir cake mix. I don't know where I am, so radically open that I stay up all night again, and paint with frosting. I draw three faces: Jesus, Thoreau, Springsteen. All night I form three images that by sun up become one extended face. Spent, I sit on the kitchen floor and cry. One message: Love. Truth. Beauty.

I am the editorial editor of the high school newspaper. I bring my cake to class and ask the only teacher who gives me a real shot, the one who makes me read Walden, if I can please write my thoughts about why I think Jesus, Thoreau, and Springsteen are the incarnation of the same soul. Bless her heart forever, she lets me. Front page.

Until I left my parent's house, those songs and those writings protected my sleep. I had a recurring dream that Bruce lived in the bushes outside my front door. At night I would forget my struggle and steal away, part the branches and join him for incredible hours of conversation and tenderness. He told me that I would be loved and showed me how.

With Bruce in my car's tape deck, the tattered Walden on the dash, I was safe to go. Safe to follow a road without a MacNally map. The map was in the heart of the world, being transcribed into my heart with each mile.

He sings now, this morning, to my fortieth year. But I see a young man singing to a young woman, "Now we can sleep in the twillight by the river bed, with the wide open country in our hearts and these romantic dreams in our heads. Cuz we made a promise, we swore we'd always remember - no retreat, baby, no surrender.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Birth to Birth

Anna Nicole is dead. It's raining. River naps with giraffe, dangly leopard, and piglet. Grandmother's hands still hold me across these few days.

I lay on a massage table, two women stand on each side of me, their hands placed together over my heart. I am awake, I am fine, I have no desire to travel. Old hands move clockwise to each lower center; seconds later the other hands follow. Like this, in spiral fashion, they open the energetic body. At my forehead they pause, hands rest, they wait. With the chosen oil wafting over me, they extend one arm each and sweep gently across my body, angel wings clearing, one center at a time. The last thought I have: I'll just rest while they do that...

Suddenly, dolls. Faces of dolls line the walls and I have the awareness, I am a child. Walking through this room, I know I have been here before. It's cold. As soon as I feel the chill, I see a baby alone on a table. Surprised, I want to tell someone, hey, there's a baby! Chilled, I begin to shake, and from the inside I know: I am this baby. Tears flood my eyes. I am four pounds and three months early, and all I can do is shake. I ask one of the women, "Is there a blanket, I'm really cold."

Before she returns I tremble, waves and waves, and hear crying. It's not me, it's River, moments after they pull her from my gaping womb. Stretcher rolls down the hall, the ceiling ripples like waves at sea. I can't stop trembling. While nurses wrap me in blankets, saying, "It's the anesthesia, some women react," another nurse holds my newborn above me but I can't hold her.

Grandmother says, "Here, I found a blanket, and I brought you your shawl, I thought you'd want it." Tears slip into my ears and I am seeing River's eyes for the very first time. On my chest now, small lizard, fire in the center of her eyes, she extends an arm and pulls herself up. Covering the measure of lifetimes, she lifts new limbs with great intention, eyes on mama. Straight to my breast, milk, and our life on land begins.

Eyes flutter and in a blurry squint I see grandmother's eyes looking down on me. In my heart, in that instant, she is my grandmother. I am baby, woman, mother, daughter, granddaughter. Tears flood a desert basin inside and some deep chasm begins to fill with water. Restoration.

The instructor walks over and directs the women in sequence, working with hands in reverse, stitching up, putting back together, blessing broken open places with new thread. In unison they move. Two women I don't really know form themselves into a vessel for this medicine. Silent at my feet, they wait for my return.

And I do return. I cannot stop the tears when I sit up and open my eyes, but I am not crying. This is leftover from my birth...and from giving birth, one story, only becoming clearly connected for me now.

Thirty minutes later I am on the road. Not a sound in the car. I cannot take in anything extra, just the particular light over the hills at dusk. Just the movement from one place to another. Between one birth and another, just the longing for home.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sacred Writing

I want to introduce you all to my dear friend's blog, Sacred Writing. I would run out of space if I had to list all the ways she benefits my life, or the kind of patience and grace this woman offers. Our lives are woven together, indelibly now, and we're family. What I love most is that we can be talking taxes, in the next breath about being women, the next about consciousness, and the next about wine. That's the best - when you can traverse dimensions and territories while sitting in one place.

Welcome to the circle here, Julie. May we continue the journey well and may the writing help show us the way.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Plant Spirit Medicine

Ten hours strong into the chemistry of essential oils, at the tail end of the night, partnered up after making custom blends, exchanging hand and foot massage. Grandmother's hands hold my hands in hers. Delicate skin, close to bone, I can feel just how many years travel through her touch. The way she moves over my skin, having mothered four children, brings tears from my belly to my eyes.

After thirty minutes, rose already courses my veins; melissa goes straight to the center of the nervous system; cedarwood cradles the mind for deep sleep, bergamot to steady the heart. She leans into me and I open my eyes, holds me intensely with elder gaze, "You are going to be ok..."

I burst into tears. Shit. How does she know to say that? How does she become my mother and grandmother, and every old woman that I do not have in my life?

She continues, "You need to have a conversation with your mother. Tell her that it's time to let you go. You have to stay here with your daughter."

That does it. Quivering, I look down. "She's been gone twenty years. How many times do I have to have that conversation?" Hands cup my cheeks, "As long as it takes, my dear. As long as it takes."

It's my turn. I cup my hands, five drops. Clove, marjoram, melissa, cypress. Palm to palm, I hold her. With the help of the oils, I follow along ridges, realize indents, traverse twisted knuckles. And, oh, to feel the living journey in the hands - seventy plus years. Easy to feel spirit there.

Did you know that a healthy human body has an electrical frequency between 62-68 megahertz? One megahertz vibrates one million times per second. Every essential oil has a unique frequency, ranging from 52-320 Mhz. These oils - the blood of the plant - are designed so intelligently and beautifully to resonate with the receptor sites of our cells. It's a language written into plants by the divine, a loving correspondence with the molecules in our body. Vibration is sound, so we might also say that the oils sing us into balance.

Research suggests that oils are over 95% effective for infectious disease, being fantastically antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiinflammatory, and antimicrobial. No side effects. And...and they are incredibly skillful in treating forms of spiritual illness that our medical model does not name or categorize.

It's not hard to appreciate the gifts of rose, so effulgent are her properties. Can we deny lavender her place at the head of the table? No. When we look at the blueprint inside the lovely scent, wow, another layer of genius; another level of creation art altogether.

I used to think I had to study a million things and have a bag full of techniques. This theory, that complicated philosophy. Do you know that if you pray over an oil you can raise it's frequency by 15 megahertz?

Is that not amazing? Hopeful and beautifully generous?

One thing, though. Be careful where you get your oils. In order for the 'correspondance' that I speak of to flow freely, the molecular structure of the oil must be in tact. Most companies that sell retail oils alter the oil in distillation or dilution, or by adding synthetic ingredients.

So for now, at the end of this night, my prayer is to allow myself to become simple. Laying on of hands is so universally possible that I find myself resting in the age-old image. In a room full of women blending oils, quietly tending with plant medicines -- it felt so familiar, so old, so close. I wanted to say, "Have we been here before? Didn't we all do this a long, long, long time ago? I didn't need to say a thing. Nods, glances, subtle tracelines of smiles exchanged, and the glee and satisfaction amongst us - it was obvious. We are all medicine women. We just need to put ourselves in the right place.

Ready for bed, I close my eyes and send out a long web of light, down highway 1, across the brige, over the hills, and to my sweet girl who sleeps in her crib. All the gifts of the medicine to her tonight. All my love, from grandmother's hands through mine, from all the faithful women to the young, sprouting seedlings.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Under water in the hotel bath, dark room. I need to dunk under. And now I am free, working limbs, twisting through the ache of mid-life. In the dark, hard to know what's above and what's below - a favorite childhood practice. I find my way back to the middle of that watery transition tonight.

In a nice Portugese/Italian restaurant, strange town, I read my book and after an hour of appearing all under wraps, I laugh out loud to myself, too hard, dipping a spoon into a glass of tirumisu. Yes, a glass. It should hold a Cosmopoitan, even the waiter is surprised, "Oh, I guess he wants to serve it in this tonight, enjoy." I can't help it - I'm reading about a woman who leaves for Italy after a horrible divorce. She writes in a hilarious, self-depracating, thoughtful way about her pathetic love life. A glass of wine later and I crack up at every line. I know in a few chapters she will go to India, and I discover early on in the book, that she will spend a few months studying under my teacher.

I eat high falutent tortellini as she writes about eating pasta in Rome, and how she possibly gutted an entire marriage for the chance to sit on the floor of an apartment, facing a plate of perfectly boiled eggs, olives, smoked salmon, and cheese. She looks at it for a moment, wonders if she should lament her loss, then eats every single bite and declares to herself, "Yep, for this, it's worth it."

My small slice of fantasy. Woo-hoo, alone for the weekend, away from everything that identifies who I am in the world. And so, I'm just laying here....flat. Pushing the covers back on an early night.

Three ten hour days of essential oil training. Dense. Wonderful, magically conscious, intelligent plant blood.

Wiped out and dreaming to music. How very strange to release myself from the roles of home.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Casting a Line

Ok, here I go. Cast the line out there, invisible thread merges with the air, and I can't see where I end and that line will land. But I am connected to it with some force this morning. Hell of a night.

Hell is when we hear things about ourself that beat even our worst silent thought.

She walks up, pulls on my pant leg, and when I let myself bend at the knee, she reaches up to receive my tears. This is backwards. I always receive her tears. This is not in the rule book. Only two, she does it like she's a thousand years old. Tiny back of hand, curled like a tulip, strokes my cheek. "K, Mama. Sad, Mama." I fight it for a moment - I am the mother and I should pull myself together. And then I think fuck it, this is my life. This is her life. And we will be real and straight about how it is to feel, and how it is sometimes to hate to feel deeply.

When I'm five or eight or twelve, I can't get out. Can't take a yoga class to make it all better. Can't diet or meditate or drive away. Can't even find a companion yet to distract myself from this bitch of a feeling.

He stands in the doorway this morning, "Yeah, well, just because you don't want to isn't an excuse. You have to take care of yourself if you're suffering. And we'll get through it together."

More than hating him, I feel how he is right and it doesn't make a bit of difference that he is right.

"Mama, no talk Daddy. No talk Daddy," she says from the potty, counting piggies in her book.

He looks to me for a response, but I am three quarters in sand, feeling the gravity of water at the end of my line. One hundred percent full-moon, full blood, smack in the middle of the womb, in here, out here. My feet, paws. Belly, spotted fur.

Passing through the eye of a needle isn't as easy as it sounds for those like me, she belts out, and I sing with her, alone at the house. There's laundry and a million mindless tasks to do, but not yet. Not yet. Please just believe in me. I scream it to myself. Don't lose out so easily. I scream it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm alive in here somewhere cause I can feel myself twising. I'm so far beyond my years, so don't be fooled by today. Hey, so please just believe in me......

I don't medicate so I pull up to mind the files again. All those years of study about trauma and how it works in the brain, in the nervous system. It used to be a lot worse. On bad nights, I would sit on the bathroom floor, close my eyes and ride the tremors, talking to myself: Oh, right, here we are, at the top of the bell curve. It will swing soon. Breathe into this bag. Feel the cold tiles? Good, your're still here. It's passing.

There is a reason Rumi was a drunkard! St. Theresa spent years in painful contortions, pleading, "Why, God? Why?"

When it was just me, poetry books all around. When it was just me, teachers and practices and many, many thoughtful prayers. But now, marriage and motherhood and turning forty - ugh. What happened?

The end of that line? I squint and see myself, way way out there in the current, and begin to reel her in. Slow and steady, panther in my bones, poems and songs and a drop of love, remain on shore, ready and waiting for the return.

He calls and I read. "Wow, that's getting to the nitty gritty. Oh. You're really going to put that in the blog?" Yep.

Pause. He says emphatically, "Family will no longer take you down. But it has to take you through . By doing so it opens all the original crap. But we are not going down. River will come through it with us, through places we never made it across with our parents."

Marriage: 4. a blending or matching of different elements or components: i.e., The new lipstick is a beautiful marriage of fragrance and texture.

River: 1. a natural stream of water of fairly large size flowing in a definite course or channel or series of diverging and converging channels.
2. a similar stream of something other than water.

Prema: 1. divine love

Steven: 1. crowned one