Thursday, May 25, 2017

Poetry Thursdsay

~Charles Baudelaire translated by David Yezzi

Take it easy, Sadness. Settle down.
You asked for evening. Now, it’s come. It’s here.
A choking fog has blanketed the town,
infecting some with calm, the rest with fear.

While the squalid throng of mortals feels the sting
of heartless pleasure swinging its barbed knout
and finds remorse in slavish partying,
take my hand, Sorrow. I will lead you out,

away from them. Look as the dead years lurch,
in tattered clothes, from heaven’s balconies.
From the depths, regret emerges with a grin.

The spent sun passes out beneath an arch,
and, shroudlike, stretched from the antipodes,
—hear it, O hear, love!—soft night marches in.


Sois sage, ô ma Douleur, et tiens-toi plus tranquille.
Tu réclamais le Soir; il descend; le voici:
Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville,
Aux uns portant la paix, aux autres le souci.

Pendant que des mortels la multitude vile,
Sous le fouet du Plaisir, ce bourreau sans merci,
Va cueillir des remords dans la fête servile,
Ma Douleur, donne-moi la main; viens par ici,

Loin d'eux. Vois se pencher les défuntes Années,
Sur les balcons du ciel, en robes surannées;
Surgir du fond des eaux le Regret souriant;

Le soleil moribond s'endormir sous une arche,
Et, comme un long linceul traînant à l'Orient,
Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Equanimity Practice or Practice Pleasant/Neutral

I am not completely sure that these titles are equivalent or just both apt.

Here is my equanimity practice... the one I reach for most often:
No matter how much I wish things be otherwise, things are as they are.

My practice pleasant or neutral practice: for me, it started as #findbeauty on instagram.  And it morphed into being able to walk in quiet, listening to everything that is going on around me.

It means I can hear the birds singing or the bugs buzzing.

On Sunday, it meant watching the busy bees go from flower to flower checking for nectar.  And it meant watching Raleigh (neighbor tuxedo cat) as he stalked and tried to pounce on something and then celebrating his chase with him.

I was sitting on the stairs, listening to the birds, enjoying the sunny day from a shady spot somewhat out of view.  Raleigh happened by, when I spoke to him, he started, but then went back to stalking.  When he was out of view, I decided to follow him.  I crouched with him, slowly and quietly padding behind him, letting him know that I was there so he wouldn't start.  He was watching, carefully... mindfully something in the bushes. I couldn't see it.  He was still as a statue, intent on his prey.  I was talking quietly to him, encouraging him to go ahead and pounce.  He did, and didn't catch anything, but came over to celebrate with me anyway.  He brushed up against my legs and looked up at me for encouragement. I pet him and chatted him up.  Then he went back to the bushes to look for his prey again.

In the moment, there is tremendous activity... and it can be pleasant, or neutral or unpleasant. Raleigh's insistence on being in the moment was a gift... pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, it didn't matter to him, just the moment.

For me, forcing myself to stay in the moment is the gift.  I have been wound so tight the past few months, and let's be honest, the last four years, that I have given myself precious little room to be in the moment or otherwise.

I am trying to unwind in a way that won't leave me in a puddle in the middle of the floor when next Friday hits and my schedule becomes a little lighter.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Poetry Thursday, friendship

This is the kind of Friend
You are -
Without making me realize
My soul's anguished history,
You slip into my house at night,
And while I am sleeping,
You silently carry off
All my suffering and sordid past
In your beautiful
-- Hafiz

Friday, May 12, 2017

Visiting Chila

This was the first time I hiked up to Chila's resting place by myself.  I was truly alone after this sign because my phone turned itself off in dramatic fashion.
I had to focus... on the sights and sounds and smells and temperature. It was lovely. Apparently, it was the day a million moths were born. They were swarming every where.

I was so focused on sounds, I kept hearing this little click, click, click. Finally, I spied a grasshopper, looked like still in baby stage, and I watched and listened to it move its body and make the click click click. 

There were so many beautiful wildflowers blooming ... hence the swarming moths.  As I approached Chila's place, I noticed these gorgeous flowers, like a morning glory but with a dark center. 

Turns out they are called catalina mariposa lilies.  I gathered a bunch and made a bouquet for Chila.

I went up to the rock and I had planned to sit there for a bit, but the plants around the rock were super overgrown and all in bloom.  

I stood there, listening to the wind and birds and bugs, and watching the landscape. 

I thought, where is she? Is she here?

Just as I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking she wasn't here with me, a hummingbird came up to me, she was about six inches from my face. She hovered there, and I acknowledged her and eventually she flew off. 

But then as I walked down the mountain, she buzzed me.  Then she sat on a tree and looked at me. I stood two feet from her and memorized her features so I could look it up in the bird book. 

As I kept walking, she moved to the next tree, this time, she positioned herself so that she could look right at me.  Finally she flew off. 

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed a hummingbird again by my car.  She followed me down, half way to Uncle Louie's house.  

She was there... and she let me know. 

When I got home where my bird book was, I looked up the hummingbird and it was a female Anna's hummingbird...[or immature male, but I am preferring to think it was a female!]  You can see some photos here and here and here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quote Thursday

Nothing makes the earth 
seem so spacious as 
to have friends at a distance; 
they make the latitudes and longitudes. 
— Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Poetry Thursday, Pops

Our greatest strength 
lies in the gentleness 
and tenderness 
of our heart.
 ~ Rumi

 I always considered myself lucky -- to have hit the jackpot in the dad lottery.  He is one of the most generous people I know, curious and interested in the world, willing to wonder and delve into questions and problems, and though he doesn't always show it, incredibly sensitive, especially to those who have less than he does.  And my dad always seemed to think that he had more than enough.

I like to tell the story of how he brought home the homeless guy because I was away for a year, so there was a whole empty room in the house! 

But I am also fond of telling the story how after I expressed an interest in morse code, that he bought three transmitters, mounted each on a board and then carved in the codes for the alphabet.  After we had all (my youngers and I) learned the codes, we'd sit around the dining room table (which we didn't use to eat from) and dit dah dit dah each other. Our transmitters were not actually connected to anything, so our messages just went out to the room, but we were happy.

As an adult, especially since my siblings passed, I have seen other sides of my pops, maybe seen some quirky aspects of his personality with the volume turned up.  I get frustrated with his penchant for the conspiracy theory and the negative outlook.  But I have learned to see that age can make folks feel vulnerable and powerless.  Growing old gracefully requires one to release our complete competency, and this is hard for my dad.  

I refuse to believe that his grumpy old man routine he gets caught up in sometimes is not his true nature.

Being an adult with my dad is not all bad.  He shares more with me than he used to.  And though it isn't always rainbows and puppies, more frequently it is fear and insecurity, I still appreciate these glimpses into his personality.

This past weekend, he was complaining because my mom didn't invite him to a garage sale she was going to with a girlfriend.  It is funny because she never wants to go with him to the thrift store or garage sale, but she still wants to be invited.  I reminded him that he often didn't want to go whenever she invited him places.  He was salty, grumpy old man style.

A bit later, mom arrived and apparently handed him a bag of goodies ... a gift from the garage sale. I was still working in the other room. My dad came over pleased as pie with his gift.  Look what your mom brought me! He beamed.  And he giggled, good thing she didn't know he had been complaining.

That is my dad... he might be feeling entitled to complain more than when I was younger, but he still is able to appreciate more than most.  

Happy birthday, Pops... love you very much. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

views from the road

I was in the train, briefly, and this was as close as I got to the beach on my short trip south.
Still it was lovely! I spent as much of the hour as possible checking for whale spouts. I didn't see any, but it was fun to be able to try.
I wish I had gotten at least one long walk by the water... next time.
Instead, the only forays into the world beyond my computer were the rest stop near Gaviota.
It had the best signage I had seen in a long while.
And this view of the mountains.
Frolicking dogs need to be careful of rattler snakes... just saying.

I also took a hike to see Chila... but I will save that for another post.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Poetry Thursday

If I knew that today would be 
the last time I’d see you sleep, 
I would hug you tight and 
pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. 
If I knew that this would be the last time 
you pass through this door, 
I’d embrace you, kiss you, and 
call you back for one more. 
If I knew that this would be the last time 
I would hear your voice, 
I’d record each word 
to be able to hear it over and over again. 
If I knew this is the last time I see you, 
I’d tell you I love you, and would not 
just assume foolishly you know it already. 
-Johny Welch
From La marioneta de trapo

versión original:
Si supiera que hoy es última vez que te voy a ver dormir, te abrazaría fuertemente y rezaría al Señor para poder ser el guardián de tu alma. Si supiera que esta fuera la última vez que te vea salir por la puerta, te daría un abrazo, un beso y te llamaría de nuevo para darte más. Si supiera que ésta fuera la última vez que voy a oír tu voz, grabaría cada una de tus palabras para poder oírlas una y otra vez indefinidamente. Si supiera que estos son los últimos momentos que te veo, diría TE QUIERO y no asumiría tontamente que ya lo sabes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The deep pain that is felt 
at the death of every friendly soul 
arises from the feeling that 
there is in every individual 
something which is inexpressible, 
peculiar to him alone, 
 and is, therefore, absolutely 
and irretrievably lost. 
~Arthur Schopenhauer
  God take my soul to that place, 
Where I can speak without words.
Unable are the loved to die
For love is immortality
~Emily Dickinson

There is no vocabulary for this,
the no-language of grief.
I can reveal what my brain thinks
but where are the words for 
this vague pain I feel?
-Irene Earis
The Baffling Dead

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Boy

Life is eternal, 
and love is immortal, 
and death is only a horizon; 
and a horizon is nothing 
save the limit of our sight. 
~R.W. Raymond

I love this picture of The Boy.  Sometimes I think it is because I love this couple so much and their connection is palpable here.

When I used to see this picture on his mom's desk, I would think, they are soulmates.

I was sure they would get back together, have beautiful babies and be happy.

But then again, I was sure of so very many things that we will never see.

He has been close in mind lately, not just in the past few days, but especially this month.

Now when I look at this picture, it is the eyes, that look.  It tells you so much about this old soul.  There is a knowing about the trials and tribulations, the power of love, and the importance of connection.  There is compassion and world weariness and strength.  He was steady and wobbly at the same time, fearful and hopeful, ready to take on the world despite his reservations about well everything.

I see this picture and I think there is no way he is gone.  There he is, right there, forever that sweet, smart, relentlessly idealistic and pragmatic young man, my future governor or president. 

Some days I weep for the world because we lost that light, the one we so desperately needed.

Some days I weep for his mother who is trying so hard to learn how to be in a world without him.

Some days I weep for the children who don't get to grow up with father; he would have been the absolute best father in the world.

Some days I even weep for myself because there were so many more stories to tell, issues to discuss and adventures to have... and I try to be brave remembering his last text, the one he sent when he found out I was dealing with yet another loss, before he knew I would have to deal with his as well. 

Stay up.


Rest well, sweet boy, but let your mom know you are okay.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Princeton postcard

This has been sitting in my draft folder for a while ... thinking I would figure out how to debrief my trip back to Old Nassau.  But April is a cruel month and these memories and feelings can't be processed so easily.  So here is a little photolog of the trip.

We took an early flight out of San Jose. We left the house before the sun was awake.  But it rose just as we took off, giving this spectacular good morning to all those tired travelers.
We landed in Newark, as it is still the easiest airport to get to/from Princeton.  And this was the first sight of New York in the distance.  It is still remarkable to me how close and yet how far NYC is from Princeton.

Also, I noticed, for the first time, how alike Oakland and Newark are... see the port and those machines that were Lucas' inspiration for those walking monstrosities in Star Wars?
This was my residential college... first steps off the new Dinky stop you see good old Forbes (or PIC if you are older).  The sun was so bright, I was trying to see what I was aiming at, but instead caught my fingers.

It must mean something to see like this, but I will leave it up to you, dear reader.
People love to remark on the beauty of the campus.

I have to say since my time there was so fraught, I never noticed beauty.

But there is beauty that I can now appreciate... especially in the details.

These small creatures some scary and others whimsical that guard arches and doorways are some of my favorites.
Here's another that struck me on this trip.

I spent many hours in this building as it housed my department.  I also happen to think it is one of the most beautiful.  I am sure that others have fond memories or like the looks of others better.

It started raining after this and I forgot to take a lot of pictures.  But I have a few more, especially of the conference that I will share later.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

On breathing in and out

Do you remember when the sky wasn't falling?  Some days I can make it all the way without imagining the worst happening over some daily challenge.

Other days, the weight of life and reality is overwhelming.

I almost don't remember that other life.  I think, I used to have a life. I used to know which way is up and which way is down.  I remember that I didn't fear anything.

I remember it like a dream or a movie, though, and it is someone else's life.  But it wasn't that long ago.

Four years and seven months ago, my world turned upside down and then seven months later, another fissure opened, making sure that I understood that I should never say, again, things can't get worse.

Remember that, things can always get worse.

And when I was still standing despite the world being upside down, six months later, a volcano erupted.

I stood, shakily, and made it through, but the bending was giving way to breaking. I think that I had the beginnings of a panic attack one day... I had been hiding in the library, taking a moment to breathe in the quiet of a carrel.  And I realized I was supposed to be writing, but I was breathing instead.  Breathing as though it was no longer something my brain could remember to do on its own. And scared that if I didn't put all of my focus on breathing that I ...

I couldn't go there, not then, not even now.

I decided to try not to feel, I had already been trying to keep my feelings in a box for while. It was working, mostly, but to the detriment of everything else in my life.

For years, I figured out how to keep busy by *fixing* everyone, pretending to be alright and breathing.

You would think that would be enough ... breathing, especially; it is necessary for life after all.

But it was not enough.

Now I have been trying to put my life back together for over a year.  Much of that time has been spent trying to unravel the tight hold on the emotions.  Sometimes that means I cry, a lot, for apparently no reason.  But I can only do that, still, when I watch or read something sad, about someone else, or I drive.

Now that my car has decided not to be reliable, I no longer have a safe place to cry ... so my neck gets stiff, and I eat sugary things, and I feel out of control and unable to go out of doors.  And I try to feel.

But responsibility creeps in and my hiding abilities fully respond.

And I breathe in and out.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Quote Thursday, maybe a repeat...

I knew life began where 
I stood in the dark, 
looking out 
into the light.
~Yusef Komunyakaa

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

words and feeling, aka cryptology

Here are the words that I wrote yesterday ... and set me off on yesterday's blogpost.

It strikes me now how sparse the text is, how laden it is with unspoken pain, isolation, desolation and need.

Wrote this to one friend, punctuated with :( at the beginning and the end, as though the words themselves would not convey sadness:

"This is going to be my hard week. Besides all the work, it is the 4th anniversary of my sister going in the hospital, having the "catastrophic event" and then the agony of the hospital watch. I bought the books so I could have something easy to escape into. Perhaps the universe just wants me to sit with the grief. It is just going to be a hard week." [She had stopped by a park to see if a book I have misplaced had ended up in their little library. It was a silly book, something easy and mindless to read.]

I sent another friend this email:  "I have to keep running after all the work ... and in between having little breakdowns because this week is the 4th anniversary of watching my sister die... ugh... compounded by the fact that every day brings us closer to the year anniversary of S's death. It is all one big trigger neck is killing me and I am frequently on the edge of panic attack over seemingly silly things... oh PTSD is so real. Trauma I do not love you and don't know how to let you go..."

Hours later, this friend responded via text, not necessarily inviting conversation about the pain.

 I responded thusly:
"It is interesting on the grief issue Each year is different. Last year I was dealing with other losses and then S and no room to process. So here I go again wondering if it will ever get better. ... I am not sure what better would look like. Honestly when the grief hits me I am utterly bereft. And other times I feel guilty or angry to be the survivor. And of course there are times I just want to crawl back into the convenient middle child role where I am not responsible for everyone's well being. Better would be to not have any of these overwhelming feelings. Perhaps to remember good times without the stabbing cruelty of loss bound to it."

I look at it now in black and white and wonder if either of them had any idea how hard it was for me to put those feelings into words. I wonder if they can feel the subtext and intertext that does not appear in black and white. There are precious few words there in those messages. Can they know how hard it is for me to talk about this at all? Does anyone have the capacity to read around someone's terse, cryptic messages?


I don't talk about my grief very much.

I don't always have words for it.

But April is the cruelest of months... in so very many ways.

It was already tugging at my, like the rip tide, threatening to take me deep, tire me out and drown me.

Then I heard that a classmate from college had died.

Like so many things in my life, it was the domino that I could not hold upright.

The intricate balancing act toppled and there went all the dominoes in a long, elaborate cascade snaking around me, threatening to throw more than my emotions out of balance.

In my experience, this has meant spending lots of time trying not to think about the raging grief looking for an outlet.

In my current experience it means a lot of crying, and a fair amount of physical pain that I carry mostly in my neck and shoulders.  If I could give in to the crying as much as I needed to release it, perhaps I could stave off the pain.  Then again, I am not sure if I could manage any work.  As luck would have it, I have the most crazy work schedule for the next two weeks.

The universe loves me.  Or at least the universe loves to toy with me.

Actually the universe has bigger fish to fry, but it helps to have somewhere to point the accusing finger.

To be honest, it has also meant a lot of irrational eating... this is all complicated by the fact that I finally got that horrible cold/flu thing that everyone else had months ago... and my sense of taste is seriously compromised.  So I eat to try to contain the raging grief and it tastes like cardboard, so I eat something else, and the cycle continues.

Sometimes, it is like being in the hospital on death watch, feeling like eating would only prolong the suffering. And so I don't eat until the stomach demands something.  I think -- ah, at least the stomach can demand.  When we were in the hospital I am pretty sure I went at least five days without eating anything at all.  Someone finally realized I wasn't eating and brought me a protein shake. 

Thank goodness for friends.  I certainly would be lost without them.

And, actually, I came here to write about friends, and hiding, and trusting and vulnerability.

I often don't tell anyone how I feel.  I hold it. I deal with it.  I power through whatever it is.

I may seriously maim myself in the getting through, but I will rarely ask for help.

I have so many wonderful friends, it is ridiculous that I don't ask for help.

Then again I frequently reach out to the friends who, for reasons of their own, do not know how to respond.

It like a reverse secret power -- to agonize about needing help and then reach out to just the person you know will not know how to respond thus creating the negative feedback loop ... shouldn't reach out, it will only make it worse.

Well... today, I reached out... and I probably chose the people least prepared or equipped to handle my raw emotions.  But they each did their best to respond... whether or not there are truly appropriate responses has yet to be determined. 

The upshot is getting it off my plate was actually just what I needed.

Problems are not solved... but load is lightened.  And any bit of weight removed is greatly appreciated.

And some hiding in my apartment where I don't have to explain myself.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poetry Thursday


Ella Wheeler Wilcox
To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.
Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Tennessee Valley

Went for a hike to the Tennessee Valley in northern California.  I was surprised at the name, and then my friend found this.  Amazing.

A beach named for the ship that ran aground there... amazing.

Here are some pictures from the adventure. I am barely to the 75% point of being better from this cold or whatever it is, so my hands were shaky (oh, and I hadn't eaten when we embarked on the walking), so... you know, not the best pics ever.

Still... amazing place.

And gorgeous flowers 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Poetry Thursday

Bells in the Rain

Elinor Wylie
Sleep falls, with limpid drops of rain,
Upon the steep cliffs of the town.
Sleep falls; men are at peace again
While the small drops fall softly down.
The bright drops ring like bells of glass
Thinned by the wind; and lightly blown;
Sleep cannot fall on peaceful grass
So softly as it falls on stone.
Peace falls unheeded on the dead
Asleep; they have had deep peace to drink;
Upon a live man’s bloody head
It falls most tenderly, I think.

Monday, April 03, 2017

going back

Just returned from a few days in Princeton ... so many emotions to untangle. Not quite ready, yet, and I don't have time just now.  But here is a tiger for you, idly minding the square.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Poetry Thursday


Léonie Adams
When I stepped homeward to my hill,
   Dusk went before with quiet tread;
The bare laced branches of the trees
   Were as a mist about its head.
Upon its leaf-brown breast the rocks
   Like great grey sheep lay silentwise,
Between the birch trees’ gleaming arms,
   The faint stars trembled in the skies.
The white brook met me half-way up,
   And laughed as one that knew me well,
To whose more clear than crystal voice
   The frost had joined a crystal spell.
The skies lay like pale-watered deep,
   Dusk ran before me to its strand
And cloudily leaned forth to touch
   The moon’s slow wonder with her hand.