Saying Good-bye

I have to let go of an old friend this week and it hurts my heart, a friend that has seen me through 22 years of my life. This friend is my sofa, couch, or settee. 

It was a hot day in August 1989 when I presented my partner, Thom, with a brand new sofa as a birthday gift. It was perfect for our country farmhouse in the Columbia River Gorge and I was thrilled. He was less so. Come to think of it, he was downright disappointed.  (I may have even purchased it with his money.)

“You got me a sofa? For my birthday? You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t want a sofa. You want a sofa. You bought it for you.”  I was silenced by the truth of it. 

Thom was never fond of the sofa. He was not home long enough for one thing, his career as a naturopath, instructor and politician kept him away. But when he was home, that was our spot. We curled up by the woodstove, watched the gold pendulum of the grandfather clock tick away the evening, talked about homeopathy, hemorrhoids or the latest growth on Mrs. Collin’s back.  

My first grandchild Britan was brought home from the hospital in November to nap on that couch, her mom and dad sitting on either side, exhausted and proud. It held Thanksgiving guests, and later serious discussions between my son Clay and I about their decision to move back to Los Angeles, taking Britan with them. The couch held midnight tears and the pain of disconnection that followed. 

Women gathered in my living room for seven years learning psychic development. They found insight, sisterhood and bravery on that couch, our black cat often leaping in and out of their laps. I’ve dropped sticks of incense on the fabric and patched the resulting holes. It’s been my place for watching movies, writing books, and starting each new day.   

My mother, her husband, Joe and Thom’s father, all dead and gone, each reclined there when they visited from afar. Unwanted and unwelcome guests rested there as well, guests whom I cooked for badly and sent away early. My daughter Kristen and I sank into the cushions on week-ends to taste hummus and dream up vegan menu items for a part time catering business. 

When Thom and I separated, the couch went into Susan’s basement until I could find a new life. When money ran out I tired to sell it, but did not succeed.

In 1995, I went to live in the home of a Cherokee Indian named War Eagle, putting my sofa in the spare room, where I slept on it, prayed, meditated and wrote memories. Britan came to visit and cuddled with me in the evenings. She asked if she could sleep with me in my bed. “I’m sorry sweetheart. I have no bed, this couch is my bed.” We made a pallet on the floor.  

When I opened an office in SE Portland, the sofa was carried up flights of stairs to anchor the coming years of truths and confessions, cleansing tears and transformation that followed. It was the vehicle for relaxing into other realms and a place to feel safe and secure.  

A client once used the sofa to distract me from issues he feared. “Do you ever curl up on the couch between sessions and take a little nap?” I told him I did, his question buying him a smile and a little time but no escape. Another afternoon I found a gentleman from Japan had arrived early for his session and fallen fast asleep, his feet propped over the back, recovering from jet lag. Then there was the woman who got up from the couch to counsel me one winter morning, when the pressures of my life broke through my therapist’s veneer. I remember a conservative woman declaring, “Coming to see you is better than doing drugs.” This followed by a young playwright. “You really kicked my self-pitying ass, Karen. Thank you.”  At least one thousand clients have sat on that couch to make peace with themselves and their lives, their honesty, love and intention creating a sacred place, more holy ground then furniture.  

When that office outgrew its usefulness, the sofa was moved to a spare room in the Salmon Street Writing Studio. The doorway was narrow and my furniture would not fit. But it had to fit. The couch was my healing place and I needed it. I called a carpenter to remove the legs. It still wouldn’t budge. The camel back frame was cut by half against his better judgment. “You don’t understand,” I told him. “I have to get this in there!” It was reassembled but never regained its sturdy structure. 

In 2005, I was melting from seeing too many clients, so I found a home in the forest for rest and recuperation. And that tired old couch moved right along with me, supporting my healing as I starred into tall pines and emptiness. When I met my friend Gib, we sat shoulder to shoulder for three months doing sound editing for my audio books. The sofa held our laughter, accomplishment and lively disagreements, as well as sensual meals and sensual pleasures. When my mother died and Gib left, I wept for them both on the cushions of my long time companion.  

A second granddaughter, Isabella, has flown across the length of the couch, turned summersaults, jumped up and down on the cushions, balanced on its reconstructed back, taken naps and used it to support near-perfect headstands. Isabella’s favorite game is playing store. She removes everything from my closet, explaining the virtues of each piece, sells it to me, wraps it and pretends to call a taxi so I can transport it all. I pay her with monopoly money and she gives me deals.  

So, you see what I’m going through? What I’m giving up and letting go of? I’m losing a friend, a witness to my life, my family and the lives of all those who have come for healing. I hope this old girl goes to a good home because I’m sure going to miss her, gonna miss her like crazy.

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.


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.

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