Hannah waits outside my door now, in case I forget that dog-walking is on her mind 24-7. Whenever I get in the car to go to Portland or the bank or any other errand, she imagines I am going for a walk without her. I suppose some dogs require psychics to interpret what they think but Hannah will never be one. She is an open book.

I put on my warmest coat, adding sweat pants to long underwear, give into her big eyes and drive to the library. No one is walking the paths, so I let her off leash where she wanders, smells, stays close and eats bird poop. Her spirit is so gentle that ducks cross her path without hurrying their step. The water is perfectly still. Day turning to night is mirrored in miles of calm water, as hundreds of Canadian Geese swirl above our heads in silhouette. It is such a fine thing to walk the paths in the evening, to breathe the air, wash away remnants of work and escape holiday madness.

The faces of shoppers seem so pushed and tight now, as they add celebration dinner, finding and wrapping presents, family and visiting friends to already full schedules. Add to that a lunar eclipse and a month of mercury retrograde and it’s a wonder anyone is sane. If we are taking on the finding and purchasing of a tree, replacing last years lights and writing out Christmas cards, the least we can do as a culture, is to declare a national work freeze from November 30th, to January 1st. Then folks might actually enjoy the holiday, the solstice and festival of lights.

A great blue heron perches on one leg as Hannah and I walk past, only inches away. I wonder why she doesn’t fly off and decide it’s something about the coming of night and the need to stay put. My mind goes to a homeless man I met the day before, who sat on a cold windy step, a single glove covering his face as he tried to sleep. I had just bought Isabella a massage. We were smiling and laughing, getting into our warm car with heated seats when I saw him. I pulled what cash I had from my wallet in the hope of buying him dinner, walked over and tapped his shoulder. He looked up, surprising me with the intelligence in his face and eyes that shone with light. “Thank you,” he said softly. I thought about his pain, felt grateful for the many blessings in my life, turned my back on him and drove away.

The world is so full of contrast. How does one hold happiness in one hand and suffering in another?  It feels like the winter solstice where the dark and light sit side by side in equal measure. No wonder we illuminate our roads, houses and trees to fend off darkness and beg the light back into our lives.

Our walk is nearly over. I put Hannah on her leash as we near the car, searching the contents of my pocket. No keys. My pocket is empty. I suddenly feel very tired and discouraged as I imagine going around the paths again, the time it will take, and the probability of finding car keys in the dark. My car sits on a hill in the lot under a street lamp. I glance in that direction, noticing a glint of silver on the roof. My keys are perched there, right where I left them, graciously untouched. They say there are spirits who watch over fools and children. Apparently they watch over preoccupied women as well.

The wound


I used to meditate in the garden each morning, perched on a hill overlooking the meadow, while feral Dipa watched from the safety of a tree. After a month of mornings she jumped in my lap, and quickly down – up and down again. I kept my eyes closed and made no effort to touch as Dipa did her getting-acquainted dance. A wet nose against my cheek was her good-morning kiss. That became the ritual. Soon Dipa was the first to arrive.  Kathryn, my landlady, called her Amber, but I’d been thinking of a Buddhist teacher named Dipa Ma when the cat first kissed my face, so I gave her a name to reflect her moment of trust. That was four years ago.

This morning I settled at the table on the patio and reached for the computer mouse as a white pink substance began to drip on my hand. I turned and found the goo pouring from a gaping hole in the cat’s neck, drip dropping on the table in thick rivers of infection. The sight of it made me weak. My first thought was to find someone else, anyone else, to deal with it.

Dimas, the gentle-hearted gardener leaned on his shovel, shaking his head. “Not me,” he said, as I pointed out the problem.

I went to a man fixing pipes in the pump house. “Do you know what to do for cat wounds?” I asked. He barely looked up as he muscled a wrench around a connecting joint. “Nope.”

I was beginning to feel like the Little Red Hen from Isabella’s Russian folktale.

“Not I,” barked the lazy dog.

“Not I,” quacked the noisy yellow duck

I knocked on Kathryn‘s door, the cat’s official owner.

“The vet is closed today,” she replied,  “nothing I can do. Besides she won’t let me near her, she runs away.”

“Not I,” voiced the grey haired neighbor.

As if to prove a point, Kathryn moved toward Dipa who promptly ran away from everyone. I surrendered to responsibility against my will and came back to the computer, typing treating cat wounds in the Google window. Hydrogen peroxide and bandages were a solution I could manage. Dipa was sunbathing on the picnic table, safe and alone at the edge of the forest when I found her. I slowly placed bandages, gauze and hydrogen peroxide on the bench. The cat sat perfectly still as I cleaned and dressed the wound. Bandages filled quickly and were repeatedly changed. Finally, I stopped, no more I could do. After lathering my hands, I went back to work on the porch. Dipa abandoned her distant post, followed me up and began nudging my hand with her nose. I stroked her fur between sentences, “You’re going to be alright dear. You‘ll be fine.”

Kathryn pulled her car up, unpacking groceries from the trunk.

“Thank you for tending the cat. You’ve done all a vet could do. Now I’ll have to call you the cat whisperer. Really, Amber looks good.”

What irony, I thought. Kathryn was a doctor! A doctor! She actually liked nasty-body-blood pus-oozing infections. She’d been trained for it, spent years in school, while the sight of body secretions made me weak. I had to lie down, breathe deep and try not to vomit. And “I” was the one treating the cat, possibly the worst qualified person on the planet! What a sense of humor the universe has!

Simple Splendor


mermaidThe ocean puts me to sleep. It’s amazing. I have plans to do so many things each time I drive over, but as soon as I hit the sea air and hear the gentle roar of the waves I collapse into a complete letting go. It’s as if someone put a sleeping potion in my afternoon tea. My eyes get heavy. My breathing moves to the root of my belly, and my resolve crumbles. What a lovely thing this ocean mother is. Each time I land in her lap she cradles my spirit, insisting I rest, rejuvenate and restore. 

The ocean is busy today, not at all like my usual hide-away. It’s Sunday in late July, which is prime vacation time. I watch legions of tourists migrating with kites, shovels, deck chairs, good books and broad open smiles. The sky is cloud covered and cool, but they don’t care. They are making memories. They swim in frigid water, build castles, pick up stones and roast marshmallows around open fires. I watch, like being at the movies, then take a long brisk walk. 

A tall slender man in a wet suit drips back to shore. The clouds are low so he is dreamlike, emerging from both water and haze. His hair is black, like his suit, and his spirit seems generous and free. He clearly loves what he’s doing and has come to collect his young daughter, so she can learn to love it too. She’s about three years of age and has long streams of blond hair running down her back. He gathers her gently in his arms, knowing she is uncertain, then walks into the sea, the way Stevie Wonder walks to the piano. He owns it. I stop walking and watch, curious to see how he’ll share his pleasure. After a few yards he puts her belly down on the board, holding her steady as she looks into his eyes for courage. When a wave comes, she sails to shore in a smooth effortless ride, her father moving proudly by her side. 

The beauty of this day does not escape me. The simple splendor is plentiful and abundant. Nature is such a pure canvas. It takes me back to my center like nothing else, and reminds me that we are all just specks of sand in a limitless universe.

Blessed Day


swan stretch

A gentle current of water, warm sun, a quiet breeze, old growth trees, cliffs, red tailed hawks and osprey – a long row of Canadian Geese, a good friend next to me, my air mattress and intimate conversation. Summer is now official. I made my first trip down the Sandy River. I was afraid a full work schedule and travel might have prevented it.

I went with Jill, a new friend from NYC, who arrived in my life a few months ago, complete with accent and spunky attitude. She was the perfect floating partner.

Going down the river is the finest purist thing I know. It is raw and timeless, a slow sensual communion with nature that carries away all emotional debris in a perfect blaze of splendor. Being on the river brings me fully and completely back to myself. Time stops, there are no tensions, worries, or problems. Mountain fed water and a burst of sun induce relaxation for mind and body that is deep and complete.

I never know what it will be like to float the river with someone else. Inviting a guest is always a gamble. The river is my special place so I am very careful about the person I share it with. Lucky for me, Jill was an ideal companion because she completely understood what it meant to be there. Thank you Karen, she said, I believe this was the best day of my whole life.  

My worst river partner was Neville, an older man who found it impossible to relax and just be. All he had to do was lie down on his belly and rest, but the poor fellow was incapable of relaxation. Instead, he propped his elbow against the inflatable pillow and perched his neck in the air like an awkward giraffe. He churned, lost his balance and plunged into the river repeatedly.

I pulled him to shore several times to teach him how to lie on the mattress.

See Neville, just like being home on the couch; all you have to do is close your eyes and nap.

But the lesson didn’t hold. Once his mattress was back on the water, he tensed up and began to twist, turn and battle. The river will take you. I insisted, there is nothing to do, but be like a leaf and allow yourself to be carried on the face of the current. You will move safely down.

Nothing worked until I instructed him to hold firmly to my toes. That gave his mind focus and dismantled his giraffe pose. By the time we reached the bottom, I was exhausted from paddling both his weight and mine. The experience had lost its charm and dear Neville had scrapes, bruises and drips of blood on his knee.

To my surprise he said the same thing Jill said, Karen, this was the best most exciting day of my life. We must do it again very soon! I smiled and wondered how quickly I could get an unlisted number.

Two summers ago I went down the Sandy with my daughter Kristen and my friend Joan. The sun was playing in shivering sparkles of light on the crest of each current. The blue sky warmed our skin and kissed my body. The combination felt like a deep sensual erotic bath.

Oh my God, I said in a sleepy voice, floating down the river on a day like today is better than having sex.

Joan turned her head in the same lazy manner and said, absolutely, this is amazing.

Then my daughter turned over and looked at us, incredulous.

You women must never have had good sex!

Pieces of Monday

morning glory

I had a very large arrangement of edible flowers delivered to my door this afternoon from my daughter in law, Khrystyne and my son, Clayton. The card said: We Love you so much. Hugs and kisses. Clay’s name was first on the card, but he’s a guy. He loves me, I know, but his mind goes to carburetors and computers before floral arrangments, so thank you Khrystyne for making that happen. I was so touched, I had to hold back tears, so I could continue seeing clients.

My first client settled in for her session. We did some catching up, then I wanted to focus our purpose.

So dear, what exactly do you want today, what do you need?

Oh Karen, if only you were an ice cream truck, I would know exactly how to answer that question!  

Perfectly stated.

I am allergic to chocolate but ate 6 chocolate covered strawberries anyway. They were worth all the itching that will arrive any second.

I am in touch with my cousin, Bobby, whom I’ve not seen since childhood. He is giving me news and sending me pictures of his life in Florida. It’s vibrant and alive compared to gloomy June in Oregon. Writing to him has retrieved a sense of family I believed was extinct.

I bought presents for Caleb, my niece Ingrid’s new baby, painted the boxes purple and put gold stickers on them. I enjoyed having purple fingers and the mess of it all.  I worked outside with the sun warming my shoulders as flamenco music shouted from the door.

I watered this morning while the gardeners pulled up morning glory vines. I built a trellis for wax beans and pushed flimsy metal cages over cucumbers. My stunning pink rose bush is getting ready to bloom, but it’s all an exercise in non-attachment, because the deer will level my garden in their hunger and greed – and I’m going to let them.

The bees did not sting me as I made my way through fields of wild strawberries in bare feet.

The dirt-covered cat did not jump into my clients lap when she sat outside to admire the day.

The library did not close before I could leave an old book and grab a new one.

That’s a lot to feel good about for a Monday.

Bird Woman


When the mailman demanded I come outside to receive a package a short breath ago, I found an orange and black thrush on the ground. It was male by its markings and quite dead. I have many floor-to-ceiling windows that birds mistake for an entrance, bang up against and break their necks. I brought him inside for closer examination. What a stunning fellow he was. The name thrush fell short in holding the splendor of his design. His colors looked like a blazing orange sunset against a black sky; the markings on his wings and collar were intricate. He had grace in his countenance even in death, or maybe especially in death. What a gift to hold him in my hands. I will save him for my granddaughter’s afternoon visit, then we’ll walk down the hill together and bury him.

Last year, while walking the library paths, I saw a Canadian goose flaying in the middle of the pond. Other geese were gathered around making a great ruckus. I feared he was caught in fishing line, so I waded knee-deep in February water to see what I could do. No one else was around. The others flew away as I gathered him in my arms without a struggle. He was gasping for air and panicked. I sang to him and lay his head against my shoulder as I walked back along the paths to my car. I was driving him to the vet when I realized his spirit had gone. He was suddenly cold, heavy and without movement. I pulled the car to the side of the road and wept at being too late to help.

Part of me felt I had stolen property from the park and wondered if I should return him, but decided it would only cause bureaucratic confusion, so I drove him home. I had a marketing meeting scheduled, which I had no time to change for. I brought the bird inside and put him in a basket while we did our business. Anthony, my marketing guy, kept looking over at him the whole time. He was having a little trouble concentrating on business with this large dead Canadian goose staring at him for a full hour; the unexpected is part of doing business with Karen. I took his body down the hill and buried it as Anthony’s car pulled out of the drive.

I believe I was a bird in another life. Birds are my people, my tribe, my feathered friends. I stop to collect their bones and feathers whenever I see them.  Others comment on germs and lack of wisdom, but I will always reach for them, because I remember – and because their flight reminds me of the freedom I’ll have once again after I leave this body.


beach-windI have a place in my heart that will not heal. It grows but does not diminish. Coming to the ocean helps me empty it when it gets too full. The pain is an ache, a heart break, an intolerable hurt that makes me wish I could throw it up and out.

I am displaced, a person put down on the wrong planet, a snail pushed naked from its shell. The people here are nice; most are sweet and kind. We interact but my sense of belonging and sisterhood remains disengaged. Where is my tribe? Where are the others like me? Where can I plant my feet and feel my spirit returned to its home place?

I come to the ocean to heal, to breathe the air deep inside my lungs, to weep without apology, and be accepted by a vast watery expanse greater than my sorrow.

The man who owns the Oceanside Inn tells me that he is perfectly happy there. There is no place else on earth I would rather be. He means it. I know many people like him, people who are at one with the place they live, the people they interact with, the work that defines them.

I am a healer for the artists, the creative souls, the sensitive ones, the spiritual seekers. I know the landscape of their pain and the road they walk upon. I understand the loneliness of being different and set apart. I am the wise woman they seek to heal their hearts, because I don’t hold up societies mirror and tell them to be what they can never be. I show them the reflection of their gifts and greatness. I teach acceptance and celebration. I take them to the core so they know how to breathe into the sacredness of their lives. I support and love them as they become their dreams.

So – why can’t I do the same for myself? Why can’t I find my own path to freedom? What bridge will connect me to an experience of life that makes sense? When will I stand on land that I never want to leave? When will I look into the eyes of others and feel a sense of tribe?

Gib thinks I am elitist, but that is not true. This is not about class. It is about finding the lifestyle and energies around me so alien that I can not relate. He has no such problem. My husband is wired for this place. He slams up against life like a game of bumper cars, and is better for it. He rejects nothing, because it all makes sense to him, television, sports, taverns, community. He is in it all, racing up and down the highway every day, ready for the next adventure. Our relationship is one of opposites. I am the turtle and he is the train. I am exhausted by people, while he is recharged. There is a lovely tenderness between us that overrides this polarity, but it remains a challenge.

If only you didn’t feel every single thing, he tells me. If only you could censor or repress, like the rest of us. You don’t have the emotional walls we have to protect ourselves.

Maybe that is the definition of a psychic. Everything comes in. There is no shelter, there is no escape.

But I have not given up hope. I still believe if I keep traveling and searching that I may eventually find a place that resonates as home and a people I can call my tribe. If not, I look forward to returning to an unseen realm as expansive and vast as the ocean that cradles my spirit today.

A cool breeze lifts the papers in my notebook as I write, while an unexpected January sun lays against my forehead like a long lingering kiss. There is peace here, in this moment. I will take it with me; tuck it away like medicine for the secret broken place I carry in the truth-telling places of my heart.

Forest visit

sparrowFasting makes the veil between the worlds thin, so more is revealed. I am on my sixth day now, full of curiosity and readiness to see what is delivered. My morning has been beautiful. I slipped on my old grey sweater, pulled blue jeans under my dress and laced hiking boots. What a combination, very odd and very me. I am grateful to be able to walk along the hillside, pass into the woods and be swallowed deep inside her belly. She always feeds me and is gentle. I feast on a million shades of green and listen to the songs of the birds and the buzzing of a single black and orange bee. How grateful I am for this gift of time and communion. I could be stuck in a cubicle, in front of a computer, in traffic, in a bad marriage or in the bloody wars brought by the last administration. How fortunate indeed.

I walk the road until I come to the log that blocks my path, always a good place to rest or turn back. But today I notice a chainsaw has cut the base of it, preparing to move it elsewhere. Climbing over the top, I notice the entire lower trail has been cleared and widened into the road it was intended to be, even the basin impossibly dense with blackberry bushes has been cleared. Just a matter of time now before the owner claims his forest road and I am left without my sanctuary.

I move back over the log and retrace my steps to a small dirt clearing. With sun at my back, I am able to sit for an hour being quiet and letting the forest feed me. Fasting and age allows a stillness that is not available to the young. Their bodies demand so much of them. Run here, do that, keep going, climb higher. It takes a kind of skill to sink into the womb of the forest.

I look down at my leather boots and blue jeans, and at my dress and silk slip peeking out around my knees. I love the colors, fabrics and textures. I love the deep inner quiet I feel, and for a few rare moments, am truly happy to be the spirit housed in this body.

The Deer

The deer don’t come around anymore. I used to see them every night. They’d cross our downward stretch of driveway after poaching from my neighbors garden, or nibbling the pears and apples lining the hill. We’ve been adversaries, the deer and I, garden foes, and still I slow my car as I inch down our long winding drive, wanting them to feel safe.

The problem is, they’ve mistaken my raised beds for an all-you-can-eat salad bar. They’ve acquired a taste for spinach, beans, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries and even delicate pink roses. All quite satisifying, then washed down with a cool drink from the pond, like a fine vintage port. 

I move morning mediation to the garden in summer. The deer sense me and leave the space alone, but on days I don’t go down, I’ll glance from the window to see them stomping my vegetables –  as welcome as a workman’s muddy boots on a just mopped floor.  I went screaming from the house last August, as naked as noon, to spook them out of my carrots. Get out! Get Out!  I yelled waving a crimson cloth. The neighbor rushed out to see who had been murdered or was about to be.

 My office window faces birdfeeders, ferns and towering maples. It’s patrolled by Hannah, the neighbor’s lab, and is not the usual path for the deer. But one misty morning, I looked up from my writing to see a large gentle creature standing just beyond. Our eyes met. Everything else fell away. Our vision locked. We studied each other for a long time. In that moment, I had a realization of the abundance in my cupboards and refrigerator, and a glimpse of what it must mean to forage for dinner, searching, finding or doing without. By the time the deer walked on, I had surrendered my strawberry pots, wondering if perhaps they’d like whipping cream served on the side. 

That has all changed now. They’ve moved beyond our ten acre wood. It was evening – I’m sure of that, but the rest I hardly know, because the main road is away from our house, blocking noise, squealing tires and the sounds of shattering glass. A young deer lay dead in the morning, bloody and torn, already buzzing with flies. The highway department promised to come, but it was Sunday, and a holiday followed. The deer lay near the road full of decay and emptiness far too long. The rest of the herd knew. They felt it and distanced themselves. And so they are gone. No more deer in my driveway, leaping over the hill, or rummaging my garden – and you know what? I’ll be darned if I don’t miss them like crazy.

Blue Heron

Blue Heron flew black against a changing sky, large lumbering wings making shadows across the moon. Two of them, circling, moving higher and higher on currents of evening air. They spiraled together searching for the perfect bedtime perch.

I know these birds from my walk along the library paths. They stand close to the water’s edge, lifting off on short low flights to small islands or neighboring fields.

Flying looks difficult for them, as if lifting their great bodies away from earth takes extra-ordinary effort. I imagined they slept tucked away, camouflaged near a bush or blending into sprouts of spring cane,  necks folded down, great wings tucked by their sides.

I was late walking the paths today, much later then usual. Looking skyward at the beckoning moon surprised me with more than expected.  There they were, wings spread wide, graceful and searching, climbing in constant motion toward ponderosa pines. I stopped and smiled, overcome with gratitude in sharing the moment.

written 2-27-08

tree tops

 When I look into the tops of the trees I feel possibility, freedom and expanse. The space is open and without restriction. 

I am familiar with tree tops, sky and scope. My spirit, more bird than human. I look longingly at flight, angry that my feet are attached so heavily to earth. I try not to gaze too high or too long, because that is not my work. My work is to be acquainted with the tree’s roots and solid trunk. The gypsy in me does not understand roots, and the dancer in me does not understand immobility, but my lessons are there, at the base, in the earth, in being here and not above.

I took my daughter parasailing in Mexico. We rose into the sky, above the trees, mountains and ocean. I never felt so at home. My whole body said, YES! This is me soaring free like an eagle, while my daughter was terrified. We had a serious talk after that. Mom, this is it! All of my life I’ve followed you on your crazy adventures. Now I’m old enough to say, no more!

written 10-16-08