One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A GIFT OF LIGHT reposted from December 13, 2012

The days are getting shorter. It’s dark now when I take Emma out for her evening walk. Well, not exactly dark—light shines out from bay windows as people go about their evening routines, and the horizon is flush with the glow of city lights.

But now, more light shines beyond the usual urban illuminations; bays glimmer with spills of fairy lights, while trees inside glimmer cheerfully, reminding us that where there is darkness, we will bring light. When the days grow short and the world feels dark, what do we do? We hang a string of lights, we light candles, we put up a tree and illuminate it with bright colors.

It’s what we humans do. We seek to balance. Where there is sadness, we try to offer comfort. When we see despair, we strive to offer hope. When someone we love is down, we reach out to lift them up. Where there is darkness, we bring light. We do it with our actions and our words. These are gifts we offer and receive everyday. It is what makes us good.

 It makes me incredibly happy to go out walking after dark, look up the street and see a spray of twinkling lights, as if they were put up with the specific purpose to guide me on my way.

When my daughters were in kindergarten, they walked the Advent Spiral, as is Waldorf tradition. It begins with a spiral of green boughs in a darkened room with a single candle standing in the middle. Each child is given an unlit candle in an apple, which they take through the winding spiral, light at the center, then place along the path on their way out. Each lit candle is a gift, lighting the way for others.

A gift of light can take many forms. Gifts made by hand are full of light. And let’s not forget how books can enlighten us. Gratitude is also a gift of light. (And the perfect gift for the guardian angel in your life!)

With deep gratitude for all of our friends at Kissing The Earth, I wish you light.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Silence and the Phoebe Bird

The dark is here. I am feeling it more this winter than I have in the past and I am not sure why. 

It feels like a waiting. 
Like a hoping.
Like a wanting. 

The phoebe sits on her nest
hour after hour,
day after day,
waiting for life to burst out
from under her warmth.

Can I weave a nest for silence,
weave it of listening,
layer upon layer?

But one must first become small,
Nothing but a presence,
Attentive as a nesting bird,
Proffering no slightest wish,
no tendril of a wish
board anything that might happen,
or be given,
only the warm, faithful waiting,
contained in one's smallness.

Beyond the question, the silence.
Before the answer, the silence.

                                           May Sarton

May says it best. 
As the days continue to grow shorter, and as the darkness continues to spread its inky self across the hours, it is comforting - perhaps simply imperative - to be small.

To be warm.
To faithfully wait.
To embrace the silence.

For life will burst out
Oh yes.
Oh yes.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Landscape of Questioning

While thousands of writers are madly dashing off a first draft in NaNoWriMo this month, I have been actively not writing. I mean, it’s an actual activity, this not-writing. It takes thought and discipline because the routine of writing for hours everyday is a hard one to break.

Why am I ‘not-writing’? Because after twelve years, it was starting to feel like a rote process. I wrote because…well, that’s what I did. You have to do something, right? I’ve told myself for years that it’s a good thing to do, that it’s important for me to be doing it and that, in and of itself, it has value. But I think, every so often, we need to step back and look for some kind of proof for what we have allowed ourselves to believe.

Or maybe I’m just having a mini crisis of faith.

When you first start writing, you work hard at establishing it as a pattern in your life—you have to carve out space and let go of the myriad of other things that gobble up your time. It’s essential. And then you have to focus, give yourself over to the process. Also essential. All of this single-mindedness is a good thing, but it can make you a bit myopic and because of that, I think you also have to occasionally step back and consciously consider what you’re doing, how you’re spending your extremely precious time and ask yourself if this is what you’re suppose to be doing—what you want to be doing. You have to ask yourself “why?” The question of value always looms large in my heart and soul. Which is why I think it’s so important to make sure whatever you’re doing, you do it consciously.

So I’ve made the conscious decision to step back and look around me for a while. To put myself more physically in the world. Plus, after spending the majority of time in my head, pounding virtual words into my keyboard that then vanished into my laptop, I’ve felt the need to make something solid, something physical, with my hands. I’m just not yet sure what that solid something will be…

And so in the past few weeks, I’ve been going to galleries and museums, I’ve been thumbing through some old sketchbooks, I’ve pulled out my bag of wool fleece and felting needles, I’ve sorted through a closet full of half finished craft projects. I’ve also spent a good deal of time talking to artist friends, asking why they make art. And I’ve been catching up with some other old friends that remind me of where I’ve been and the parts of me that go beyond ‘writer’.

It’s funny how these ‘why’ questions seem to always go deeper and deeper and turn out to be part of this search for the meaning of life.

The other thing I’ve been doing is reading what other writers have to say about writing and about living and have come to realize how much my life has been guided by writers. I picked up Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim At Tinker Creek—a book that resonated so strongly for me in my twenties. Now that I’m a unapologetic urbanite, this book doesn’t touch me in quite the same way as it did when I was living in a tiny cabin on an island in the Puget Sound, but what it has done is lead me to some of her later words that, when I read them a few weeks ago, shot through me like an electrical charge—they rang so true:

“We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.”

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed…Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house…We create things—buildings, gardens, music, art, stories—to counteract the flow of entropy. Not only that, but also, perhaps, we create things as a physical act of bearing witness and of giving praise. Maybe each act of creating something could be seen as a kind of prayer, a form of saying grace.

This week of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all the many, many blessings in my life. My family. My friends. The animals who make me more human. This jewel of a city on the Bay. And for all of the makers, all of the creators making things as a way of noticing, as a way of praising and to counteract the flow of entropy.  And to all of the writers who have and continue to guide me with their words. Without them, I would be truly lost.

Take Good Care,


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Happiness Project, Gratitude, and the Point of It All


As you can probably see, I missed a week!  Sorry about that.  My life has been… hmmmmm… full is a nice way to put it.  Bursting at the seams is, perhaps, a more real way to explain it.  (And even that is the rated G version of what I want to say…) A lot of work, every single person in my house has a lot of work right now, from us adult-types to the kid-crew, all of us are burning the oil fast and furious.  And the day feels so short.  It is short, right?  Dark before we know it.  I would say, perhaps, that my household has NOT transitioned to fall with a tremendous amount of grace. Very klutzy.  We are very klutzy and confused over here.

But we are muddling through...

One of the things I keep telling my kids (especially my son, who is really struggling to find his joy right now, in the midst of a tough 7th grade workload and looming puberty, oh boy oh boy, and also my middle daughter, who is hard at work wrestling with anxiety) I keep reminding them that it is up to us to find the moments in our day that make us smile, laugh, hope, and bust out with energy.  Part of that seeking is, perhaps, shifting our schedule or routine. But part of that seeking is also a perspective shift. 

Much easier said than done, I know from personal experience---we all do---but it is so so vital to do all the same.

My very cool yoga-therapy teacher taught me this two minute grounding exercise. It's a sort of coming home practice. I sit quietly for a few moments and simply feel what I am feeling.  Then I name the feelings, a sort of calling out to them, a validation of them. And then I figure out where they reside inside me.  Most of the time they are right near my heart, but sometimes they are lower, like in my belly. I sit like that for another few moments.  Then I viscerally place myself in the here and now.  What do my feet feel?  What do I hear?  What do I see?  And then I get up and go about my day. 

This is a bit of that perspective shift.  Simply being.  Not trying to fix or argue with or hate wherever I am at.  Simply being.

Or here is another version of this perspective shift. My very cool 6 year old daughter* grabbed her hula hoop last night (the kid is a champion hula hooper!) and told us all ("Ladies and gentlemen," she said, as she turned the lights off while we were eating dinner, "come join me in the Circle of Love…") to stand in a circle holding onto the hula hoop with both hands.  She then instructed us to go around the circle, each of saying something we liked about the person to our right. If we managed to use the word love or heart in our statement, the person we were talking about got to stand in the middle of the hula hoop!  Well, we dropped dinner and engaged in this Circle of Love activity…and it was, as you can imagine, kind of stunning. 

(Until the two older kids got inside the hula hoop together and began bumping bums. Then it wasn't as much stunning as chaotic and nutty… our standard in this household…)

The point is, though… well… okay, so I recently came across this very cool TED talk by Louis Schwartzberg, and he showed a short video called The Happiness Project. 

The Happiness Project is the point.  If you haven't watched it, I urge you to watch it here, below.

The young girl in the video says: the path, it could lead you to a beach or something…and it could be beautiful.

And the older man says, you think this is just another day in your life, it's not just another day, it's the one day that's given to you today…it's given to you, it's a gift. it's the only gift that you have right now.

Yes.  Those are the points.

The video kind of wrecked me. In that good, breaking-down-so-there-is finally-space-again kind of way.

My friend Sarah Tomp wrecked me this morning too. I asked her to read a manuscript of mine that is almost ready to go out into the world. One that I am too close to, at this late stage, to have any real perspective on. Sarah's perspective is one I cherish. I trust it, I believe in it, and it always teaches me something about myself, and about the world. Her perspective on this story was no exception to that. And exactly what I needed right this minute. 

Sarah is the point.

And then she sent me this poem. It is the point too. Yes yes yes.  

Permission Granted

You do not have to choose the bruised peach
or misshapen pepper others pass over.

You don't have to bury

your grandmother's keys underneath

her camellia bush as the will states.

You don't need to write a poem about

your grandfather coughing up his lung

into that plastic tube—the machine's wheezing

almost masking the kvetching sisters

in their Brooklyn kitchen.

You can let the crows amaze your son

without your translation of their cries.

You can lie so long under this

summer shower your imprint

will be left when you rise.

You can be stupid and simple as a heifer.

Cook plum and apple turnovers in the nude.

Revel in the flight of birds without

dreaming of flight. Remember the taste of

raw dough in your mouth as you edged a pie.

Feel the skin on things vibrate. Attune

yourself. Close your eyes. Hum.

Each beat of the world's pulse demands

only that you feel it. No thoughts.

Just the single syllable: Yes ...

See the homeless woman following

the tunings of a dead composer?

She closes her eyes and sways

with the subways. Follow her down,

inside, where the singing resides.
                                                 David Allen Sullivan

With gratitude, you all.


*My 10 year old daughter and 12 year old son are pretty cool too… :-)