To walk in beauty


I have never felt better in my entire life. Dare I say that? Something inside fears I may challenge a contrary part of the universe with such boldness, but there it is. My life is better than I ever imagined.

Each morning I sit in my backyard, as receptive to the sun as an Ojai orange, letting gentle morning light kiss every cell of my body,  ushering me into sublime states. I’ve been listening to Wayne Dyer demonstrate the power of sound, so I incorporate it into meditation with phases like, the universe dwells in me, as me. I place all limitation in the museum of old beliefs. And, the universe has unobstructed flow through me. I do not limit my abundance.

(I’ve never been comfortable with the Christian idea of God, so I use the word universe instead.)

After that I take a long hot soak in my outside bathtub surrounded by trailing petunias, nasturtiums and purple hyacinths. The roof opens into the bluest sky one can imagine – every single day – dotted only by the arrival of scrub jays dipping in and out of a bath of their own. A gift of wind chimes from my sister accentuates the silence, reminding me of our history, bond and love.

Blended strawberries, beets, ginger and yogurt propel me out the door and through the wooded bike path to the Athletic club, where I get to swim, stretch or do yoga with some of the finest instructors in the world. One could not imagine a more ideal setting. And when that’s finished, I pedal back home ready to meet whatever the afternoon might hold, with an open heart and grateful spirit.

When I saw my acupuncturist last week, she said I had the body of a twenty year old. Well, she’s right because it’s been in storage for decades wrapped and preserved against the cold, my only activity, some Olympic indoor swimming to outrun the devil darkness.

But I walk in beauty now. My days are full of richness and a kind of grace and gentle spirit I could only imagine in my former lives. I craved the sun before, complaining to anyone who would listen about its absence. I was depressed and heavy for years, like a plant put in a closet. I withered and become diminished in spirit, never fully comprehending the personal cost. Now, thankfully, all that has changed.

I remember my first days in Ojai when I realized that shorts, tank tops and sandals could be daily apparel, instead of fleece, long underwear and sweat pants. Literally ‘seeing’ my body every day was like visiting an old friend I had dearly missed.

“Oh, there you are. How nice to see you again! So that’s what you look like, I’d nearly forgotten. Welcome Home.”

Giving Thanks

It’s dark. Six o’clock on Thursday night and I’m at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club finding my spot on the floor. The lights are soft – the room, clean, spacious and airy.

Robert, my yoga teacher, bounds in, ready to pretzel us into health and vitality. I smile, remembering my initial reluctance. “I’m not a yoga person,” I’d tell anyone who asked. “No thanks. Who wants to spend an hour on the floor with bent knees?”  I came to class as a curiosity, because I’m a swimmer. That’s all I’ve done, and it’s been enough.

But after trying, I saw how easily accomplished the exercises were, and noticed enhanced strength pedaling home on my bike. So now here I am, occupied with folding poses like “downward facing dog” around a recently eaten burrito, or trying to do a reclining twist without putting my foot in Nelson’s face. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. No chanting, just good solid body therapy, smiling faces and Robert’s teaching delivered with joy, humor and reverence for life.

I reach for my toes, amazed that I can touch them. When did that happen?

And my neck that has always resisted turning to the right is now fully mobile.

The class exhales into bridge pose, as I remember a card from my chiropractor in yesterday’s mail. It read, Long Time No See. I’d long ago accepted that my low back would always hurt, I could not bend at the waist enough to touch my toes and a visit to the chiropractor would be a monthly thing. But in seven short months, all that disappeared.

Music by Louie Armstrong fills the room:

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, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I am filled with gratitude for this beautiful athletic club, new friends made, the masterful teachers who work here, the beauty of Ojai and my ever improving health. I savor the music and the moment as Robert’s voice trails toward the door, “Thanks for showing up everybody and for keeping me employed.”


 Alma stood in the doorway, a suitcase in each hand, her neatly braided hair trailing the length of her back. Shades of evening blue spilled from my window highlighting her feet, adding a surreal feel to the scene. I was in my bathrobe and slippers pushing uncombed hair from my face, as I watched her white limousine pull from the curb.

Alma was a client. She was alone in a foreign country and extended a desperate hand in my direction after her husbands sudden death. Our work was the foundation she stood on to recover and quiet the tears that shamed her into isolation. She summoned me in the dark hours of night, the lonely hours when her defenses were weak and the raw places in her heart felt unmanageable. I had agreed to be delivered like a living security blanket to wrap around her emptiness.  More light shone in her face now, she’d found a new well of courage, not a lot, but a beginning.

I had pneumonia when she called and was slow to heal. We will meet later, I told her. Now here she was, standing like an aberration in the entryway of my home. What brings you here, I asked?

She placed her tapestry bags on the floor and lowered her eyes. Karen, you saved my life, I belong to you now. I am here to serve you. In my culture, when a person saves your life, you belong to them.

You belong to them.. Her works washed over me in quiet disbelief.

Alma dear,  What I did for you was my job. You paid me well, You owe me nothing. I am deeply touched but no, please, you do not ‘belong’ to me. She smiled, touching the silk of my bathrobe as she moved to the kitchen. You have saved my life, she repeated, I belong to you.

My daughter pushed open her bedroom door wiping sleep from her young eyes. Mommy, who is that strange lady in our house?

Alma opened her purse, pulled out herbs and carefully placed them on the counter. You will do nothing, I will cook and clean for you. I will serve you in all ways. She took a lime colored wrap from her neck and transferred it lovingly to my shoulders.

Oh dear, I thought. Oh my, this is going to take some serious sorting out.

Alma made herself a bed on the couch and I went back into my room, wrapping my fingers around the warm fragrant liquid she’d provided. You’ll see, she said, as I closed the door between us. I will do a very good job.  Her words hung in the air, sending shivers of dread down my spine.

It took a full month to recover and to convince my devoted servant to leave and go on with her life.

During that time I learned that I liked cooking for myself, doing my own laundry, making my own bed, tending my own children and shopping for my own food. I hadn’t known before how those activities defined the fabric of my independence. Leisure was a kind of death to my spirit. My health returned and dear Alma returned to her own country, her debt fully paid.

written 7-30-08