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.



I saw an old pair of boots today sitting next to the free box in the laundry room at the ashram. My heart leapt. Oh, what lovely boots!

They smelled of earth, wild strength, and animal. They were leather, worn and marred, a statement of a well-walked, well-traveled country life. I slipped my foot inside hoping they would fit, but they were too big. Just as well, I thought, I have a pair just like them at home. They are irreplaceable. I thought about my husband and slipped my foot in one more time. They don’t fit me, but maybe he would like them, maybe he would wear them. That way I could still see them, and have them beside me as we walked wooded trails. But no, too small for him as well. Besides, he is a city man with little use for country boots. And so I left them, like I was leaving a kindred spirit, like I was pulling away from an old friend I could not invite inside.

My daughter was in the art studio putting the finishing touches on my book design.

Kristen, did you see those wonderful boots by the free box?

She stopped what she was doing, lowered her head and shook it hopelessly from side to side.

I knew you’d like those ratty old smelly things, she said. I would have stuck those in the trash years ago.

Kristen does not have much country in her. She is the fashion conscious model on the cover of Elle Magazine. What she wears matters very much. She has trained her daughter to have her careful eye and gift for beauty. Isabella, however, has been known to slip a gear, propelling in my direction. I want to wear Carharts just like Ma, she says. Poor Kristen feels she has been cursed by an unjust God. You want to use Ma as your standard for fashion? Isabella! God help us all!

I left the boots in the laundry room by the free box. Maybe someone else will find them and be overjoyed. Or maybe Isabella snatched them up when no one was looking, and is wearing them around the house as we speak. Most certainly Kristen is questioning her lineage and pulling out her perfectly fashioned hair.


bass-playerSomething in me does not know the difference between an AK47 and a camera lens. When I look up and see a metal box where a person’s face should be, I freeze. Vacate. It’s automatic. Others comment on it. Gee, your picture doesn’t look anything like you. You’re so much more vibrant and fun. When people look through photo albums they can’t find me. Is this one you? No kidding. How about this one? I wouldn’t have known. It’s because I’m not there. I don’t know where my spirit goes, but it’s definitely absent. It’s the firing squad effect.

That said, you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear I needed a photo for my website, the close-up kind that shows all the wrinkles. Vanity aside, I’d just as soon be scheduled for dental surgery. I was complaining loudly to my daughter, Kristen, who is a professional photographer, when she and her nine year old, Isabella, came for dinner. Kristen has pretty much had it with me because I make her job impossible. It’s only duty and the umbilical cord that keeps her from doing me in. I was getting ready to ask her anyway, when Isabella sprang into action. I’ll handle this Ma. (She calls me Ma, which means teacher in the Buddhist tradition and royal pain in the butt in the daughter tradition.) Isabella grabbed me off the couch and took me into the closet, decisively pulling clothes off the rack. Here, hold these, take this one, put that on. Next we headed for the bathroom so she could do a make-over, which is not easy with the handful of cosmetics I own. She sat me on the toilet while plastering my face with powder. She gobbed my lips in color, browned my eyelids, rosed up my cheeks, dripped black from my lashes, combed my hair and pronounced me done.

Let me back up. Before we girls met for dinner, we met at the Goodwill to see if there were any treasures among the grunge. Kristen and I found nothing, but Isabella walked away with roller skates – great roller skates, exactly her size, in perfect condition roller skates. She put them on as soon as her feet touched my hardwood floors, becoming a peripheral blur. Isabella was doing my make-over while gliding, spinning, and doing a trick called shooting the dog, no pun intended.

When I was deemed beautiful enough, we went next door to my neighbor’s house for a change of scene. Bella sat me down in the library next to the books, posed me at the Grandfather clock, moved to the bedroom which looked like I was drumming up business for a brothel, then finished with a meditation pose on a circular blue rug.

I was playing with her, with no expectation of result, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t get a picture. Having spent all nine of her years on photo shoots with her mom, the girl’s learned a few tricks, plus she doesn’t hate me yet for being impossible. She was gliding by, sitting on one skate while extending another in front of her, when I asked how much money she’d like for her time. She looked at the ceiling and decided five dollars would due nicely. I gave her a three dollar tip.

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.