The Lost Children


We are making generations of lost children. These are the tender souls born to mothers and fathers who split apart and try again with other partners. Often the child from the first marriage no longer fits or belongs. This child, imagining a secure and welcome future is unwittingly discarded, often exiled to an island of loneliness, while being told to behave. These children are brought along without choice, becoming a reminder of another life, another time, another partner. They mutate into the unnecessary appendage of a new life.

I’ve watched it happen with kittens. Place one that doesn’t belong in the litter next to a nursing mother and she will bat it away, often wanting to kill it. So many of our little ones are living the Cinderella story without the happy ending. Soon they are taken to therapists. What’s wrong with this child? Fix him, give him drugs, make him conform, take away his anger. Where is the medicine for a broken home? Where is the mending for defeated trust and shattered hearts?

Unyielding Hope

America will be ready for a black president in 40 years. Bobby Kennedy 1968

My husband, Gib, worked on Bobby’s campaign and was waiting in the lower ballroom to meet him on June 4, 1968 when he made his fateful walk through the kitchen. How proud I imagine Bobby would have been to have witnessed last night’s election. Gib and I were in downtown Portland as the city exploded in dancing, shouting, car horns, and joy-filled tears. We followed the percussive sounds of the Lions of Batucada as they wove through city streets, everyone chanting O-B-A-M-A, with ebullient voices linked to millions around the globe.

grandmaAt last we have a gentle man with an intelligent heart who is ready and eager to lead us out of the darkest, most embarrassing political years in memory. Words from Barack’s acceptance speech linger like a healing balm on an open wound. A new dawn of leadership is at hand.. Let us summon a new spirit.. While we breathe we can hope…Yes, we can.


 It was 1955. I was ten years old and having another surgery. I knew the routine, count backwards from ten while men in white coats pushed portable tables, readied fine instruments of gleaming steel, and placed a black ether mask over my face. I never counted past five before the light from the mask pulled me out of my body, away from the table and up to the ceiling. My spirit hovered, seeing and not being seen. I watched and listened as the people in white leaned over me, ready to cut. I moved outside, with no conscious thought of moving, just abstract desire and then being there. I was the air and the wind and the trees. I was everything and nothing, as I watched people come and go down hospital steps, car tires crunching snow, windshield wipers frozen and glittering. I watched men and women in long heavy coats, hats, mufflers and gloves huddled together talking and laughing below shards of soft glowing light. I watched and listened without anxiety or worry, cocooned in safety and a blissful feeling I’ve not known since.

These journeys are burned in my memory, vivid and stark. I often long for that welcome expanse of invisible light where I became nothing and everything – but not the moments of darkness before being slammed back inside a room, bed and pain-filled body.

For decades I believed there was a light in every ether mask. I thought it was designed to open a tunnel and lift surgery patients safely out and away. How surprised I was when I examined one as an adult and found nothing but molded black rubber. This can’t be it, I said. There is no light inside. 


Ice packs on my back. Alternating hot and cold. Stretched out in bed wishing I was being productive instead.

Something inside of me snapped, pulled, hurt, reminding me to surrender.

And so my husband carried the laundry baskets, the trash can and followed me around like a worried servant.

What can I do? What else can I do? Lie down. Stop. Do nothing.

I can’t. I am overwhelmed. I have too too much to do and there is not enough of me to go around.

Karen, Love, you have got to learn to stop and let go. You make urgency where there is none. So what? So what if you don’t show up? You can reschedule clients, be late, miss meetings. The world will not end.

Oh, but I care too much. There is so much to do and no one but me to do it.

You don’t owe anybody anything. YOU must be your first priority. Every one else, every thing else must wait.  You have got to learn two very important words. Repeat after me: fuck it !  Try it, say it, fuck it! Keep saying it until you get it right. 

Zen saying: There is so much to do, I must go very slow.


Falling apart under the trees.

I was searching for my former vision, my old way of seeing that got lost. I know it hides beneath a tangle of flowers against a damp richness of soil. I imagine it abandoned there, lying at an angle, surprised at the unexpected release. Dropped, lost, gone.

I searched for it today, that old way of seeing and being. It was important to find it because it took so much with it. It took the way I looked in the mirror after hours of receiving you into every cell of my body. It took my sexuality and the way I could never be in the same room with you without wanting to lie you down in our bed.

These days our bed frightens me. It has become a place of illness, of sleepless tossing against you and away. It has become a place for stories of fear and the confession of foolish past mistakes.

I couldn’t find that old way of seeing today. The will that dams my reservoir of sorrows broke open. I had to stand in the flood. Sweet that you searched me out. The trail of your journey etched in green across your white shirt. How comforted I am by the sight of you. You house a lifetime of integrity in your style, your choices, your countenance and wisdom.

I was the child who hid to mask the depth of her feelings. Today I become what I feared; another in a long line of demanding females expressing excessive emotion. My wonderings and confusion seem small next to your kindness. I am embarrassed to speak them.

The Buddha became enlightened under the bohdi tree. I sat on prickers and hard earth staring into a parking lot. My tree was cedar. Nature and your loving words cradled and enlightened me.  Thank you for accepting and loving and listening. I’m such a handful for myself, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you.

I didn’t find my old vision and I miss it, but at least I can still see. Now I must be patient to see what I will be shown through these new lenses.

written 9-23-05

The Clothesline

Most people don’t care much for a clothesline. They are too busy running, scheduling and arriving, but something in me loves a clothesline. I love it the way I love my mother. I love it the way I love the first sunny day after a dark winter and I love it the way I love the feel of rich garden soil falling between my fingers.

A clothesline brings me home to myself more fully than my birth certificate, the key to my front door or the address printed on my letters.

What is it about a clothesline that opens this felt place?

Is it the knowing that women have stood before this same simple line doing the same task for as long as there have been clothes to wash? Is it the timeless connection with generations of women who have stood in the open air with the scent of hard work on their hands?

I don’t know what it is. I only know that it feels real to me, the same way that floating down a river feels real. The majesty of the trees, the massive power of rocks and the steady flow of water endure, while civilizations rise and fall, crumbling beneath their own ambitions.

It is so important to have things that are real to hang on to in ones life. That stability allows us to remember the essence of our soul and the fabric from which we’ve come.

I’ve been told there is an African tribe that gives each child a song to sing. A song that is only theirs, so when they find themselves dissipating in the larger world they can retreat, sing their song and come home to the truth of who they are. It is the medicine that returns them to the spirit within that remains constant.

I guess the clothesline is part of my soul song – And how lovely that a man with kind eyes and gentle hands help me sing it into place. Because of him the clothesline is stronger than it has ever been and farther away from the sloping ground that spills into the dense woods below.

The rope is strung between two cedar trees which are middle aged, but by no means old. They are strong, proud and happy to be of service. Before they stood idle, having nothing better to do than shelter a discarded hose and watch over a pile of rotting branches.

The wind spirits are dancing with the fabric of my rayon dresses as I write. They are doing a little two step with my lace edged slips. It makes me smile to watch them. It makes my heart sing. The sun is there too, witnessing and adding its warmth to this sensual outdoor dance. What a lovely thing to watch!

How amazing and magical it is that some part of my essence is involved in this alchemy, while another part, the physical part is too worn out from the demands of a full life, to venture far from my pillow.



 Alma stood in the doorway, a suitcase in each hand, her neatly braided hair trailing the length of her back. Shades of evening blue spilled from my window highlighting her feet, adding a surreal feel to the scene. I was in my bathrobe and slippers pushing uncombed hair from my face, as I watched her white limousine pull from the curb.

Alma was a client. She was alone in a foreign country and extended a desperate hand in my direction after her husbands sudden death. Our work was the foundation she stood on to recover and quiet the tears that shamed her into isolation. She summoned me in the dark hours of night, the lonely hours when her defenses were weak and the raw places in her heart felt unmanageable. I had agreed to be delivered like a living security blanket to wrap around her emptiness.  More light shone in her face now, she’d found a new well of courage, not a lot, but a beginning.

I had pneumonia when she called and was slow to heal. We will meet later, I told her. Now here she was, standing like an aberration in the entryway of my home. What brings you here, I asked?

She placed her tapestry bags on the floor and lowered her eyes. Karen, you saved my life, I belong to you now. I am here to serve you. In my culture, when a person saves your life, you belong to them.

You belong to them.. Her works washed over me in quiet disbelief.

Alma dear,  What I did for you was my job. You paid me well, You owe me nothing. I am deeply touched but no, please, you do not ‘belong’ to me. She smiled, touching the silk of my bathrobe as she moved to the kitchen. You have saved my life, she repeated, I belong to you.

My daughter pushed open her bedroom door wiping sleep from her young eyes. Mommy, who is that strange lady in our house?

Alma opened her purse, pulled out herbs and carefully placed them on the counter. You will do nothing, I will cook and clean for you. I will serve you in all ways. She took a lime colored wrap from her neck and transferred it lovingly to my shoulders.

Oh dear, I thought. Oh my, this is going to take some serious sorting out.

Alma made herself a bed on the couch and I went back into my room, wrapping my fingers around the warm fragrant liquid she’d provided. You’ll see, she said, as I closed the door between us. I will do a very good job.  Her words hung in the air, sending shivers of dread down my spine.

It took a full month to recover and to convince my devoted servant to leave and go on with her life.

During that time I learned that I liked cooking for myself, doing my own laundry, making my own bed, tending my own children and shopping for my own food. I hadn’t known before how those activities defined the fabric of my independence. Leisure was a kind of death to my spirit. My health returned and dear Alma returned to her own country, her debt fully paid.

written 7-30-08

Your internal GPS


You know that voice from your GPS that tells you where you are, where you’re going, where to turn? It’s become an essential tool for modern navigation. Many people would not be without it.

Well, guess what? You have that same essential tool inside yourself. It’s built-in, works like a charm, never needs repair and costs you nothing. It’s a combination, genie in a bottle and wise guru from India. It’s sitting there, ready and waiting to be engaged. It’s the treasure you carry at the core of yourself. It’s your inner knowing ~ your intuitive voice.

You may be wondering, If I have this voice, why the heck don’t I know about it already? If this place is so wise, why hasn’t it been front and center all along?

It has been there but it’s been waiting for you to make a merger between two very different and powerful parts of yourself. Imagine sitting down with the managers of Intel, (the Intellect) and asking them to step back while we bring in a new guy, the Dalai Lama (the spiritual side.) It’s not that they don’t like each other, it’s that their approach is so different.

To work together with such diverse styles requires patience, respect, listening and learning. The managers of the intellect have evidence and spread sheets. They can show you numbers and recount years of successful operations. But the Dalai Lama doesn’t care about any of that. He just sits, smiles and knows. Yes, you have done a  good job, he agrees. I applaud you, but if you would allow me some time and space, I can enrich what happens here in ways you never imagined. My goal is not to replace you. My goal is to quiet your experience enough for you to hear the inner voice you carry, because that voice connects us all and comes from a universal knowledge that is vast, loving and open.

The world is asking you to put away old paradigms and be a voice for change. Your knowing is present and fully intact. Do you remember any of those whispers?

Maybe it informed you that your afternoon meeting would be canceled, your mom was ill or perhaps it warned not to take that flight, or to trust a deal that looked a little too good to be true. This voice comes in whispers like the beating of a hummingbird’s wings, until we acknowledge and make room for it to be fully heard.

Engaging your internal GPS, is like asking your best friend for advice. If you never really listen or follow what is given, soon your friend will move into silence or back away all together.

Why not try listening, allowing and giving your intuitive voice a change to show you it’s stellar abilities?  It takes a little practice but the rewards are incredible. Not only can you access the wise and knowing core of yourself, but you’ll integrate and become more fully and completely who you are. When you don’t feel divided everything can shift. You’ll hold yourself in a calm, quiet place, a place of wellness that no longer requires validation from others.  Turning up the volume on your internal GPS allows you to navigate from a relaxed and confident place on the planet.

written 5-16-08


 So many young women with hopes held high. 4H teens showing horses they loved, brushed, trained and stabled; each child doing their best with the immense animals that held their dreams. I was pre-occupied by heat, a hard wooden bleacher and dust funneling around my feet like little tornadoes. I wanted water and shade, wished we had gone to the river instead of the fairgrounds. But I was doing this for her, my 13 year old granddaughter, Britan, visiting from Los Angeles.

One week ago, she stood tall and handsome in her English riding habit, sun-streaked hair tucked in a neat ball at the back of her neck, like an elegant ballerina. I had dropped her at the stables and drove home to have time alone. Then I got the call, her voice sounding small and frightened. Grandma, I got bucked off. I landed on my head. I want to come home.

We are here on a too hot summer day, watching the horse competition in the hope of keeping her near the sport she loves. Her neck and shoulder trauma healed with the speed of the young, her willingness to ride again present but needing time.

We toured the 4H stables before the show, examining the horses and photos of each young owner. The teenage women living on remote farms and ranches immediately sensed the difference between themselves and this green eyed girl from the heart of the city. They stopped and studied her, stealing glances over their shoulders as she feigned disinterest.

Together we watched the girls parade in the arena, displaying their best horsemanship and finest clothes. The lens of a camera gave my granddaughter the distance to be both present and removed. She stepped in through the lens, documenting the world she loved, picking favorites and tracking competition, while I excused myself to buy ice water. The walk to the shed that sold drinks felt like being swirled in a clothesdryer. A paper cup was lodged under a bush, discarded napkins pushed into the dirt. A baby in a carrier positioned next to a fan smiled at me as I paid and left.

 When the event ended she turned and said. Oh, Grandma, the paint should have won, don’t you think?

The paint, I thought, yes, I guess there was a paint out there, somewhere, one of them.

“That rider was dressed in extreme shades of pink. I could never wear an outfit like that.”

Very, I said, It was very pink. She continued talking about the paint and why it should have won. I reached in my pocket grateful to find the car keys and pull away from the heat of the day. How was that for you, I inquired? Did you enjoy it?

written 7-9-08

A complement I’d like to give myself

I love your strength, your no non-sense shit-kicking side.

I love your gentle core of light and the way they sit next to each other on the bench.

 Your spirit is free; a tether broken

Go ahead and find adventure.

Don’t limit yourself.

Break wide open and embrace it all.

Why Not?

 I appreciate your truth-telling honesty and your ability to see into this world and the next.

It’s okay to own those shiny slippers.

You don’t need to hide them under the bed.

Put them on, walk around and well…why not? a little.

 written on valentines day, 2008


I knew she was a single mother. They are my weakness, reflecting my own years of having not enough and choosing to be alone rather than grab another wrong relationship.  I agreed to see her for twenty dollars. A reading, I reasoned, could give her  perspective, a new foundation to stand on and send her forward with tangible hope. 

I quickly realized a reading would not be enough when I pulled back the veil of her life to find blood and large open wounds oozing with infection.

Okay, the healer in me reasoned. I must continue seeing her. My practical mind protested, going into matters of paying office rent, utilities and taxes. That part scolded me. These situations are not good for you. My healer bargained. Okay, I’ll give her six more sessions, then cut her loose.

By the eighth session she had claimed her strength and was moving with a warriors courage. This is the time, I told myself, to end our sessions. I practiced the speech in the morning mirror. I wrote notes to myself over lunch. Setting boundaries was never my strength. I kept reminding myself, it is not your place to take care of the world. You are a business woman, so behave like one. Before our session began I delivered my rehearsed speech.

“I’m sorry, I’d love to keep seeing you but I simply can not continue our twenty dollar fee.”  There I had said it!

She immediately burst into tears; floods, torrents, oceans of tears. “I’m so sorry, I’m so embarrassed. I know you deserve much more, but this small fee is actually more than I can afford.”

She told me spring break was coming and she didn’t have enough food for her children. She was going to ask her x-husband’s mother for a loan but hated the way the woman made her feel and her reluctance in giving it. I went to my desk, pulled out my checkbook and wrote her a check for two hundred dollars. Boundaries have never been easy.

written 4-16-08

A love letter to myself


She’s right. It is risky to write a love letter to oneself. I could write about the love that did not blossom. That one is fresh in my hands, a little bloody and raw. But no. I am tired of the wringing, wailing and weeping that goes with all of that. I’ll pass the need to mourn to the Greek women who wear black as their personal fabric.

How about someone you miss? I always think of my earthy Aunt Eythel standing in deep noisy mud herding cows in her bright red coat, a giant safety pin holding it closed. Her memory is welcome, her unique eccentricities fill easy volumes in my mind. 

Success? Yes, I could write about success. So many clients come to mind who walked into my office full of pain and apprehension. So many stories shared, light recovered and new directions found.

Those are topics easily available and ready. Oh, but a love letter to myself?

The listener in me would have to give up her hiding place.

The coat would need to be unbuttoned, the heart exposed and revealed. 

What if…what if…what if you dared walk the road of speaking, revealing, allowing, and exposing?  You, who believe you were mis-wired with your nerve endings on the outside instead of fortified beneath muscle and bone. 

I can say that I love the woman I am becoming. My young girl is hidden still beneath white hair and arthritic fingers. It’s not too late to become. Not ever.

I feel myself opening like the seed that sprouts life against the face of the sun, only this time, I am not pushing up between the crack in the sidewalk, where every step made by another is perilous. No, this time I am in just the right place. Protective borders enclose expansion, the soil is rich, warm and waiting. My years are the fertilizer that pull roots below and anchor a climb that is tall, hungry and full. 

Why not love yourself into being? There is nothing to hold you back.

written on Valentine’s day 2008

The Pearl

I hold a pearl in my hands. It glows in radiant colors of white, pink and barely visible flecks of  gold. People ask me what I hold, but I can’t tell them.

A few people know about the pearl. When they see it, the glow penetrates every cell and they walk away different, a little confused, smiling, laughing or crying. They are changed because the pearl lights up the core of them and they are made warm, like sitting in the lap of a much missed, yet unremembered mother.

Sometimes I try to tell people about the pearl. I search for words where none exist and come up empty, making shallow outlines instead of substance. I search for language they know. I say the pearl is like a rock, but they are afraid of rocks. They fear their force will smash the view from their window.

That’s alright, I tell them. It’s like a rock, but not really. I try again. I tell them about rubies and emeralds. I speak of their value, sparkle and light. Too expensive, they tell me, too much for my jewelry box to hold.

I don’t ever use the word pearl anymore. I gave up.  The radiance of it’s glow defines me and it’s light has made rivers through my body where tiny veins used to be, yet, I am speechless.

I look at others over an unspoken canyon. They suffer in their sleeping state, their eyes barely open, their mouth yawning from fatigue. Yet, I am silent. It is mysteriously not my place to build the bridge across the abyss.

 And yet, I long to help, all the time knowing what it takes from me to pull up a chair, open my hands and reveal the light.

Some come to look into the expanse, but most don’t, and that is just as well, as I am solitary and my hair is already white. It is those who glow from the experience that tell others to make the effort. Travel down country roads, they say, past fields of wheat and trees heavy with peaches. You’ll find a woman in a wooden rocking chair. She will let you in.

And so I wipe away the patterns of the day with a sponge, an eagle feather and a candle. I anchor myself in warm folds of earth, connect to the heavens and farther still, then open my door and embrace their courage. I offer tea and transformation.

The lids of my eyes drop closed. I inhale, exhale. Slowly, slowly pulling my hands from the pearl one finger at a time. Words travel the space between us, landing firmly in their heart. The soul opens to truth and forgotten memories made welcome.

They are coming out of a long sleep now. Remembering the truth of who and what they are. Humbled in appreciation, they bow before the altar of their soul. I am the source, they say in amazement. I have come home.

Shadows of white, pink and barely visible flecks of gold churn around and through their essence as they open the door  to journey back into their lives.

written 7-7-07

In the fire

I woke this morning with a start, a kind of fearful cold water thrown on an unsettled heart. I’m 60 years old now. I probably have twenty useful years before me. This is fact, reality, sterile and unbiased. What can a person do with twenty more years of life? I can watch my granddaughters become women and my children enter their fifties.  How long will it be before I lie in my bed like the mother I just visited, no bigger than a pipe cleaner, unable to stop my jaw from shaking, unable to make a fist with arthritic fingers, unable to keep the expression of pain and hopelessness from my face? How will it be to watch my friends die? To use all my energy to get out of bed in the morning trapped in a body that no longer serves me? Will my now distant children care enough to show up, or will I sit in my independence looking out at life unable to participate? And what of love and home? Will that be created in the next twenty years, or will I still be flying by the seat of my pants, the spiritual bird that can’t touch down?

I am in a time of fire. Everything is being burned away. They say, whoever they are, that a fire in the forest cleans the underbrush making space for new life. Don’t give up until they throw dirt on your face. Today I feel old, worn, dirty and tired.

I have moments in the day when I stop to weep from a deep and frightened place inside myself. Crying is something that has to happen now. I no longer question it. I just try to be gentle because I know I’m in the fire. I know the fire burns. I try not to thrash around and stir the flames. I put on a good face, breathe deep and wake with a cold and lonely fear in my heart.

written 5-25-05