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.


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.


swing-in-winterWind howled through the breezeway last night, pelting cedar boughs against the windows of the house, waking me from a sound sleep. The snow started the night before, a few flakes at first in a dull afternoon sky, and then wind-driven eddies around the edges of the house. I watched sharp gusts of snow billow, then swirl and drift to the ground. The naked branches of the trees turned white. The forest beyond, covered with soft white caps as it quietly fell into a darkened night.

Portland does not get many snowstorms, but when she does, they are forecast with a sense of awe and drama one would reserve for the second coming of Christ, or the end of the world. The forecasters call them, ‘storm events,’ as if weather needed to be labeled and made bigger than itself. Our east coast and Canadian friends would laugh at this storm in its meager accumulation, but the ice that melts and freezes underneath makes it dangerous and noteworthy.

On a personal level, it marks days of retreat, since our driveway is steep, long and formidable. We read, work on the computer, and gaze from the window. A large island of ice has formed on the pond below. Ducks swim to the ice, stop abruptly, and change direction, seemingly confused by their new confinement. They test the boundary one at a time, and in groups. A few push on top of the ice, stand on one leg and preen, while the geese stay on the bank, search a wind-exposed patch of grass and watch the ducks from a distance. They waddle, honk and survey, as the ducks lift off in unison darkening the sky in great noisy bursts of life.

I mother my husband, Gib, in winter, because he has no understanding of weather. While I was making ice sculptures in Vermont, skiing on Burke Mountain, and thawing the pump to bring water to horses in upstate, New York, he was playing baseball and driving sports cars in Southern California, his wardrobe nothing but sandals, bermuda shorts and tee-shirts. His childhood was spent in sun, so weather is a delight for him, the more severe the better.

The first time we drove to the mountains I put ski pants, flannels, gloves and boots near his suitcase. When we arrived, he had none of them. Where are your winter clothes? I asked in disbelief. He stood before me in a spring jacket, loafers and blue jeans. Oh, those things? I didn’t think I’d need them.  The man will go out in a blizzard with no thought to hat or gloves. The cashmere scarf I bought last year gathers dust in his closet. Last winter he had frostbite and pneumonia, but makes no connection between under-dressing and illness. I have become a militant wife in self-defense, because I’d rather be that, than nurse his enduring respiratory aliments. No matter, Gib loves weather, while I sit with a cup of steaming tea, having fantasies of swimsuits and warm exotic places. I get emails from friends who winter in Hawaii and the Caribbean, and try not to hate them when they send images of suntanned faces holding fruity cocktails near the sea.

The sun is fading now. Another short December day. The radio says a new storm should arrive by Thursday. Gib will be delighted as he bursts through the door with his Rudolph nose and ears to match, his hair swept straight up by savage wind. I’ll put hot soup on the stove and a crisp in the oven, then put a movie in the player like a needle in my arm, in the hope of numbing myself until the welcome herald of spring.

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.

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

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.


The hammock is the surest sign of summer I know. The purple, green, red, blue and orange of the Mexican hammock carries stories and memories. It waits and invites. The hammock says stop, rest, read, swing, gaze up into the branches of a tree.  See the boughs. Study the light and shadow that breathe between leaves. Watch them sway against spaces of sky. Time in a hammock allows me to know tree and sky the way Georgia O’Keefe painted them.

There is something wonderful about two women in a hammock, bodies touching, looking at each other from opposite ends of an airborne canoe, sharing secrets while resting against ankles and folded legs. It reminds me of being kids at a sleep-over. The sheer closeness removes formality and barriers. The feeling is revealing and immediate.

Last month I held my marketing meeting with Anthony in the hammock. He didn’t want to leave when it was over. He called his wife, You’ll never believe where I am… in a hammock looking into the forest… Yes, we did work. I love this, I’m going to stay awhile.  I brought him beer while he rocked and soaked in the good juju of the woods. Gib and I perched on a near-by bank enjoying his unexpected pleasure.

In our old house I tied Isabella inside the hammock. I took a rope and wove the net securely closed. We rocked slowly at first, then escalated to broad bold strokes of excitement, until finally she spun in screaming circles upside down, round and round, all the while yelling, “Stop. No!  Faster ~  more. Oh no, no, stop. No ma, don’t stop. I want more.”

I have some friends who talk too much to please me. They move fast and keep busy schedules. They enter the hammock with reluctance, but talk about our visit for months to come.

The hammock is essential. It is as important as floating down a churning river or dancing naked under an August moon.  Summer brings me alive. I find delight where depression used to live, and know who and what I am more fully. I don’t crave the harsh desert light. I don’t want to be baked red in the face. I just want the absence of grey. I want the water to live only in the rivers. I want to be invited outside to play and feel freedom and joy running through my veins, reminding me that I am young at any age.

written 7-2-08