The Leap

lion on fireToday I’m thinking about that space in between. The space between what you have and what you want. I’m thinking about the effort and trust required to go from solid ground into thin air, with the belief that your leap will be met with footing that is not apparent until you step into nothingness.

The idea of nothingness lands heavy, like breath stuck in your chest, inviting fears that have been  neatly tucked away to reveal their shadowed face. A visit that leaves brief paralysis.

But that is not who you are and you know it, so you gather yourself, breathe, and call on the light. “Yes, you can do this,” it encourages. “You can be terrified, unsure and resistant, and still step away.”  And you can trust. Not from blind faith, but from something older and wiser that oversees such things, something that knows that the death of the old can be endured, and even celebrated given time.

But these fears  don’t go away with good thoughts and pretty words, because you are opening and vulnerable. In this place you deny, reach for food, entertainment, drugs or anything that will numb the knowledge of what you must do.

Your dreams encourage you to jump, painting radiant pictures of a future self, while a frightened part believes that it cannot, and will not rise to the task.   “Retreat,” it cries,  “into places where growth is not required.  No, no, not today please, maybe tomorrow.”

And so, night after night,  you go to bed with the dark privacy of your deepest fears, wishing things could magically change, or that someone else could save your life. But there is no one else.  When morning comes, you wake raw and exposed, knowing you can no longer live with the pain of staying still and small, because something inside has shifted, something you can no longer deny, numb or turn away.  And so you prepare, asking what must be taken and what must be left, but not with words, because the answer lives in the language of feelings and instinct.

You know that the only way out is through, but even as you prepare to leap, the dying self clings, screaming excuses in your ears. “Stay small, stay safe!” But your listening is all used up. So on that terrifying and celebrated day, you close your eyes, call on whatever forces may guide and protect you, and finally, both with and without courage, you step away from what was. And that very act, that willingness and broadness of heart, opens and delivers you.


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.


red-leafAs the last leaves fall, I find myself empty, as empty as a barren tree at twilight. Change is in the air. I’ve been taken down to lath and bone. No layering on top of what was. This is a removal, a time of letting go, a stripping away to allow the new. There is little fear, just an observant eye noticing the process. I see one hand wanting to hold the past because some part of me believes that’s all there is. But another, wiser part, stands back to attend. You’re being stripped bare, she tells me. You’ll move forward in a different form after hibernation and adjustment. It’s just another cycle of life being life, so open your hands, Let it fall and wait. You will receive. This is just life being life.

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?


Falling apart under the trees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

written 9-23-05

The talk

The peaches in my neighbors orchard were not good this year, another fall-out of an avoidant summer. I missed picking them and putting them up. I missed seeing their golden beauty radiate from my shelves. My mason jars stand empty and rimmed with dust. I didn’t plant a garden this year. Our beds don’t get enough sun, the soil is better suited for brick making, the deer eat my efforts and well, I just wasn’t into it.

I did pick apples and pears along the driveway with Isabella. She liked carrying my new basket and wearing the tall black boots I bought her for horseback riding. She made up stories as we walked, giving us names and histories other than our own.

We had a serious moment down by the raspberries when she talked about the hard parts of her nine year old life. I am glad she trusts me with that. She asked me if I was wealthy, so I carefully explained the difference between being rich and being generous. Never use money as the measure of wealth, I told her. She wants me to buy her a farm and a horse, one she can care for and love. I wish I could please her in that way.

I told her I was sad at leaving my homelands in New York. I even spoke out loud about buying a cottage on the lake and moving back.

“If you do that Ma, I guess I would not stop crying for a really long time. Maybe days, or months or maybe forever.” 

And so I put that idea in the far corner of my interior shelf. No need to entertain moving when it’s balanced against the heartbreak of a child.

So many strings when we get older, so many roots. Gib says that carrots and potatoes are like eating dirt. He means it as a compliment. I baked a blueberry crisp last night with the last of the fresh berries. The season is turning. Change is in the air. I can smell it and feel it, but for now my feet are firmly planted right where I stand.

Are you coming?

We weren’t supposed to be there. The house was condemned but I could not resist. My best friend, Roberta lived in that house. We snuggled together in her bed, played on the floor near french doors and stood at the double sink resenting each dish her mother told us to wash. The place was a palatial estate in a depressed Appalachian way. It sat up high on acres of land next to an equally large barn supported by thin layers of slate. The land was bordered by rutted fields and deep woods. I told my husband I wanted to visit but it was more a dare than expectation. I was surprised when he pulled our rental car up the dirt driveway and opened my door.

I stepped out into tall wet grass feeling brave and criminal. There was no evidence of a path as we moved through weeds growing in tangles around our knees. We climbed rotting stairs near plywood covered windows, listening to sounds of the wind fluttering autumn leaves near the large yellow poster that hung on the door. Stay Out, No Trespassing, Violators will be prosecuted ~ the usual threats. The house was weather-beaten grey and pulled me so powerfully into the past that I expected to see myself there. The door hung crooked on rusted hinges and would not close. My husband was immediately uncomfortable and wanted to leave, but I was entranced. If anyone comes, I told him, wedging myself through the door, I will simply explain that I was Roberta’s friend, and they will give me news of her. Of course, I had not seen or heard from her in 50 years, but in such a small town someone would know.

Inside we found hundreds of boxes covering the floors in various stages of decay, looking as if someone had prepared to move, thought better of it, and simply walked away. The frame of the double sink pulled my attention to the kitchen. I remembered cleaning eggs from blue metal dishes speckled with white, and eating bowls piled high with sweet frozen cream from the ice box. The double sinks stood alone and erect in an otherwise gutted room. I continued to walk into what used to be the parlor, where I found the piano we once gathered around to sing. I walked over more rotting boxes and pressed against keys that resisted touch. The tone that whispered back was distant and sleeping, as if it were trying to remember its voice after a half century of silence. A sadness filled me at its loss. It stood in its splendid German casing holding firm to its place in the corner.

The french doors opened between the living room and the parlor, each rectangular glass still whole and intact, except for one near the floor which was completely missing. I remembered that cracked pane because I played next to it as a child, watching sunlight dance in its disfigured face. Those days stretched and grew into endless hours. Now all that remained was covered in dirt, with musty smells clouding water stained walls.

How amazing, I thought, to visit a house from my childhood. How astounding to find it standing with many of its contents unmoved, while real estate in my world was unaffordable and scarce.  This would have been torn down decades ago in the west, with dozens of houses erected on the land. My life in Oregon seemed a dream away. Here I expected to see Roberta’s father dressed in dark trousers and boots, and hear the sound of his ax striking logs for the fire, as he piled his arms high, the smell of fresh cut birch in his path.

On the other side of the archway stood the family’s china cabinet, the wooden doors askew, the drawers toppled and crooked, the wood still rich with studied craftsmanship and quality, like a war-torn ship that washed ashore from another century.

My husband followed in my footsteps eager to bolt. Let’s go Karen, he pleaded. There’s nothing here but decay and junk. Let’s leave. But I could not pull myself away. I was following a thread from my youth like a determined detective.

Yes, dear, go, I answered. I’ll be right behind you. But I lied because I could not stop. As he turned to leave, I pulled a fallen door from my path and climbed up uncertain stairs until I had a view of the second floor. My eyes drifted across the room, and up to a glimpse of pale sky. The structure was all brick and lath, exposed beams and foundation lumbers. No boxes up here, just decades of neglect and a past taken down to the bones. I recognized the hallway and could see into the empty spaces that use to house beds, handsewn quilts, wash basins, and chamber pots. For a moment I saw the girl I used to be in her flannel pajamas, bare feet and dirty face, her blonde hair springing free from the tight french braids her mother labored over each morning.

Are you coming?  my husband asked again. Where are you Karen? This is so unsafe. Don’t go up there.  And so I listened, turned and left, thinking as I walked away, that the house was forever changed and at the same time unchanged, just like myself.

written September 30, 2008