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, February 27, 2014

Landscape in Books and Books in Landscape (from last year at this time)

Books and Nature belong to the eyes that see them.
Emily Bronte

Guy Laramee

                                                       *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Su Blackwell

  And this, our life, 
exempt from public haunt, 
finds tongues in trees, 
books in the running brooks, 
sermons in stones, 
and good in everything. 

William Shakespeare

Debbie Harman
Lori Nix

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Rune Guneriussen

 Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. 
Hal Borland

Eric Parker

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Landscape of Love

In the wake of Valentines Day, I have been thinking a lot about love. Beyond the tokens of chocolate and roses and lacy red hearts, beyond the outward demonstrations of gifting and the spice of sexual romance. 

Actually what I’ve been thinking about is the kind of sustaining love, nurturing love, that is as necessary to our flourishing as human beings as is air and water—the rich landscape of familial love and the love of heartfelt and caring friendships. And about the barren landscape that the lack of love, the loss of love creates. 

You can blame it on the four books I’ve been reading. (Yes, at the same time! Why write when you can read? I’ll get to that in a few minutes…) I've been in one of those reading frenzies with books that all have one kind of deadline or another—Lorrie Moore’s new short stories, Bark, for BookBrowse review, Jane Eyre for my Feisty Readers' seventh grade Mother Daughter book club, The Goldfinch which finally came from the library after my being #372 on the wait list and is due in three weeks. And is 771 pages long. And Why We Write, (collected essays edited by Meredith Maran) because I really need to figure it out, the sooner the better.

These books all have a common thread—especially the first three; they all seriously address the fallout from the loss of love in someone’s life.

The stories in Bark are all about divorce or the end of love and let me tell you right now, there are no happy endings—except (and this is huge) that loss of love causing such great misery only points to how incredibly important love is to basic happiness and well being.

We all know what Jane Eyre is about—a young woman who grows up lonely and unloved and her struggle to find what she has been missing all of her life.

In many ways, The Goldfinch is the most devastating as we watch Theo flail through life after losing his loving mother as young boy. I can’t stop reading because I so want him to find true and deep love in his life. (And if he doesn’t find someone to love and love him by the end of the 771 pages, I am going to throw the book across the room!)

Adam Sultonov heart island
The fourth book, Why We Write, (a book that might very well save me) addresses the issue of needing love in Kathryn Harrison’s chapter. (She wrote Thicker Than Water, Exposure, Poison, The Binding Chair, The Seal Wife, Envy and most recently Enchantments.) She tells the reader, “I write because it is the only thing I know that offers the hope of proving myself worthy of love. It has everything to do with my relationship with my mother. I spent my childhood trying to remake myself into a girl she would love—and I’ve translate that into the process of writing…” The hope that writing will reveal us a worthy of love makes a lot more sense to me than all of the claims that, “I write because I have to.” “I write because I would die if I didn’t.” Oh please. I’ve tried not writing and it hasn’t killed me. Yet.

Anyway. I think the most interesting thing for me in all this thinking about love and loss of love is the power of the negative—that to demonstrate the importance of something, showing the lack might be the most powerful way to do it. Want to write about love? Show what happens in its absence. Want to write about peace? Show the ravages of war. Want to write about loyalty? Give us betrayal.

Want to figure out a reason to write? Try not writing for a while. I think it’s working.

I got a valentine in the mail a few days ago from a dear friend (you know who you are!) with a map that shows a route out from Desolation. She knew I needed it. Now that’s the kind of love that I’m talking about.

Take Good Care,


Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Landscape of the Integrated Mind and Body

I've spent a lot of time this past week thinking about integration. Integration of the mind and the body. Integration of one emotion or truth with a seemingly contradictory other emotion or truth (emphasis on seemingly.) Integration of outside-offered knowledge and inside-felt intuition.
from Building Soul

We live in a culture where subtly is often hard to find. Loud is recognized. Absolute thinking is applauded. And an inflexible stand is all too familiar.  Politics make this clear, for sure, but I see it on a more intimate level too. Arguments between two people that fully operate on the premise that one belief cannot exist in the presence of another. Small and large beliefs and everything in between. It seems as if we are under the false impression that in order to feel secure and on solid ground, we need to hold onto one piece of information – a truth, a belief, an emotion, a reason, a decision – like it is a tree trunk, unmoving and firmly rooted.

I'm speaking from personal experience here. Go figure. And it has been causing a lot of heartache. Specifically, I have been experiencing how critical it is to integrate the mind and the body. The mind is capable of being in many places. It can be in the past, it can be in the future.  It can be in a memory, it can be in an expectation. It can be on the beach, in an airplane, in a classroom, a hotel, a forest. All of this time and place travel is fine.  It is extraordinary, in fact. But the mind can get stuck in one of those places, or one of those times, and if there is no path back – well, that is not so fine. That is the stuff of heartache…of losing a sense of direction, of purpose, and of self. This kind of existence is one of almost exclusive mind-living. It is easy to cultivate. Again, our culture kind of encourages it. Our intellect is revered.

But it is dangerous.

Integrating the body with the mind is a critical process in living a full and connected life.  Because the body is present. It is always present.  Wherever your mind may take you, your body is still right here, right now. You are thinking about 7th grade? Your feet are still standing on the floor of your house today. You are imagining what it would be like to leave your job? Your hands are still wrapped around your tea mug now.

In an earlier post, I talked about this mind-body practice I have – I'll use the word, yup! – integrated into my life. I love this practice. It keeps me grounded in right here and right now. And, at the risk of sounding old and familiar, all we truly have is right here and right now. Or, hold up…wait a minute…let me revise: all we truly have to come back to is right here and right now.

That is the integration process.

And it goes back to that desire we all have to feel secure and on solid ground. But holding on to that piece of information – that absolute truth, etc – will not achieve that groundedness. Holding onto our bodies will though. Sinking into our bodies will. I like to imagine the landscape of the body and mind like a large tract of land and an island with a bridge between them. Build that bridge if you don't have one. Clear it of debris if it has fallen into disrepair. Imagine it into being. For me, it is a lovely wooden bridge with railings and the open sky above. I can trek across it, into my mind, and hang out there, dreaming of fulfilling all of my longings, and then I can stretch my legs and arms, turn around and trek back into my body and settle there for the day, working hard on whatever is my work in this moment, playing hard at whatever is my play for this moment too.

In this way, my longings are realized, bit by bit, moment by moment, a hundred journeys between my mind and my body, a well-worn path, an ease, an integration.

My dear friend and yoga teacher, Kara, read us this poem in class today.  I leave it for you.

Joy For No Reason

I am filled with quiet
joy for no reason save
the fact that I'm alive.
The message I receive
is clear - there's no time
to lose from loving, no
place but here to offer
kindness, no day but this
to be my true, unfettered
self and pass the flame
from heart to heart. This
is the only moment that
exists - so simple, so
exquisite, and so real.

                        Danna Faulds

With gratitude,

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Soul Weaving from the Southwest

I just returned from a week in Santa Fe with my husband—our eighth visit to this place so radically different from where we live that we find ourselves drawn there time and time again.

The differences are obvious; the high (more than a mile high!) desert is a stark contrast to our watery, sea-level surroundings. Where the predominant colors in the Bay Area are shades of blue-grey (as in water, fog, air and cement) and green (as in trees), Santa Fe’s palette is made up of earth tones: browns and tans, terra cotta, adobe, pale sage and a lavender taupe that is the shadow of hills. Red and turquoise are decorative accents added to homes and personal accessories the way chilies are added to spice up the hearty fare.

Over the years of visiting we have gained special appreciation for the native handcrafts, especially the beautiful woven rugs and tapestries that the Navajo women have been creating since the late eighteen hundreds.

On our recent visit, we had the good fortune to catch the end of a display at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian ( The Durango Collection: Native American Weaving in the Southwest 1860--1880. This period of time was a kind of renaissance for Native American weaving, a time when the outside world became aware and interested in this skilled craft. Trading posts were being established--rugs, blankets and later tapestries were in demand from admiring 'white' collectors. All of the pieces in this show were made for practical use, mostly as wearable clothing. Outside influences also brought the availability of commercial dyes, giving the palette crimson reds and deep blacks, oranges and rich golds. (An interesting fact: the reds came from cochineal, a scaly insect whose bodies are used to make the carmine dye!)

The show was a a wonderful contrast to the show we saw at the museum two years ago: Nizhoni Shima’ (“My mother, it is beautiful!”): Weavers from the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills region. The weavings in this show were contemporary fine tapestries. To even try to describe the exquisite intricately subtle artistry of the work shown could not do it justice.

Even more humbling is the understanding of the time dedicated to each piece; the shearing, cleaning, carding and spinning and washing alone can  take up to six months and then the weaving another 6 months to a year. For a better sense of the patience, dedication and attitude around the process, watch this wonderful 10 minute video of Master Weaver Clara Sherman.

Many of the pieces have a thin line woven into the upper left hand corner that goes from the outer border to the interior of the weaving. (Too fine and subtle to see in these photos) We were told that it is the spirit line—the path where Spider Woman enters the weaver and guides her through the process. A reminder for us all to leave space, leave a path that the universal creative spirit can enter to guide us in our work, whether it be weaving wool into stunning rugs or words into stories.

Take good care,

Weavers at Toadlina/Two Grey Hills