You have no idea how many times I’ve sat at this keyboard with the idea of writing a post, but nothing comes.  I start paragraph after paragraph, but it’s disconnected and dull, putting even me to sleep. Where did my writer go? 

I wanted to write about the new rooster that appeared outside my kitchen window today. I named him Big Red and really like him, but so what?  

I could write about the joy grandchildren bring in allowing us to revert to childhood as we take them sledding, roller skating and swimming. Yeah, okay. Yawn.

What about Poekoelan, Isabella’s martial art? I love watching her train, moving her body as tiger, crane, snake and monkey, her sweet willowy figure learning to take an attacker down, kick and eye gouge. The studio on Hawthorne Street is world class and is masterfully teaching Portland’s children to protect and defend themselves. There are 11 year olds walking the streets who are registered as lethal weapons. How I would have loved that. “Hello, this is my daughter Karen. She’s a lethal weapon.” Wish I’d known how to kick butt as a kid.

We’re leaving for Mexico February third for a mother, daughter, granddaughter trip, sleeping in cabanas on the beach in Zihuatanejo. That could be fun, as long as I don’t eat  the food, drink the water or breathe the air. I did notice mosquito nets around our beds and don’t imagine they were draped inside to look romantic. But I can’t write about that yet, it hasn’t happened.

The chicken soup on the stove is nearly done and it tastes a lot like my efforts to write lately. Not so good. A suite for solo cello fills the living room. It’s in D major, by Bach. That transcends all things stuck. I guess I’ll just listen to it and forget about writing until I actually have something to say. Sorry folks.



I want to thank those of you who take time to comment on my posts, because I sit most days, and wonder why I do it. At first it was a marketing idea. I had a new website. The strategy presented by my marketing guy was that I’d write a blog, lots of folks would read it and my presence would pour into the universe bringing new clients, while enriching their lives and mine. That never happened. I don’t think I’ve gotten a single client from my blog and it certainly did not bring the viral fame and fortune promised as it tweaked and twittered and facebooked its way into life. Funny, really.

Last year, the blog owned me. I went through each day searching for content and felt terrible when I came up with nothing. This year I have a more relaxed view, because you all obviously missed the memo about making me rich and famous. Now I’m over the moon if someone leaves a comment that says they actually read the damned thing. (Today I had 3 comments, an all-time high.) Thank you, thank you!

I was afraid of comments when I first started to blog, thinking the grammar geeks would leap forward, swiftly draw pens from their pocket protectors and reprimand me for poor grammar or word usage. That didn’t happen either. 

My most popular post was called, My Grandmother’s Hair, a piece describing a visit to my grandmother near the end of her life. That piece got lots of email comments, not blog comments, but emails. Grown men told me it made them cry and my friend, Pat in New York said she put the piece in her family bible for her children to inherit. Now that’s pretty special.  

When I wrote my book, Wolf Medicine, I wondered again at the effort and reward ratio. I spent several years birthing that book, and the financial return is usually enough to buy myself a cup of tea, or on a good month, an almond croissant and a cup of tea. When Big Bear, the man on the cover of the book, died last year, I attended his funeral. It was held on the top of a wind-swept mountain near Mill City. I was making my way to the gravesite when a woman I had never met approached, asked if I was Karen Banfield, then threw her arms around me weeping.  “I can never thank you enough for writing that book,” she said.  “Now he will always be with us.” At that moment, with her tears wet against my cheek, all the work, hair-pulling frustrations and lack of profit made it completely worthwhile. 

It’s dark in Oregon now and nasty, wet and uninviting. Four o’clock in the afternoon feels like the end of the day. I close my door and don’t want to venture out. I’m tucked in a hillside house with a warm cup of tea and a blanket. And I want to write to you. And you know what?  I love it when you write to me too.

Hidden Lake Retreat


rubber duck

Today is one of those lazy recovery days. My mind is ready to be productive but my body does not agree. I water the garden, walk up the hill and answer emails, as my brain sends waves of images over my activity like a blanket, images of rest and bed and closing my eyes, until all I can do is relent.  I’m worn out from having too much pleasure, is that possible?

I spent Saturday at Hidden Lake for our Salmon Street writing retreat, an artistic estate made wholly ours without interruption.  The writing was sweet as ever and the women old and trusted friends, but it is the memory of the food that lingers, oh the food. Hidden Lake is near Estacada and hosted by Judith and Lauri, whose intentions and cuisine can only be described as divinely inspired.

Dessert last night was homemade ice cream from mint grown in the serenity of their rural forest. It was topped with a warm chocolate sauce flavored to perfection. That followed our main course of local salmon, garden corn, green beans, vibrant hues of salad, warm olive bread and a small vat of honey still dripping from the hive. We ate outside like Goddesses, soaking the beauty of the place fully into our senses. After the meal, women slipped without suits into cool fresh water, while others read, napped or paddled the kayak past cattails and the constant buzz and weave of hummingbirds. 

As the day yawned to an end we came inside to share writing we had fashioned elsewhere. We stretched out in chairs, and on the plush patterned carpet, placing pillows under our heads like children eager for bedtime stories. The tales were fresh, full of surprise, enchantment and intimacy, each woman offering a piece of her heart and imagination, speaking it out gently and bravely like the gift that it was. Candles flickered as the night grew long, cats pushed against the screen door, and a gentle dust of sleep moved across our skin.

 I left at eleven, wanting to spend the night at home, while others slept outside on covered porches, upstairs in sheets of white cotton, or perched on the hill in small individual tents. Our time together filled us up and sent us home with new words, grateful bellies and more memories to support our mutual love of the craft, and the magic we each gleaned from transporting our inner world into word, form and offering.


hammock by water

Arid is not a word I use much in writing. That word belongs to places like San Diego, Texas and Arizona. My expressions are full of words that drip and hold moisture. Just the mention of Oregon has people looking for umbrellas, rain boots and fleece jackets. But not today.

Today children play in the fountains – air conditioners are turned up. The highway is full of trailered boats and the vacation minded. I love it! The sun hits the hammock every morning between 10 and 10.30, so I stop whatever I am doing, strip down and soak warmth into my bones. My face has turned a chocolate brown making my white hair and blue eyes pronounced. I feel healthy again and whole. I greet and celebrate the sun as fully as my neighbor repels it by pulling her shades and planting hawthorne trees.

I’ve gone rafting on the Sandy River every summer for the past 36 years, but this year, I wonder if I’ll make it. I have no visiting granddaughters to entertain, no husband to float with and friends with occupied schedules. I’ll travel out of state during prime rafting weeks and have promised John – my marketing guy – that I will hold up my end when I return.

This summer feels different, quiet and withdrawn, a time for regeneration and slowing down to regroup. My need for introspection asks for patience.

Late afternoon light streams through the front window in amber shafts, spilling over my writing pad. I’m held in an almost perfect moment. Preludes enhance the mood like black stones in a Zen garden. A single grace note on a piano keyboard dancing near the ceiling is sweet beyond words, sweet beyond imagining.

Writing is my salvation and faith. I feel relief as words spill out of me and land safely on the page, ready to take a life of their own. I dress them up like children who are going off into the world without me. I give them my best efforts so they will journey well. These words are not scholarly, information driven, political or unique. It is my heart that speaks. I write letters to undiscovered friends, sending them off like paper boats on a river, saying hello to people I have yet to meet.

Writing Memoir

Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

writingThis is what happens each time I sit to write. I ask myself to look at life straight, without skipping over the shadow places, or pretending I don’t hear what I hear, or see what I see.

I ask my courage to dive deep into dark waters with eyes wide open when my tendency is to turn away, protect or avoid. Warning lights flash in my belly. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe. I tell myself it’s not too late to turn back. But I go there, because if I am successful, I won’t have to live above the swamp. I can drain it, release the power of the underworld and add sunshine.

To look again at what was, is to open my memory to sights and sounds and smells I have masterfully put aside. My mind tells me to cut off the past like a dead limb, because there is simply no point, no useful purpose. Look ahead, it tells me. Plan the future. My mind tries to be nice to me, to do me a favor and keep me out of trouble. I appreciate it, but I can’t move forward as long as there is unfinished business.

I pride myself on having created, against all odds, a body of water that is clear and calm. Why would I stir it up with memories of the past? Not just stir it up, but keep my eyes wide open. My mind directs me to sunny beaches in Mexico, while my emotions direct me to the business of truth telling.

I reach for Hershey’s kisses. Little pieces of chocolate wrapped in shiny golden paper with an almond hidden within. I’m allergic to chocolate, but the almond eases the guilt. If I listen to the language of the heart, it’s telling me that I need some kisses, whether or not I can digest them, and not only do I need them, I need them now. Not after the next paragraph. Kisses can’t wait.

Writing memoir brings up issues of privacy and loyalty. Do I want others to know my history? Will I lose power or gain it by revealing myself?  The past is not the present. Is it fair to portray what was frozen in my personal archives? Surely, everyone experienced our time together differently. Each person is a country in and of themselves. Is it fair in revealing my memories to expose, accurately or inaccurately, the personal landscape of others? Will I be seen as an alien invader? Most certainly, I will. I intend to see with honest eyes, but whose version of the truth is revealed? I commit to write, and ask for forgiveness if my version of the truth offends those living or those already in the spirit world.  Sometimes I hesitate to recall memories for fear it would pull on the spirit of another in a negative way, when what is called for is forgiveness. All these things are considered and felt when we open the door to deep diving.


arc-de-triomphe-moonWhen I noticed the light what I saw was promise, candles lined up dancing and flickering. Nest again, they advised. Remove yourself from the go-too-fast, be-too-busy place and center.

We perch in this place, in this hovering above the world place to gain perspective and a way of knowing ourselves and one another. Life feels raw without it. My days have a razors edge where gentleness should be. Why is that? Too much work and not enough community, too much staying up late and pushing to create a way out of a box I have built to live in.

I need change, a big one. My life needs a new foundation, new wiring.

There is a revolution happening in my heart and it throws me off balance, as any overthrow of the existing regime must.

I don’t always know how to be with this kind of change. I breathe and center, and do what is inside me to be done one day at a time. Today it is my place to come home to the candlelight and my community of sisters, who discover themselves by moving pens across paper. It’s been two months since we’ve gathered, and I have missed it.


paint-swirlMany people envision their ideal writing room as the retreat house I live in.  It is removed from the distractions of the city, looks into a forest of trees through a wall of windows, and is so still I can match the beat of my heart with the ticking clock. There is an abundance of light to balance winter’s grey and every piece of furniture pleases and comforts me. This has been my nest for four years now, a space that healed me when I fragmented. I saw too many clients in the city and had no resting place. I was the surgeon of the heart who dug deep into hemorrhaging spirits and torn dreams. I removed abscesses and lanced tumors. The colors of my days were drop-dead blood-tired red. The flood of clients that moved through my office door has been reduced to a select few who come by word of mouth and are willing to travel to the country.

 It was a day in March, two years ago, when I pulled a chair to the edge of the bed, propped up my feet and talked with my husband about imagining a different future. Maybe a film, I said. Perhaps I can share my work that way. I called friends who are filmmakers and had long discussions. In the end, we decided against film because there would be too many people involved and too much money out.  We found audio accessable, affordable and easy. And so we began in a friend’s sound studio, which sits at the top of 300 acres of pristine land on Ross Mountain. My conversation with Dennis, the owner was endearing. Yes, Karen, come! Ross mountain will give you its magic and you will leave yours in return, a perfect trade. 

We birthed three hours of material from months of editing and discovery. We’d found a new direction, and it grew. We hired website ladies who gave us the idea of a blog, making podcasts and breathing life into an old manuscript which was gathering dust in the closet.

This space has housed that kind of birthing, as well as the stagnant times when I question my life and abilities, cry at my altar and wish to be released from something that restricts my heart, something long lasting that defines my existence, but can not be named. 

My work here is almost over. I feel a stirring to move on – a hunger to rejoin humanity. The gypsy in me is packing her bags. Next I want to write in a house with other people where we can visit, lunch and inspire one another to be more. I am ready to reach again into theater and community.

Soon, this space will hold my leaving and a greater leaving still. The where of that destination I don’t yet know, but I imagine a villa, bicycles and the Mediterranean sea. I will spend half my time in Portland and half my time in sun. I envision a warm place where I can put pen to paper and hear my written voice.


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.

Good Medicine

Isabella spent the night in my bed, and I spent the night removing her foot from my neck. It was not restful. I forget what windmills those little ones can be.

We were pretending I was her taxi driver on the way home. She was a famous singer who just flew in from Beverly Hills.  I asked why she liked her work and she said, because I make enough money to help half the world. There is no more homelessness now, or poverty.  I asked her about the other half of the world. She said, I’ll get to them next year. 

crazy-soxI became Ma again when we reached the house. The girl had as much luggage as a Beverly Hills rock star, which we schlepped in together. Once inside, she laced up her roller skates and was off, making great circles on the hardwood floor. I shoved the plant in the corner, took up the rugs and watched her fly by.

Join me, she shouted!

It had never occurred to me to roller skate around my house.

Why not? I could use a new experience. I slipped on my skates and tried to keep up. We circled the couch, went in and out of the kitchen, entryway and bathroom, swirling round and round in dizzy circles. Eventually we changed locations and skated in the art barn. She wore me out there too. After an hour, I was sweaty, out of breath and stripped down to my underwear.

When the skates were put away, she moved to the computer, eager to let her imagination flow into a story. In a misguided effort to help, I began to suggest changes and restructuring. I wanted to shape and censor, so her writing would fit my idea of how a story should be. I was appalled when I realized my trespass. Her ability to see outside the box is the very heart of creativity and magic. And there I was standing over her shoulder, reining her in, telling her to walk like the rest of us, while she still has wings to fly. Thankfully, I saw my mistake in time, apologized and moved out of the way.

Isabella is good for me, better than a vacation in the tropics. When I step into her world, I am young again, free and treat myself to experiences I would not otherwise have. She is closer to all that is divine, because she just left that realm, being only nine years in this one. She will become conditioned soon enough, and I hope I am not part of it.

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.

The Choosing


We’re traveling to Los Angeles next week in a new car. A car we have not yet found or bought. The pressure is on. This car is for me, a gift from my husband, but I’m having trouble choosing it, because I’m in an identity crisis.

The therapist in me is stepping back. The seer is closing her eyes. The healer is storing her remedies on the back shelves in the pantry. People still walk though my door. I extend my hand, my heart and my spirit, but I can feel this identity slipping away. She is halfway through the door marked leaving. I can still see her face, the strength in her shoulders and the courage in her stance, but soon, very soon, she will be a shadow. The door will close and she’ll live only in memory. Those were good years, rewarding, exhausting, and sleepless. Open arms defined me, bountiful and willing.

What a difficult time to choose a car, because a car is a reflection of Self. It’s meant to hold me as I move too fast through time and space, arriving at unknown destinations again and again.

My passion has turned to writing. My expression craves storytelling and connection. This is not the performance art of the past, where I stood costumed and elevated to be witnessed and heard. No. This is a private deep excavation of self and soul which leads, encounters, uncovers and continues. This new self does not want to transform pain by receiving, holding and mothering. No. She wants to sit in her nightgown with a cup of steaming tea, wrap her hands around the rim, and watch soothing vapors rise in scents of chamomile or ginger. She wants to cozy up, put her arm around you and say, Let me tell you a story. Let me help you laugh, let me give you perspective. Come away with me, escape. Come back when you are centered, restored and renewed. Courage lies in listening.

That’s the self that’s rising from the core. She is easy and old, with nothing to prove. There is no expectation, just allowing and being. She wants to go in and in, until she finds that precious and revealing wave of truth, then ride it like a wild-haired senior surfer.

So, help me out here. What kind of car does she drive?

Yellow Bowl

 I am open, waiting and wanting like the large yellow bowl on the table.  I feel no power to create today. I have no statement to make or wise words to express. Instead I feel empty, my insides raw and my mind full of thoughts I struggle to bring together. Exile, dysfunction, discontent, home, conflict, away, understanding, strength and self-respect. Those words were stirred from my visit home. They swim through my veins looking for lodging but find nothing more than fragments, feelings and migration toward an unknown conclusion.

I am solid like the bowl. It’s color is bright like the sun, the color of the intellect. Perhaps I can think of my mental bowl as a crown, receiving and well-earned. I learned some family history when I went home. I learned that my fathers, fathers, father had been expelled from England for trespassing. He was hunting the kings deer. Criminals, hunters, survivors, travelers, adventurers, people pushed to live on foreign soil. More words to mull about in my yellow crowned bowl.

written 10-1-08

Life Sentence

My writing voice comes from the past. It’s like a fine-tooth comb moving through and around experiences that are otherwise forgotten.

My writing voice remembers the steel clank of heavily guarded prison doors, where I emptied pockets, answered questions, signed papers and allowed myself to be searched by people who had forgotten how to smile.

I was in a high security prison for my friend’s wedding, a slight bird-like woman named Linda who popped into my life when I was alone, exhausted and struggling. Linda thought of herself as a black woman, even though she was the tiniest little white thing you ever saw. I first met her when I was opening a storefront in Seattle, ripping out interior walls and refinishing floors. My overalls and tee-shirt were dripping dust, as I walked outside to rest on the sidewalk.

 “What’s going on here? What’s this going to be?” I looked up at a delicate woman with dark corkscrew curls cascading around her head. Her jewelry glittered against morning sun, as she stood with one hand on the hip of her thin summer dress. Her high heeled shoes clicking in rhythms all their own.

“What it is, is a disaster,” I replied, feeling more then a little defeated, “but what it’s going to be is, The Mount Baker Psychic Center.” I pointed to the wreckage of lumber and sawdust heaped inside.

“Are you doing this all alone?”


“Not anymore, you’re not. I love psychic stuff.  I have to work today, but I’ll come by later and help you.”

I expected never to see her again, but at six o’clock she knocked on my door, all smiles and bounce.

“Here I am, let’s get to work!”

Moments like that are not quickly forgotten. 

Linda had been living with Dave, a once famous jazz musician who landed in prison after becoming addicted to heroin. He robbed stores to support his habit, ending a brilliant musical career.  After two years of visiting Dave in prison, Linda accepted his proposal of marriage.

Linda asked me to be her maid of honor.

Dave asked me to do readings for the inmates.

I said yes to both.

Door after door opened, as the last slammed closed behind us.

Finally we were delivered to a large room where the ceremony would take place.

The guards were at bay.

The service was sweet and sincere. Linda married in a pink satin dress holding a trailing bed of miniature roses. Dave and his best man were dressed in black suits, high gloss shoes and crisp white shirts. After champagne and cake, I set up a table while Linda and Dave went off to a trailer. “You will do readings, won’t you, Karen?” Dave asked. “The brothers are really excited about it.” 

The men lined up, smiling and ready. They were mostly black, large, masculine and sincere. Their questions were no different than questions asked on the outside. They sought information about loved ones, wives, children and parents. They needed hope for the future and to have someone witness their goodness. They wanted to be listened to, shown respect, given comfort and guidance. I thought I would be afraid of them but I was not. Instead, I felt gentle and compassionate.

The tempers ready to detonate had not come from the inmates, as expected, but from the guards. Their behavior was dominant, controlling and abrasive. Repressed anger radiated from closed hearts. Those were the men I didn’t want to meet on a dark street, not the prisoners. The prisoners had committed crimes, but the guards were living day after day of malignant rage which was destroying their humanity ~  a whole different kind of life sentence.

My writing voice is also my healing voice. I offered it then, and I offer it now in the hope of making connection.

written 5-28-08


I sit in a circle of women, each one different, varied and rich like the spices that line the shelves near my stove. We are a variation on the theme of writing, creativity, seeking and womanhood. Being here I slow down to notice my breath and my place in the circle.

 Yesterday I stood at the ocean on a quiet deck overlooking an undecided day. I held pieces of bread in each hand, my arms outstretched like a scarecrow. In seconds the airborne flapping of wings blanketed my body, flying, darting, and diving. Birds less brave sat along the railing, or the crest of a nearby roof hoping for a scattering of crumbs.

I love being surrounded by birds. I love their freedom and beauty, all swirling in crisp ocean currents. The gulls are the sea bound relatives of their British cousins in Trafalgar Square, the bridge between Charing Cross road and Portland Place. 

I love being surrounded by these women as well. Fellow travelers on the inner road to the soul. Women who make a path one word at a time, our destination both known and unknown, an active journey of discovery and revealing. The pen delivers surprises, the information from head and heart landing like treasures on the pristine landscape of the page. A light turning on in rooms forgotten.  We do not fully know what we know without putting pen to paper. 

I sit in a circle of women.

I stand in a great flock of churning seagulls

and I stand in myself.

Each moment a gemstone in my private collection.

written 3-7-08

The Writing Group

I am liking myself more these days.

I am buying new clothes and wearing brighter colors.

My eyes are softer and hold more tenderness when I look in the mirror. I believe it is because I’ve been stripped down like the walls in Gail’s kitchen, taken back to lath, beam and purpose.

I know this birth is a result of being in this group. This is the only place in memory where I have felt free to express all of me. I am held here. I have a blanket to wrap around me in your warmth, acceptance, love and language.

I did not expect a birth. I never came expecting such holding, but it was given none the less; the perfect place at the perfect time. I bow humbly and thank you from the remodeled walls of my heart.

written April 16, 2008

The Well

 In this group of writers I will be like a bucket dropped deep in a well.

The rope that holds the bucket is securely anchored so my plunge will be safe

and protected. The well is made of carefully placed stones forming a circle,

their collective a powerful expression a single stone could not equal.

It is often dark and unknown when I leave the familiar but I have learned to trust and descend where ever the pen allows. The bounty I find and retrieve nourishes me.

I offer it to each person, and they give in return.

I did not plan to come back this time. My body is tired and the drive is too far, but my heart pulled me off my resolve and delivered me straight to the well.

written October 1, 2008

Opening act


lavenderI have time and space to write today, but nothing bubbles to the surface. I want to write. I close my eyes and search the calm inner space of my mind for a glimmer of an idea, an image or focus that will catch my attention and excite me, much like watching a trout rise from the water. I want the literary sound of the reel, the sudden release of line, and the contest that ensues. I wait for the part where I hold my breath in anticipation, wondering what lurks around the corner. I want to step out of time, because I am so entranced by the tale unfolding that I forget to eat, don’t notice the ache in my fingers, and resent sleep for taking me away from the excitement of creation.

That is what I wait for, but that is not what comes. After years of struggle I have finally accepted that all things have a season, and that pushing my will against the flow of life does no good. Fall is my season for writing. Cozy fires, pies baking in the oven and gentle consistent rains create a yearning to reach inside, to journey into unknown realms, to define my intention, and get blissfully lost in the process of discovery. Words and ideas tumble freely from other realms as I nest in my house. I become a willing scribe and witness.

But today it is not fall or even winter. It is spring in all its radiant glory. Large Japanese peonies reach eagerly for the sun, thread-like green tentacles wrap around bamboo as snow-peas burst into life, and spinach leaves dance large and open against black soil. Spikes of swiss chard reach skyward in shades of red, joined by corn stalks, sweet peas and cucumbers. It is nature’s opening act. The dark curtains of winter have dramatically drawn back. I stand awe-struck and humbled as I watch life reach into the light and become whole. It is a miraculous birthing that commands complete attention.

In honor of this change of season, morning meditations have moved from our candle lit parlor to a blanketed lawn chair in the garden. The birdbath lays quiet, fresh and wet near my elbow, as I breathe the scent of cedar trees. I dutifully close my eyes and fall into my breath as it enters and leaves my body, allowing moments without boundaries. The wind in the trees, high-pitched birdcalls, and the splashing of wild ducks in the pond become part of my hearing and part of each breath. They become part of me. The touch of sun on my face, part of my skin.

There is no pushing or pulling in this place. There is no striving. This is a place of allowing and being. It is a place of peace and rest. It teaches me about who I am and who I am not.

There is a black cat, I have befriended; a feral cat that did not allow touch and could not trust. I have named her Depa. She watched me for a month of mornings, then leapt into my lap, circled, clawed and rubbed her wet nose against my hand. She too has found a home in this quiet space. She joins me daily now, welcome and expected.

When this ritual is complete, I open my eyes and stare into the gathering of trees that hold my garden terrace like a strong loving hand. They are ancient and varied, a community of elders. I look forward to spending time in their company, and imagine their gaze on me as I arrange borders of blue-grey river rocks, inspect new sprouts of lettuce, tuck compost around roses, and pour white vinegar on encroaching Morning Glories. I shovel paths that lead to quiet nooks of solitude, rest on transported tree stumps, and fasten chicken wire over fresh soil to discourage Depa from using our garden as her litter box.

No, this is not a time to hide away in the house fumbling with the keys and frustration of a computer. I am midwife and steward to the garden. It is time to celebrate and tend the journey each seed will make as it reaches, stretches and unfolds into an abundant harvest. I would not miss it for the world.

written 5-5-06