My husband is in love with tennis. Maybe love is the wrong word. He has passion for tennis, passion for the experience, passion for the way his body moves and feels playing the game. It is his fountain of youth and his catnip.  He thinks about it, reads about it, and talks about it. He coaches tennis, goes away to tennis camps and hires teachers to show him how to become a better player.

I am not tennis. I am a woman he cares for and loves, but there is no passion. In the evenings we sit at our computers, reading or watching DVD’s to avoid what is not happening between us, the big white elephant in the room.

Yesterday we floated down the river ~ together and apart, not speaking. I was having fantasies of going up to fishermen standing on the shore and saying, would one of you make love to me please? I would like to have sex with a stranger. I want to cuddle up to the masculine and feel held, but I don’t want any part of what comes after. I don’t want to know the person, or see beneath the masculine exterior. I simply crave the beginning times when love is a warm inviting sensual bath and I’m not dealing with family, coffee spilled on the couch, or the ‘Why didn’t you call if you were going to be late,’ conversations.

I hoped our marriage would bring us closer together, not farther apart. But, instead of developing the trust that leads to more openness and touching, I have been learning to do without him, to let him go, to live my life alone, as I did before.

Last week, moments before he walked out the door on a camping trip, he came into the bathroom. I was combing my hair as he slipped his arms around me and said, You are so beautiful, I am a lucky boy, I mean man, and he was a man in that moment. In that instant, I was with the man that found me beautiful and desirable, the man I fell in love with, the man I married. I was with my husband. I felt stirrings of intimate feelings, the first I’d known in a very long time. I wanted to go to bed with him and love him and hold him. I wanted to remember us as we used to be. Then it was over, time for him to leave to go camping with his son.

This man used to grab me by the hand and say, come with me, come out into the world. We are 60. We can do whatever we want. But now his spirit has dampened and his desires have disappeared; now he is compliant, I don’t care. Whatever you want. What do you want to do?

He is willing to go where I choose, but his mind is too busy with tennis, running a pallet company and making time for his family to think of ‘us.’ The time that we need is seen as a distraction, a diversion from things that are important. ‘We’ can always wait, as in the unspoken, Are we done yet, cause I have to leave?

I’d like to go to Europe and live for awhile in Italy, France, Spain or Greece. I’d like to let my artist soar and the healer in me rest. I’d like to ride along the Italian Rivera on a motor scooter and settle into a little villa where sunlight greets me each morning and I am inspired to create. I want to escape to a better version of myself.

I fear this marriage side of me comes from a conservative out-moded value system, one I mistakenly ingested like bad pasta. I have tried over and over and over again to make it work, but in the end it becomes nothing more than a settling, while specialness and delights are found away from one another in the company of other people.

Almost selling the truck

Saturday morning my husband Gib listed his truck on Craig’s List. He put it in for $1,300 because it needs work. The truck was full of Gib’s stuff, because he is basically a trasher, so it was a real mess. I told him last week-end that we should clean it out, but he was not up for it.  Gib gets a call as soon as the ad hits the net from a guy that lives basically as far away from us as he can live and still claim he lives in Portland. They talk and he makes him an offer of $1,000, which is fine with Gib. Gib offers to bring the truck to the guys house in two hours. “Bring the truck over and I’ll go get the cash!” This is Saturday morning and we are sitting around in our pj’s.

The truck is over by the pole barn, so we walk over and start to unload it. It is full, full, full of his crap. Gib: Gee, I guess we should have done this earlier. Me: No comment.  There are locked boxes in the back where he stores his camping equipment: sleeping bags, chairs and tents. Of course, this is mixed with tennis balls, old socks, tools, and tavern receipts. When he opens the box the worst smell comes out. A mouse or mouse family have lived in there, been pooping and dying and have eaten ALL of his camping equipment. The smell is overwhelming, an odor mixed with mold from sitting too long in the shade of an Oregon winter.

So we start pulling stuff out and tossing it to the ground. Gib is throwing wood screws out the back of the truck into the gravel where we’ll have to hunt down each one, so the gardeners don’t get flat tires.  More work.

 We drive the truck to the house and get soap and the vacuum, both of us gagging on the smell. The front cab is also covered in mold, and more of Gib’s twelve year old way of storing crap. Meanwhile, it’s nearly two, and I’m saying, “This guy is waiting, give him a call!”  Gib is SO attention deficit disorder he can only focus on what’s right in front of him, everything else gets lost. We are hours away from done, so I keep saying, “time to call him, time to call him!” He calls at two, and tells him three thirty, which I think is terribly optimistic. 

 Gib tells me he still wants to get the oil changed and go through the car wash. I tell him to let the new owner do that, but he is determined; plus the clock is ticking, we are going out that evening and need to be dressed and ready. I load the crap we took from the truck into my trunk to dump it in a dumpster, but Gib doesn’t like that idea, because he’s not ready to deal with that part yet, so I haul it out again. Finally, after mopping the ceiling, sides and floor of the truck it looks okay. I spray air fresher in there, but it has the same effect it has in the bathroom. You still smell the shit, it just has an artificial smell laid on top, even worse. We use Windex on the windows and that helps.

Time to get our evening clothes and run. No, Gib needs a shower first, and advice on what to wear to the concert, and he can’t find his belt….anywhere. Finally, we are on the road with me following him in my car, but guess what?  The truck needs gas, so we pull into a station. I’m thinking, knowing Gib, that he is probably filling it up instead of putting in ten bucks. I want to yell at him, but am all yelled out.  That’s done. We make it to the oil change place, but they have long lines and an hour wait. It’s an oil change and car wash. Gib says he will take the wash only, but they say they only wash cars that have had an oil change, but he has already pulled in and there is no road around, so they have to let him go through the wash, because the truck has no reverse, except in the morning when the weather is cold, which is why we are selling it in the first place! The guys at the car wash are not happy. They don’t know how to handle it, so they talk about it for a loooooong time.

I wait for him to go through the wash. We are on the road again. Oh, nope. We are not. Gib pulls into a Shell Station to buy oil. He parks the truck so it blocks all the gas pumps and slowly walks inside to buy six dollars worth of oil. Cars are waiting to get gas as he leisurely pulls the dip stick out, wipes it clean and makes his assessment. Okay, oil in now. Old man blocking gas pumps has been politely tolerated by everyone in the long line that reaches out to the street.

Now we are ready to make the long drive to this guys house. I honk my horn really loud because Gib is pulling the truck into the side of a bus…..~!  “Didn’t notice that Karen, wonder where it came from.”

Nerves on edge now.

We get to the guys house and he lives in scumville, because he is a scum. He hops in the truck with Gib to test drive and doesn’t come back for a really long time. He offers Gib $500 and keeps Gib in his clutches, while he does his slimy salesman routine.  They walk to my car and Gib tells me what’s up. I hit the ceiling!

 “What, we drove this truck all the way over here so he could break his word?”  The guy is still talking to Gib. “We had a deal!” I say, “The deal was for $1,000.”  The guy has Gib’s keys and doesn’t want to give them back. I said, “NO DEAL!!!” Gib smiles, and says, “We all have wives. You know how that goes.” He is leaning on me, because he doesn’t know how to get free of him. He finally gets his keys back and we pull out, both of us shaken by his Mafia manner.

Stressful… Now we have two vehicles, so we take the truck to my daughters house and park it. We’ll put a For Sale sign on next week. It’s time to meet our friends at the fancy restaurant for dinner. I don’t even bother to change, just go as I am, because I’ve had it. I order a coffee drink and good food, the day is looking better.

The show afterwards is fabulous. Flamenco dancers from Spain. Unbelievably beautiful, but I’m having trouble staying awake. We get home at midnight and suddenly I am wide awake and so is Gib, so I begin doing a sketch in my art pad, and he does some computer work. It’s two o’clock in the morning and we HAVE to go to bed, but somehow we are not tired. At four, I am still laying in bed going, I must sleep!, but can’t. Finally, we sleep.

My daughter calls at eight the next morning to see if we’ll help her paint a bedroom. Sure, why not? Half awake we drive into Portland again, stopping to dump all the crap from the truck in a big dumpster outside a manufacturing plant. Illegal dumping. Gib is fumbling around with the lid, being nervous and looking over his shoulder. He makes a horrible criminal. He has no skill at it at all.   

written 11-06-07

A Moment

tired-dogI’m working too much. I don’t stop because I love what I’m doing. I love being flooded with ideas, words and images. I love fashioning them like a seamstress to fit the page. I finish a piece of writing but there is no rest, my mind goes to the next and the next with excitement and wonder. I am a slave to the muse. I have kissed her face and eaten her ambrosia. I would follow her anywhere.

I stopped sleeping months ago. Midnight to three is typical, midnight to five is better. Today I slept from midnight to seven, which rarely happens. I envy the young who sleep for hours, needing to be called into the day. If I stay up past midnight my body decides it’s a new day and gives me a fresh burst of energy, then I’m really in trouble. 

Gib is working long hours as well. He plays tennis at eight, runs the pallet company until three, then leaves to coach at the high school. He comes home after dark with more work to do and too much on his mind. 

We live like spinning tops swirling in and out of the same circle, but sometimes as he lies on the couch looking into his laptop, and I make my way toward my own pile of work, I’ll pause near the edge of the sofa. His silver hair spreads out just enough to grab my attention; I remember, stop and touch.

I’ll run my fingers against his scalp, gently pull on his long hair and move my hands along his brow. That’s all it takes. His body moves to meet me, his eyes close and his expression changes from one of worry to a deep and welcome letting go. It’s only a moment, but it saves us. We remember and rekindle who we are together.

The moment is broken when I ask his advice, or shake my head in wonder as I glance into the kitchen.

You’re constitutionally incapable of closing a cupboard door, aren’t you?

He smiles, looking at the evidence of his absent-minded path. I never seem to learn, do I? 

My oldest sister, Mary Ann, once told me that men are like loyal dogs. I thought that was demeaning and offensive at the time, but the longer Gib and I are together, the more I take her point. A good scratch behind the ears and all is back on track.

The Cosmic Fireman

fireman1My husband, Gib, is a crazy man. He is full out insane. I only have to be with him for moments before the quiet pond I live in is filled with crashing waves and turmoil.

I have read that the Gods protect children and fools. Gib does not fit on the child shelf, so you know what’s left.

The fool is an ancient archetype in the Tarot, his feet barely touch the earth, he is the embodiment of freedom and travel. The fool remains unhurt when stepping off a cliff. His essence is full of grace and an unspoken faith that calls the Gods to place a pillow where a cement wall might reside. His is a faith without words or structure, which summons unseen forces on his behalf.

Gib is the kindest man I have ever known. He lives without judgment or criticism of others, and will exhaust himself for a cause. His wood pallet company is crashing, a company he never wanted, a company he inherited from a family too broken to care. He has worked night and day to breathe life into it, going without pay and using his own funds, so the Mexican men who are employed there will not lose their jobs. When it was time to lay them off from lack of work, he decided to bring in an English teacher instead, so they could be paid to better their lives. I believe this company will die this month, a victim of the recession. It can not be resurrected on the back and good intentions of a single man. I will be delighted to see it go, but he will lose sleep worrying about the families who will suffer from lack of income.

He has coached tennis at Century High School for the past six years. They threatened to close the program if no one came forward to save it. And so he did. He gives of himself again and again in a million small and very large ways. I respect and admire that in him. He is supposed to be retired, but the concept lives in a different orbit than his deeds.

Gib is a cosmic fireman, running around throwing his time, love, and energy on every fire he sees. Sometimes, I get very angry about this, since I am not on fire. But in the end, it’s just as well. That is what he is here to do, and it allows me to go back to my quiet pond.


clockwork1Machines and I are not friends. I basically hate them all. If I could live in the 18th century, I would be happier. My husband loves machines. His veins flow in gigabytes and moving parts. He is happiest when he falls asleep on the couch, his face inches from the unnatural glow of the computer screen.

He updates my equipment for me. I know I should be grateful, but I am not, because I don’t know the difference. I don’t have a single brain cell that jumps forward to say, time to update your hardware, time to update your software. I understand updating my underwear.

Gib will spend his last dime on electronics, while I would pay him the same amount to keep them out of the house. I have never lived with electronics, partly because the spirits around me don’t like them. When I made tape recordings for my clients, there would be a buzz in the background making it nearly impossible to hear. Clients would suggest buying new equipment, but the machine was never the problem.

When Gib came to live in my house, he was respectful of my need for electronic free living , but I could see it was killing him, so I relented. I compromised but have never been comfortable with it. I explained about my spirits, but of course that all sounds like so much mumbo jumbo. He was having an impossible time getting a computer to work that sat in the corner of the living room. He worked on it for an entire month, but nothing he did kept it running. I knew it wasn’t working, because my spirits did not want it in the living room. In a moment of monumental frustration on his part, I asked if he wanted my help. He smiled and stepped back. I grabbed my shamanic rattle, cleansed the corner and talked with the spirits. It’s not forever, I told them. It’s just for now. He needs the computer to work just for now. I stood back and the computer sprang to life. I’ll never forget the look on Gib’s face. He looked like the dead had risen. I explained again what had happened, even drawing a picture of the energies that were against the placement of the machine. They are not bad, just not compatible, I said. Later that month, my friend Kim came by and gave us the solution of putting the computer in the entryway where we could close the door behind it. That worked beautifully.

Gib just bought me a BMW. Imagine. That is the most complicated car-machine there is. The seat alone has 27 different positions, and if I lose my keys, like I do when too much is going on in my life, it’s nearly $200 to replace them. Yipes!  Gib is dear, and as foreign to me as an Arab. He says BMW stands for Be My Woman. Charming.

If I was going to feel at home with transportation, I’d move back to upstate New York and acquire a horse and buggy like the Mennonites that crowd the highway. I understand having a horse and wagon, a barn and a garden. I understand a woodstove, making preserves, canning and quilts. That is who I am. I need to live simply, cuddled into a quiet piece of earth, not pushed against cutting edge technology, but he is the opposite. Ninety per cent of our relationship is a huge challenge. Being married is a huge challenge! It’s like having company that never goes home.

Gib just brought me a new laptop so I can write my blog away from home. It’s a different keyboard and a new machine to make friends with. I want to be grateful, and I sort-of am, but really, I am mostly a dyed-in-the-wool ingrate.

Coming Together

magniolia-treeWhat does it mean to need?

Need defines an empty space waiting to be filled. Why does that embarrass me? Is it the sheer depth and volume of that space? Is it my belief that it should not exist, and if it does exist that it should have been satisfied long ago? The truth is that I am needy. I do need. I have been alone most of my life, so I am good at being independent and closed down. There have been too many disappointments.

What lives in me now is an ancient need, a need with the force of a tornado or a hurricane. It is a force that moves through me. I am powerless to contain it. The hiding place of this need has been opened and revealed in our meeting. I can not stop it any more then a birthing mother can arrest her labor.

I am vulnerable, fragile and young in this place. I am a child needing to be reassured. Yes, he tells me. You’ll be fine. I see who you are and I am not running away. I am moving closer.

I trust him. I open to let him in, all the time asking my warrior self to stand ready. Snatch her out of there if it looks too dangerous, I warn. The ice could crack and she could go down. But the only ice that cracks is the freeze around my heart, leaving me more and more exposed. The man holds my dreams in his hands, and so far he holds them tenderly and with compassion.

Do I dare trust?

Do I dare hope?

Do I dare be this needy?

There is nothing for it but to be in the moment allowing life to be life, and love to grow and open, or not. There is no control now, only hope and a great desire for the safety of the child within. The child is always visible in the fabric of ones life, always. I’ve had glimpses of myself standing on the strength of love, and felt every fiber shifting its position to one of readiness and allowing. The moment is the only truth I can hold and this moment is beautiful and full of gratitude.

I hope you don’t mind how obsessed I am with you.

I hope you don’t mind my crazy morning hair, morning breath and controlling behavior.

I hope you don’t mind getting to know my internal cast of characters.

I hope you don’t mind my extreme independence.

I hope you don’t mind meeting my friends and family.

I hope you don’t mind the way I can’t get enough of your body, scent, smile, and boyish grin.

I hope you don’t mind being the man who runs interference for me with machines, sprinklers, computers, cars and gadgets of every kind.

I hope you don’t mind coming home to me for the rest of your life and folding your warm flesh against my hungry body. I hope you don’t mind how I run on and on about adoring you.

Never too late

lemonsI met my husband, Gib, at my granddaughter’s lemonade stand. He was whizzing by on his bike, did a U turn, took off his helmet and said, I read somewhere that you should never pass a lemonade stand.

Isabella poured him a tall glass of refreshment while I sat on the front steps of the house, soaking sun into my face, and wondering who this tall man with the quick smile and grey hair might be.

At 60, I had resolved to live alone. Relationships had not been kind. Besides, it’s difficult to think about dating when you’re a grandmother. The dating pool looks a little too much like the near-death club.

The next time I saw him was at our moving sale. I’d been living on the corner of 31st and Taylor in SE and was ready for a change, so I’d answered an ad to be a caretaker on a country estate. The hours were nothing, the land was perfect, and the situation gave me lots of time to replenish and write. I knew I was headed in a new direction, but had no idea the extent of it. Gib walked into the sale eager to visit. Even bought a white elephant chest of drawers my mother had given me. I discovered he lived only two houses away.

 People who live in SE Portland are country people who settled in town. There are chicken coops tucked in side yards, plenty of rabbits, cats and dogs, and even a pot bellied pig. Southeast people wear big flannel shirts to keep warm, boots good for hiking, and drive old pick-up trucks for hauling what we can’t carry on bikes.  We put the things we no longer want on street corners for others to take without cost, and have been lovingly referred to in the press as, “The People’s Republic of Portland.”  So, you can imagine how strange it was to look out my window at 5.30 one morning, and see a gentleman standing under the street light in a three piece suit, polished black shoes, and white cuffed shirt. I threw a shawl over my nightdress and went to investigate. Turns out he was a visiting surgeon who had purchased the house across the street for his son. He was a man of routine, got up and did what he always did, but had no work to go to. He stood alone, like a dream image under the streetlight, waiting for his son to wake up. We were deep in conversation when Gib rounded the corner on his bike. He stopped, wanting to know where the handles were for the chest I’d sold him. I found them garish and tossed them out, I said.

You threw the handles to the chest away? Why would you do that?

They weren’t visually pleasing. Replace them with something better or use a screwdriver.

I thought you’d be moved by now.

Nope, my movers keep calling to back out.

I’ll do it, he said. I’ll help you. And he did. He showed up, hauled, stacked and dripped July sweat like the rest of us. He refused pay so I offered to fix dinner.

The first night was a bust. Gib is a retired engineer and can be too much in his head. We’ve managed to spend an entire evening together without a thing in common, I said. He smiled and left, forgetting his computer. When he came back the following day to retrieve it, we went deeper. Turns out we shared the same birthday, we had daughters who lived near-by, while our sons both lived in Los Angeles. And there was more; I’d lived for years three houses away from his childhood home, we’d both owned the same British car as teenagers, we’d both had the same mismatched marriage partners and resulting heartaches, we were both still young in spirit and athletic in body. But most of all, we were both still hoping to find the happiness we lost in our early years.

I was embarrassed to be getting married at 60, but my friends encouraged me. No, they said. It’s inspiring. It shows that love can happen for anyone at any age.


dog-with-bearI got up early yesterday. My husband was still sleeping, so I sat in morning light near my altar and lit a candle. The space felt nested and cozy, the perfect time to write. I sank into silence and let my pen run across the blue lines of my notebook for nearly two hours, completely engaged and happy. When I finished and read over the work, I found it scattered and lacking focus. My mind had jumped from one idea to the next, as I happily downloaded word after useless word without notice. I pondered my dilemma, deciding to keep it anyway, thinking perhaps there was something I could salvage and use another day.

I was a dead person yesterday. Instead of fixing my husband breakfast, which I love to do, I went back to bed. Everything you need is in the frig dear; let me know if you have trouble finding it, like he doesn’t live here too. I left him to it while I lay in bed and napped. I thought about things I wanted to do, even visualized myself doing them. Not big things, just ordinary things like taking a shower or going into the office to answer emails, but I couldn’t move.

Finally, I pushed the television from the closet to the foot of the bed and put in a movie, but the film was horrible, young women being murdered in brutal detail. Who needs that? I’d been misled by the title. Well, not really, since the title said, I KNOW WHO KILLED ME, in bold letters. In my defense, the previews looked metaphysical. Usually I stick to the BBC because they murder people politely, in stately mansions, with large sweeping lawns and Austin Healey’s parked in circular driveways.

Hunger finally got the best of me, so I made tuna over salad greens, another major effort. My energy set the tone for the house. Even my energizer husband was napping on the couch.

After lunch I went to bed, once again, like a dead person.

I tried to read a book a friend gave me for Christmas, but hated it. The cover proudly stated that Stephen King loved it. Stephen King is not a good match for a BBC girl either. He kills people too, only he’ll scare you to death before you ever get to that part.

Dark now. Evening and I’m still useless, so I grab my writing one last time and think of a story. I work on it for hours while my husband researches an anti-virus product. (Exciting life around here.) When I finish, it’s eleven at night. I have a moment of thinking perhaps I’ve saved the day, perhaps it has not been a complete waste.  Satisfied, I type my piece into the computer, add a graphic and ask my husband for his opinion. This man who is always generous and supportive beyond reason said, that is by far the worst thing you’ve ever done, Karen. I wouldn’t put that out if I were you.

I looked at the piece and knew he was completely utterly correct, so I pushed the delete button and watched it disappear into an unseen graveyard.

Some days are like that. Astrology calls it a void-of-course-moon, but I call it a big waste of time and energy.



Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I feel brittle. My face is set, full of worry and the obligations of life. There is an edge I can not name that builds, and shows itself to me in a glance, or an unexpected reflection in a passing window.

My husband and I have lives that are too busy. We behave like separate ships on the sea, sending signals and flashes of light while moving in turbulent waters, our attention fully given to navigation.

But once in awhile all that turbulence stops. The sea calms and we drift slowly into shore, rediscovering each other like long lost friends, wondering how we ever drifted so far apart. Those times are precious to me, the coming back times. The sharp edges of our lives melt against candle light. Our faces soften. Our bodies reach toward the warmth of one another, and suddenly I no longer feel old, rigid or brittle.

We lived in this soft place when we met. We could not pull ourselves from it, but now it takes a snow storm or an act of love to remember the truth of who we are together.

The scent of ginkgo and vanilla blend in fragrant oils and infuse the space. A musical tapestry woven with harp and voice washes away the outside world. The phone is unplugged. I study the way my hair falls against my face in the shadows on the wall, as I tenderly stroke the white of his beard, and trace the lines of his lips with my finger. Our bodies find each other in celebration.

When did the mundane gain so much attention and power? When did the entrance to this soft place become veiled and difficult to find?

We have been in retreat, but I can feel the tide approaching. The sea is calling and we will soon slip back into the way it was. There will be day after day of appointments, business meetings and obligations. In the evening we will embrace, have dinner and fall dead tired into our beds, or stay up half the night to meet excessive demands.

During those times, I will remember and long for this retreat. I will imagine our shadows and tenderness played out against the bedroom wall and wish for it. I will notice, and wonder how we can slow down enough to find the veiled entrance into this softer, gentler place.

An Introvert’s Christmas


Snow is falling quietly and softly outside my window. It is light and undecided, on the border between snow and rain. My husband rose early, eager to make the long drive to his daughter’s house, where his children and their children will gather to celebrate. The house will be full of loud people with big voices, competing with an immense television blaring football and commercials. Children will scream for attention, squeal with delight, and play with noise-driven toys.

I have baked sugar cookies, cardamon-orange sweet rolls, and sent raspberry jam from last summer’s crop. I placed a hat on my husband’s head, stuffed gloves in his pocket, and watched him pull from the driveway, his tires chained and crunching ice.

Now it is my time. I go immediately to the stereo and put on Louie Armstrong. His voice fills the space, like a kiss from the past:

I see trees of green,

 red roses too.

 I see them bloom, for me and you,

and I think to myself,

what a wonderful world .

I see skies of blue,

And clouds of white,

 the bright blessed day,

 dark sacred night,

and I think to myself,

 what a wonderful world.

 As I listen, I sponge the coffee table clean, open windows for a blast of fresh air, clang a Tibetan bell to clear the space, and place a match against the wick of a candle, watching its light move into a tall steady flame. Finally, I fold a warm brown shawl across my shoulders, sit on the couch and silence the stereo. I breathe in the quiet, wrapping it around me like a welcome friend. I am old enough now not to feel guilty about who I am and what I need, or to put myself in situations that feel wrong or abrasive.

It is a great pressure being different in a society that has traditions and rules about what holidays mean, and how they are to be celebrated. Thanksgiving makes sense to me, because it’s a time to be thankful. But Christmas follows too close on its heels, and escalates into a kind of material carnage and shopping frenzy full of pressure and disappointments. It seems a day set aside to magnify family issues, and the difference between how our lives are, and the ideals we hold. Add to that my sincere dislike for material accumulation and the incompatibility grows.

I did have a moment yesterday, when I slipped into parental guilt, knowing how much my daughter, Kristen, has always loved holidays.

I’m sorry I live so far in the country, I told her. I should have a big house in town, where we can more easily gather as a family, and do a traditional Christmas.

Her answer was kind and real. Mom, don’t do that to yourself. That is not who you are, or what you really need or want. Just be you on Christmas day and enjoy it.

Kristen is busy cooking for the nearly one hundred residents who live at the ashram, fulfilling her dream of living with a large spiritual family.

And so, I sit in this peace-filled room, alone, watching snow and birds, and allowing my writing to surface with abundant time and space.

I’m sure many would judge my holiday sad and deprived of humanity, but I have a deep calm and a welcome communion with myself in not wishing to be any where else, or doing any thing else. Perhaps next year, I will be surrounded by quiet loving friends, but this year I am content, and delighted beyond measure to find that I can allow the richness of what I need, without pretending to be other than I am.

Express Train

I am a quiet person. I keep my beliefs, politics and opinions tucked away and private, nobody’s business but my own.

My husband, Gib, is the opposite. He loves to broadcast these things, whether or not you want to listen. When Gib begins to talk politics he becomes someone I stand away from.

It’s as if my gentle sweet man becomes possessed by the spirit of a zealous dictator. He is convinced that others will see the world exactly as he does, if he only talks loud enough, fast enough or long enough. Gib gets bigger and bigger in his mission, then for no apparent reason, the spirit that possessed him leaves, he returns to the room, to himself and finally to me.train

Did I do it again? he asks. Did I get too loud? Did I run over them like an express train?

The waitress delivers another beer. Let’s just say, Gib, that there is no one here tonight who does not know exactly where you stand on the subject.

There is no listening when he enters these outer dimensions of himself. There is only reporting and a sincere belief that he can change anyone’s mind if he talks long enough.

He is naive in this way and determined. This is the same self who will sincerely lecture on the downfalls of sugar and carbohydrates, while going to the dessert table to refill his plate with apple pie, brownies and carrot cake.

He is a good man though. Kind and gentle beyond measure. This new president is teaching him about unity, allowing and embracing diversity, while I am learning to accept my relationship and the world as they are and not as I want them to be.

The Handyman

I hired a handyman to cut my wood. Put up a poster at Big Bear Market and got a call the next day.  I stared at that wood pile for an entire afternoon before admitting defeat. The idea of hiring someone was foreign, but I lacked the strength to drive the ax through the wood and feared losing a limb when I veered off target. 

Chopping wood used to be my husband’s job, but we divorced after seven hard years. He stacked wood in the basement near the washer and dryer, but I didn’t want it near clean clothes, and resented making frequent trips up and down basement stairs, arms piled high, scratched and heavy. He was a doctor who worked all the time, coming home to discuss blood, tumors and medicines. That didn’t work well for a girl with a sensitive side. I talked to him about the wood. Could we please put the logs on the front porch this year? That’s only a few yards from the stove and would be so much easier. He was locked in his position.

 When the man came from the market to cut wood, I felt so guilty I baked a pie to go with his wages. I was unsure about hiring a stranger. Could I just pay for a man?  Have someone help without feeding him and doing his laundry? It appeared that I could. When the handyman finished he stepped inside. Where would you like your wood stacked?

My stomach tightened and I looked away. This was the argument part, that part where I say what I want and he over-rides it with a dominating male voice, explaining the virtues of basement stacked wood. I gathered my courage, planted my hands deep inside apron pockets and said, I want it on the front porch. Right next to the door. And you know what he said? Can you believe it? He smiled and said, How high?  That was it. No argument just, how high shall I stack it? I spent the rest of the day grinning from ear to ear, thinking that I could definitely get used to this handyman thing!


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

I imagined you

I imagined you walking down the driveway this morning. As I looked out the big circular window in the bathroom, there you were. Just for a moment. You were wearing black shorts and sandals. Morning light danced in the silver of your hair; your head was bent and your arms overfull with all that you carry from truck to house. Your walk was distinctive and measured. You didn’t look up or notice me. Your gaze was on the driveway and the cases in your hand. I imagined also, before loading your arms that you had eaten yellow plums plucked fresh from the branch, a little soft and overripe. 

How grand and welcome you looked against that long gaze of forest drive, too preoccupied to notice the fields of clover, ferns and draped ivy that witnessed your return. The wooden piles that divide pavement from foliage quietly and firmly directing your path to our shelter and into my hungry arms. 

In that moment, seeing you there, a smile drifted across my face, my body lit with recognition. He has come back to me, I told myself, he is home. But you are not here yet. You will not come tomorrow or the day after or the next. I must wait for your return. But the plums will not be able to hang on much longer. They are already losing their grasp. It is hard for me to wait as well, but I can pass the time. I have fasting to do, clients to see, friends who visit, clothes to sew, dreams to dream, pictures to draw and words to write. I’ll spend a day of silence going in and in and in. 

I am a new person now that you are with me. I am a woman with a veracious longing. I am the desert and you are the water. When you are away, I return to my essence and know myself. It’s familiar, comfortable and rich. But when you are with me, I abandon the beauty of that place and reach for you. I can do nothing else, nothing. My longing has a life of it’s own and there is no stopping it. It’s a force running through me and its only path, surrender.

From nowhere you appeared in my life, changing it deeply and forever. Is it any wonder I have visions of you? My spirit lies open and waiting.

written 8-10-05


When I have a large house, I will make a room that is only for lovemaking; nothing else will happen there. I will fill it with candles, scents, silk scarves, oils and music. When we walk into that room everything ‘other’ will fall away. The snares, telephones and concerns of our lives will be dropped at the door. This would not be a room for sleeping, there would be no alarm clock or pajamas. Our intention would define the space.

When I walk in the library I am in love with books; when I walk in a church I am in love with ritual; when I walk in the gym I am in love with swimming. I want to walk in this room too and be in love with touch. I want the room to help us go deeper, returning us to the truth of who we are together when the world does not pull us away.

That’s what I want in an ideal house. No more cramped living with knees folded under our chins and other peoples concerns making us strangers. In this next house, the river will lap near the window, we’ll have a long kitchen table for friends and family, and windows spilling sunlight over hardwood floors. But most important, we’ll have this chamber, this private room that will celebrate the senses. It will open to us and in us so we can be fully present, our minds being nowhere else, not in thought, word or memory. In this space, we will reclaim ourselves, remember and delight. I hope we go there often with large smiles, hungry eyes and quiet wanting.

The Celtic Weave

I won’t leave him. He is the only man I won’t ever leave. I am learning tolerance. I am learning to embrace the faults of another with compassion and love. Whenever I think of going I remember our mutual birthday. There is something about coming into the world on the same day that binds us more strongly than I would have imagined. It’s like being separate roots on the same tree. We are sun and moon. Our differences repel, attract and bind.

The Celtic weave on our wedding ring is knotted, but not a tight knot. It does not suck the air from a room or become a hand closing the flow of freedom. No, this pattern is a loose open weave, expansive, and solid.

I have come to allow his forgetfulness and distractibility, and have learned to embrace his child-self who bounds into each new day with excitement and expectation, but resists domestic chores and limit setting.

He has stretched to love me also. He is an excitable extravert, who had to incorporate my solitary nature, my need for electronic-free living and my shunning of his boisterous friends.

This man belongs to me and I to him. We are different and the same. We are a pair of shoes together and apart. My granddaughter, Britan, says, Grandma, you married one of a kind!  She shakes her head at his quirky eccentricities, all the while being drawn into his orbit by his open-hearted generosity and playful acceptance.

He is patient with me, endlessly patient, while I am more often impatient and short-tempered with him. When I call to apologize, he waves me off. Oh Karen, Your moods don’t bother me at all. You’re wonderful and amazing just the way you are. Really, don’t give that another thought.

He thinks I’m a rock star, an undiscovered gem. He holds my identity with a full respect that I have trouble affording myself.  If I said, Gib, I need you to drive across the United States for me, he would reply, when shall I leave?

I have been with many men, all chosen for the wrong reasons, or attracted from father pain. Gib came after a drought and a desire to live alone rather than continuing to hurt myself in that way.

Oh, don’t get me wrong! The man has put me through hell with inconsiderate actions, dysfunctional family and a very real fear of being close, but somehow this is different. I love him and can stay, because his actions are not born of abuse, rather they are signs of adjusting to a life together after many years of living lost.

I am not his wife in any traditional sense. I won’t take his name or his diamonds.

I just want to be ‘us’ together, two people, caring and walking side by side for as many days as we have left.

written July 16, 2008

Morris Minor

I bought a Morris Minor when I was eighteen years old. It looked like this one, only mine was a baby blue convertible, had a black racing strip and mirrors on front fenders positioned to show my hair at all times. I saved my waitress money until I got five hundred dollars, plopped it down at the dealership and drove away. Well, sort of drove away, but not really, since I never took it for a test drive and had no idea how to drive a stick shift.

The car was a point of contention with my dad. I’ll buy you a car, any car, but not that thing.  You’ll never get parts. Buy a Chevy. I’ll help you. Those foreign cars are crap. Turns out he was right, but I didn’t care. That ‘thing’ was what I had to have. The salesman waved and honked on his way home from work two hours later, as I sputtered along on the shoulder starting, stalling, and stopping. What the heck do I do with this clutch? He pulled over and gave me a lesson.

Most people don’t know what a Morris Minor is, but my husband knew. Turns out he had to have one when he was a teenager. He and I have the same birthday, the same karmic patterns, and the same taste in cars – one of many bizarre parallels that run through our lives.


I imagine you near me.

Tuffs of white hair frame the welcome of your eyes, a soft inner peace replaces the dusting of chaos from the outside world. We move to the bed, pull back the wedding quilt and leave our clothes on the floor. You are mine now, freely given, holding nothing back. No thought is elsewhere secretly wishing for something other. What power rests in being completely present in one another.

What blissful abandon is made possible by merging desire into the fullness of each moment. I have come home to you, and you to me. Our bodies have ached for each other through lifetimes of separation. This union is far greater than husband and wife, or relationship in any context I have known.

Our union is the union of the moon pulling the tide from the sea. It is the core of life that pulses through the sap in every tree; it is the sun tenderly opening the face of each new flower. We journey in this place of perfect oneness, you and I, and all that we make together. We journey for hours and days until the task becomes one of pulling apart. We invent things to do that are other then this homecoming.

I cook to further delight your senses. Each ingredient intoxicated with my rapture in your arms, each mouthful you praise holds my desire. You have come home to me at last. May this offering melt in your mouth and move to every cell in your hungry body, as I long to fill every corner, and to be filled.

Explore it all, the sweet, the sour, the hot, the cold. Vegetables simmering in melted butter, cheese yielding and blending over eggs. Herbs freshly clipped from the garden. We’re bringing the outside in, one ingredient at a time.

You go back for seconds and thirds licking the plate clean. What was that? you ask. I’ve never tasted anything like it. I have no language for that experience.

How can I tell you? Your appetite is primordial, my ability to satisfy encoded.

And what do I answer when friends call and ask, What have you been doing?

We nest now in the bodies of one another. We’ve made a home in another reality. This new space holds us as lovers, both stepping in on the same June day. The ceilings reach for the sky in sloping angles refusing to be boxed ~ a rice paper screen and antique shawl shelter our safety.

I have no one to cook for now. My appetite has diminished. Yet, I ache for you and those journeys in our nest of a bed. For the first time in our lives we know what love is. Dare I speak for you? I think so. We know how it feels, how it smells and how it tastes. We know what the face of love looks like, and we are profoundly humbled by it’s bold uncensored truth.

written July 2005 

End of the day

piano with flower

You have your face covered with your hands at the moment, shaking your head as if searching for an answer just out of reach. Your hands are refined and gentle; they reach for new ways of understanding, and comfort you when those ways are not easily found. They are the hands of a gentle man; they are soft, kind and capable.

Your eyebrows are a reminder of who you used to be before white settled on your head and spilled over your chin. The lines on your forehead are even. They are not set in sorrow or joy, their only measure is one of experience and the passing of time. There is the old man and there is the boy. They co-exist happily within.

Did I mention that I liked the coffee stains that have washed themselves into the fabric of your shirt? I do. They represent a time and an experience I did not share, but they appeal to me, the way the skinned knees of a twelve year old boy on an old man’s body appeal to me.

And now you rest, eyes closed, head nestled into the pillow and knees drawn up, a Chopin nocturne encouraging relaxation. A long drive, a long day finally settling over you like a blanket, inviting you to let go and surrender.

I love your body. Mine nests naturally against it. In this moment the touch of my foot beneath your leg affords a powerful connection. How I love the simplicity of us.

Back to me


We were hiking to the top of a long steep forest trail when my husband stopped by a stream, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

“What? Now? Like this, sweaty and out of breath in the middle of the woods? Ask me again on the way down, I have to get used to the idea.”

He did.  I said yes, and then he pulled the biggest diamond ring I’d ever seen from his jacket. My heart sank. ” Oh honey, I’m just not that kind of girl. What am I going to do with something like that?” We settled on matching silver bands with a Celtic weave.

Our first Valentines Day he gave me a box that had real gold ear-rings shimmering against purple velvet. Oh my, I thought, he is going to have ‘Ingrate’ inscribed on my tombstone. “Take these back to the store, dear, and buy yourself a pint for your trouble. I’m just not that kind of girl. I don’t want gold and diamonds. If you want to give me gifts of enduring affection, buy software and learn to use it. What turns me on is having a business partner, someone who can bring my artistic visions into reality, someone who believes in me and can remain steadfast when I lose faith in myself.”

The engineer in him rose to the occasion, learned to do sound editing, film clips and placement of art work; the husband in him became the business partner I always wanted. But paradise was short lived when his cousin died and left a pallet company to be managed, and when the high school needed a tennis coach who would labor afternoons and evenings as an act of love.

I found other people to help me, so my work continued but the whole affair left me grumpy and disappointed. Now tennis season is winding down. There is talk of giving the pallet company to his kids and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. We can imagine more time for us, more travel, adventure and creative projects.

Last week-end his schedule lifted and he came back to me. We spent hours editing, designing and creating, then topped it off with a hike in The Gorge. I’m telling you, having my husband as a creative partner brings me closer than diamonds and hot sex ever could. Well, maybe not the hot sex part.


moon and planetsMy marriage ended but I didn’t.

I’m sad to say that I’m getting good at the pulling-away part. I used to sink like cement to the bottom of the sea, lose half my weight and forget how to sleep. But not now. Now I know myself. My core is seasoned and wise. 

I grieve, I dream of loss and separation but rise again like the moon. There is no sinking, only a look at the cycles that bring people into my life for a time and a purpose, then washes them out again, both of us better for the experience, both of us enriched. 

I tucked my wedding ring in the corner of my jewelry box and bought bands of hematite instead. They are black and round, like a midnight moon. The label said they’re used for protection. The word hermit hides in the description.