Early Morning Pages

Ganesha

It is early morning and I am here. I am committed to writing daily for ten weeks as part of Susanna Harwood Rubin’s writing circle, “Write Your Practice-2013.” This writing circle has the added element of Yoga. Susanna is a yoga teacher and student of Hindu Mythology, a subject of long-standing interest for me.
I feel empowered by choosing to write this morning. I realize how much I missed the discipline I kept sacred for six months from January through June of this year. I stopped the practice in July as I prepared to be away from home for five weeks. I am grateful to have found the inspiration to return to my writing practice. Thank you, Susanna!
The theme for week one is “Finding Your Voice” represented by the Hindu deity and mythological being, Ganesha. Easily recognized by his elephant head, I regard Ganesha, the patron of intellect and wisdom, during this writing session. It is a common Hindu practice to honor Ganesha, the Hindu god of beginnings, at the start of a ritual or ceremony.
Today is the start of such a ritual for me. I invoke Ganesha and welcome his support in this new writing endeavor.
Susanna offered some intriguing prompts for this week’s writing. As I read through them, two stand out. The first is to explore my story through the objects around me. “In what ways is my personal creation myth represented by the objects I choose to have near me? What do those objects have to tell about themselves and about me?”
The second concept that attracts me is, “Always be poised at a threshold and then move through it – embrace change.” I wonder about the thresholds I have crossed in my lifetime and how well I have embraced the changes that ensued.
My monitor sits on top of a wooden box that was a gift from my Japanese sister, Keiko. Kay is an artist who creates beautiful objects from glass, yarn, fabric, wood and metal. She built the box and painted it inside and out in a Scandinavian style of artistic design. She incorporated my name on the lid. I have had the box for over forty years and it has until recently held keepsakes and letters that touched my heart. When I remodeled my laundry room into an office, my monitor needed a platform to raise it and the box was perfect. I like that I look at it every day when before it was hidden in a cabinet. I feel my connection to Kay through it.

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As I consider it now and give it a “voice” this is what I hear:
“I am a loving expression of the Divine Feminine. Through me, Kay reveals her compassion. She demonstrates her intention to serve. I am showing you the intricate details of nature finely created by Kay’s pure focus and rapt attention. Feel into my field and experience her joyfulness as she participates in this beautiful creation.”
I feel deeply touched by my experience with this box that I have kept close for so many years. Kay was a heart opening influence in my life for the year she lived with my family. I was twelve years old and she was an eighteen-year-old American Field Service student from Yokohama, Japan. I absolutely adored her. She and I spent endless hours sewing doll clothes, making origami cranes, and playing cards.
I understand now why she spent more time with me than my sister, Sandy, who was eighteen. The more sheltered and innocent upbringing of Japanese youth was not equal to the American teen’s level of sophistication, even in 1962. Kay and I were more alike in our interests and emotional maturity even though we were six years apart…and we shared an interest in artistic endeavors. I loved to draw, paint and sew and she was my more-than willing teacher.
I look at this box she made for me and tears come to my eyes. I miss her. I am so grateful for the gift she was to me at that formative time in my life. She is a gem to be treasured. Ah, now I understand why I have kept this box near me all these years.IMG_4673[1]IMG_4678[1]

C’est la vie

esalen cliffs

I have missed writing…The many tasks necessary to ready myself to be gone for five weeks (starting tomorrow) have taken precedence.
For the next five weeks I will be at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. I will be assisting two workshops, Healing From the Core, Full Body Presence and Healing the Pelvic Floor. I will also be assisting a month long Legacy Work Study Program, Leadership and Presence. I will be teaching yoga classes and co-leading the workshop, Skills to Energize Your Life. I will be lead therapist in multi-hands Cranio-Sacral sessions for the staff, as part of the Visiting Teacher Program.
It will be a rich and full five weeks. Full of experiences, full of opportunities, full of friendship, full of laughter, full of tears, full of excitement, full of healing, full of love, full of fun!
The fullness of what I am walking toward is matched in turn with the fullness of what I am leaving.  This is an opportunity to let go of that which I am want to cling to.  I am letting go of the daily connection I have with G.  I will miss him, a lot.  I am letting go of the daily experience of my two new kitties, our “children” that are our daily delight.  I know when I return they will be much more developed and I  hate to miss that time with them.  Dozer won’t have his balls when I get back….poor baby.  I am letting go of Mountain Valley Retreat and my work crew who will do things without me while I’m gone and I hate missing out on that.  I am go of my friends, students and clients all of whom I see at least weekly.  Without all of these connections and experiences my life will not be what it was.  My day to day life is amazing and letting go of it for five weeks is my practice now.  Trust and let go….oh, yes, I know that feeling…I can do this.
I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be of service at Esalen. It is a win-win situation and my heart gives a full-bodied heart “YES” to the Esalen Experience!
So without any cell service, and limited phone and internet access I will be “off-the’grid” which has it’s downside and its very HUGE upside! Once adjusted to living without technology and connection to the outside world, a shift happens that is a beautiful letting down of tension. Having the time to live in nature, not just visit it, revitalizes me deep to my bones.
Perhaps my schedule will allow me to carve out the time to write every day…that will be sweet. If not, I trust that my time will be well spent in other endeavors.
A friend sent this to me today…I am closing my page with it:
“Often the feeling of loneliness results not from a lack of people to entertain us but from the absence of an adult self to nurture our inner child who feels abandoned in some way. (Loneliness is also an appropriate way to feel as we make transitions, take a stand, become more spiritually awake, or find ourselves.) We may take loneliness literally and look for company in all the wrong places. … The words of … Natalie Goldberg … ‘Use loneliness. Its ache creates urgency to reconnect with the world. Take that aching and use it to propel you deeper into your need for expression–to speak, to say who you are.’ ”

–David Richo’s “How to be an Adult in Relationships”

Relections on Love and Marriage

I was married on July 17, 1973, forty years ago today. I am no longer married and have no intention to marry again…and, I never know what lies around the bend in my path.
My parents have been married seventy years. They modeled for me a marriage that lasts. The difference between their marriage and mine appears to be that my mother has been an excellent accommodator…not I.
I tried, but never got the hang of accommodating my husband’s wishes without feeling resentful when it was never his turn to accommodate me. Of course, that is my perspective…I am sure his story sounds quite different.
I have two friends who have been married to one another all of their adult lives and they are a joy to be with as a couple. The three of us traveled together for several weeks in a foreign country. We have also house-shared on a number of occasions over the last few years. This intimate sharing of space and time has allowed me an inside look at their marriage.
I have observed gentleness in the way they relate to one another. They have genuine concern for one another’s happiness. They carve out the time to consider each other’s needs and they care enough to try to meet them. They both have generous natures and this extends beyond their relationship to their children, their families, their colleagues and friends. The most significant factors I have observed in this beautiful marriage, is recognition and respect for their diversity and the ability to let down all pretense and laugh with each other at themselves.
Love is a word that is so overused it has lost its power for me. I understand humankind’s constant attempts to conceptualize it; I just feel those attempts usually fall short. Being with my friends, I see beyond the concept into the experience. With them, I see what love is and I realize what makes a marriage not just last, but flourish.
I am in a relationship with a man who gives me hope that I too may have finally found an experience of love that takes me beyond the concept to the experience. Trust is key.

couple sillouette

Like an Erupting Volcano

erupting volcanoAnger is not an emotion I am familiar with. I stuffed it down for so many years it gave up and stopped bubbling to the surface. Today it erupted like a volcano.

As a child I was not allowed to express anger. Mom taught me that anger was “unladylike” and Dad considered it disrespectful. No one modeled healthy anger management in my household. I saw the extremes of raging and denial/suppression.

In my marriage I was afraid to express anger. My ex-husband was a very big guy who could get his own good rage going, usually directed at me, and my returning anger was like pouring gas on an already raging fire so I learned quickly that anger wasn’t a safe emotion to express. I usually channeled my own rage into cleaning!

Six years ago I left that oppressive-suppressive-depressive marriage and I gave myself permission to express what I feel. I embarked on a mission of honesty and transparency. I wanted to be totally honest and expressive about every emotion I felt with everyone I was in relationship with…most of all myself.

For two years I lived with my cat and dabbled in internet dating neither looking for nor encouraging a long-term relationship. I had just ended one of those and I was in no hurry to dive into those deep waters again. But then…

I have been living with G for four years. We have a good relationship based on a long history (we grew up together) and many similar beliefs and lifestyle choices. We also have magical chemistry, not only sexual but we “get each other”, we respect one another and we laugh at the same things and make each other laugh. We call our relationship “Fragil Majik.” G is an intense personality, and I know I am my own strong flavor, so live and let live is my motto, as best I can. I consider myself a compassionate person. I do my best to appreciate every person’s unique situation and since I don’t walk in their shoes, who am I to judge? But then…

I have some strong opinions and beliefs about the human body, the effect of diet and our health. Natural healing has been my profession for twenty years and I was a student of nutrition and natural healing modalities for ten years before I became a professional. I use food like medicine to treat myself when I am not feeling as well as I would like. I am far from perfect but I am a strong, healthy 60+ woman, and I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that the natural therapies I employ work on myself and others.

G has some health issues. Without going into detail I will say they are long-standing (some since childhood) and have been exacerbated by his lifestyle which does not put health as a priority. I believe that some of the diet modifications and therapies I use would be helpful for him. For four years I have been sharing with him what I have learned from study, from clients, from fellow therapists and naturopaths. It falls on deaf ears. I’m not sure why. Perhaps he doesn’t believe the information is true. Perhaps he has resistance to changing his lifestyle. Perhaps he is triggered by the way I present the information. I don’t know.

This morning something snapped in me. When he did several things that were all contrary for his condition and the alternative healthy choices were all simple and easy I lost it! I told him his behavior was selfish because I live with the consequences of his ill-health. More than that, I couldn’t wrap my head around why anyone would knowingly, intentionally do that! It just made me crazy! I erupted like a volcano. So much energy came pouring out of me. It felt good in a strange way. I said my words to him and then I took off walking fast around the property, crying, cursing, venting…erupting. It lasted about five minutes and then I got a strong, full feeling in my gut. I got very calm and worked hard outside for the rest of the day letting my thoughts move through me, noticing the chain of events that led up to the eruption. It makes some sense to me now.

I don’t feel angry toward him anymore. My compassion has returned. My patience with the situation? I’m not sure…the volcano may still be simmering.

Walking the Pacific Crest Trail

It is a blustery, sunny day with feathery clouds filling the huge expanse of sky as we drive up Los Coyotes road toward Hot Springs Peak. I parked the car off the road on the span of dirt between the barbed wire fence and asphalt.
With my baseball cap and sunglasses for sun protection and jeans and hiking boots to protect my legs from injury, I am traveling light. Lip gloss, iPhone and a bottle of water are tucked in the pockets of my wind breaker. The trail is lined with jumping choya and other spiny cactus and the possibility of meeting a rattlesnake is always a consideration.
Fran and Gary arrived yesterday. They are my buds from Wyoming. Two years ago we explored Peru together and I am so happy to be able to share a little of my hood with them. Joel drove down from L.A. this morning. Joel lives in Naples and just spent the weekend camping in Zion. We are close friends who live far and look forward to these opportunities to share time together.
We climbed through the fence and walked the jeep trail towards the rock outcropping known as Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock is on Warner Ranch land now owned by Vista Water Co. The Pacific Crest Trail passes just to the south of it. This natural rock formation is so realistically detailed some have doubted that its artist is Nature. The Indian tribes who were here long before the white man moved in have treated this land as sacred. Nature doesn’t create such magnificence by accident.Eagle rock 2eagle rock
Sitting on the rocks that surround and protect the Eagle, the view is impressive. To the north, it appears we are almost eye level with Hot Springs Peak, the highest point in San Diego County. The mountain tops are green, covered in manzanita, creosote, and live oak trees. Looking south, the Observatory at the top of Mt Palomar, is barely visible through the hazy sky. I’m not sure of the source of the haze. We have had some fires lately. A “controlled” burn got out of control last week burning nearly 3000 acres less than ten miles from my home. Perhaps it is a distant fire burning or maybe just the moisture coming up from the ocean that is creating the hazy skies to the northwest.
Looking more to the west, Lake Henshaw and the dam are visible and the great valley that lies between the lake and us. The feeling of spaciousness has a good feeling for me…as if my chest can expand larger and each breath comes in full and deep. The trail heads off in this direction going down through Warner Springs and on towards its northernmost end point at the Canadian border.
I look to the southeast. The PCT is a 2,650 mile trek between Mexico and Canada, passing through California’s deserts and high sierras. Today we are going take a short jaunt heading southeast from Eagle Rock toward my house which sits just a mile off trail at the 101.2 mile marker. My goal is to walk into the manzanita forest I know lies just across this stretch of ranch land where the trail heads down into the oak groves that mark the valley I live in.
The wind almost takes my hat and the temperature soon has me tying my wind breaker around my waist. The trail is narrow and dusty. The rocks always attract my attention. I notice the beautiful colors and sparkle of composite granite, quartz and other shiny minerals that are strewn along the path. In less than thirty minutes we reach the first of the manzanita.manzanita1 manzanita2
For the next half hour we wind though a magical forest of these amazing trees. We pause to spend time marveling at one large specimen. The orange bark curls away from grey that appears to be dead. It is as if the tree builds new life on top of old dead wood. The tiny fruits that hang from the branches are super sticky. The wood of this tree is so hard it is used for parrot perches. Parrots can crack walnuts so a perch that they can’t destroy has got to be tough.
As we walk along, enjoying the desert plants, feathery clouds, and deep solitude of the back country, we spot our first critter. A tiny horny desert toad is in the path. He seems chameleon-like as he blends in with either rock or plant, shadow or sunlight, wherever he parks himself. Unafraid of our close inspection he lies perfectly still as we angle our cameras in attempts to capture an image of him.horned toad
He was the first of four siting’s of his kind in the next few minutes. We wondered what his message to us might be…be still and be safe? Blend and become one with your environment?
Too soon we reached a rim, dropping down into a valley of oaks. At this point we decided to turn around and head back. A brief two-hour walk on the PCT was a delightful way to spend the afternoon and made me hungry for more. I am planning to take a day soon and walk the five miles of trail between my house and Eagle Rock. I was just getting my stride and the solitude, the slow pace and the sunshine are calling me back.Eagle rock approach

Shadow

Shadow

We are caring for Shadow, my neighbor Kay’s little rescue doggie, while Kay is on vacation. He could not have a more appropriate name. This sweet little creature stays by my side every moment. (He is sleeping, curled up on my foot right now.)
I haven’t had a dog since I left my farm home in Illinois over six years ago. Before that, I was never without dogs (and cats.) At our farm in Illinois, there were four dogs when I left, three labs and a terrier, Suzy. Leaving that terrier was really tough, but my circumstances were so chaotic and my future so unknown I didn’t feel right taking Suzy from her happy home to “fall off the cliff” with me.
Shadow reminds me of Suzy. He is about the same size, color, and shape and they are both rescue dogs. I have had several rescue dogs and they seem to have an appreciation for their good fortune. It is as if they know that their fate was hanging by a thin thread until their rescuer saved them and gave them a safe and loving home. I see that look of loving appreciation in Shadow’s eyes when he looks up at me, even though I am only his temporary mom.
Last night, our first night with Shadow, he followed us to bed, jumped up and snuggled right down into my belly as I lay on my side. This is exactly what my cat Lemur, who died six weeks ago, used to do. I slept really well last night!
It is an interesting coincidence that on the same day Shadow came to stay with us, we adopted two kittens. We are picking them up next week. They are part of the litter of a feral cat the local post office staff cares for. It was a spontaneous decision to get them. A friend who came to my yoga class on Sunday morning told me the post office was looking for homes for the kittens and I didn’t hesitate. We went to see them yesterday and made the decision. It just felt right, and why would anyone get one kitten when they can have two!
Since Lemur died I have been waiting for a cat to appear…my animal friends have usually found me, rather than the other way around. We are feeding a feral cat that prowls the property. I call him Panther. I don’t think Panther will ever become a house cat…he is one of those wild animals that seem happy to retain their freedom and don’t seem to need or want human touch. He is a joy to watch as he prowls the rocky hillside stalking rodents and looking every bit a miniature black panther. Bit by bit he is trusting us as the ones who put food out for him.
I am nurtured by animals. They rescue me from myself! Perhaps it is my mothering instinct that draws animals to me and me to them. Whatever the reason, caring for an animal and having the loyal companionship they offer, has always been a big part of my life and I have felt the loss of not having a dog for long enough. Shadow has reminded me that dogs bring great joy to my heart and a trip to the rescue shelter is in my future. I tend to bring home pets in pairs…we’ll see how that goes.

Oscar the Grey

170px-African_Grey_Parrot_(Psittacus_erithacus)_-held_on_handI moved into my new office space yesterday…felt it was time to take business out of the bedroom and dedicate that space to relaxation.
I put my washer and dryer out in the newly remodeled garage which is now a studio and a wash room. The move freed up a small utility room downstairs off the deck. I removed the cabinets, painted it, installed a new wood floor and moved in my old oak roll top which was in storage.
Today is the first day to write in my new space.
It smells of linseed oil and turpentine from the refurnished desk.

Oscar, our African Grey, is sharing the space with me. He has a roomy open door cage and a nesting box and I think he is very happy to have the companionship. As long as I am in my chair he is content to stay up on his perches. If I sit on the floor he immediately climbs down and comes over to see me. He wants me to pick him up but I know the unpredictability and considerable power (think cracking walnuts) of his beak so I steer clear of handling him. Wild animals are unpredictable and I never know for sure what might trigger his fear and cause him to take a chunk out of me. Better safe than missing a finger when it comes to parrots.

I didn’t raise Oscar. He belongs to my boyfriend, G. G used to hand raise parrots as a side-line job and the breeder offered him a bird in payment for his services. They are worth a couple of thousand dollars and he loves birds and animals so he took him. That was thirteen years ago. Greys live to be fifty years or more. Guinness lists 72 as the longest living Grey in captivity. G is 63. Oscar is 13. This is a lifelong relationship for G and something for anyone considering a parrot to think long and hard about.

Oscar is a Congo Grey, one of two recognized sub-species. Living with a Grey takes getting used to and I have done well in four years. Wild animals are not capable of full domestication. They may tolerate some training but their instincts rule and their person should never forget that. They tend to bond with one person and G can handle him without incident but anyone else who attempts to touch him is at risk of a painful experience.

Experts regard Greys as one of the most intelligent birds in the world. Irene Pepperberg wrote about her Grey named Alex. She scientifically demonstrated they possess the ability to associate simple human words with meanings, and to intelligently apply abstract concepts such as shape, color and number. According to Pepperberg and other ornithologists, they perform cognitive tasks at the level of dolphins, chimpanzees, and human toddlers. Oscar has a fear of white trucks, not other colors, just white. If he is riding in a car and a white truck pulls up beside the car he lets out a shriek! I wonder if he associates to something frightening from his past.
One notable Grey, N’Kisi, was said to have a vocabulary of over 950 words and was noted for creative use of language. When Jane Goodall visited N’kisi in his New York home, he greeted her with “Got a chimp?” He had seen pictures of her with chimpanzees in Africa.

Wild African Grey’s often whistle, click or make other sounds. Oscar’s vocabulary is around 100 words. He says, “Hello” when he hears a phone ring and even when you pick one up to make a call. He can mimic anything he hears and it only takes once! G’s ex-wife wasn’t fond of Oscar. When a woman now walks past G’s cage you may hear him mutter under his breath her frequent words to him when she walked by and he would be trying to grab her, “mother-fucker.”

In the evening when he is put in his cage area for the night, he whistles a typical dog whistle and calls for G’s former dog, “Here Scooter.”  When he hears a door close he often says, “Go on, get out’a here.” Sometimes he carries on a conversation with himself, muttering away for minutes at a time in a low voice that is hard to understand, but is definitely words. He loves music, and when the right song is played he will sing with a vibrato to rival any opera star. He loves to dance, puffing up his feathers, bobbing up in down in rhythm to the music with an occasional “Wa-hoo” thrown in for good measure.
The aspect of his speaking I find interesting is his variety of inflection and use of context. He also demonstrates a wicked sense of humor.
When I first shared a house with Oscar, four years ago, I was sweeping the floor with my back to him, quite close to his cage. I bent over to use the dust pan and practically in my ear, a man’s low voice said, “Hello there.”
I dropped the pan and jumped looking around to discover he had quietly navigated down the door of his cage until he was right behind me and close to my head before he spoke.  Tell me that wasn’t intentional!

We were doing some remodeling when we moved in four years ago and he quickly picked up the sounds of the power tools. When I was redoing the floor in this room last week he “helped” me. If I used the drill, he made the drill sound. When I used a hammer he would bang on the wall with his beak in the same rhythm as I.  ‘Couldn’t have done the job without him!

Oscar has an outside cage where he likes to hang out weather permitting. He has learned the squirrel cry and all of the wild bird sounds and can do a perfect hawk, blue jay and woodpecker. I have seen a blue jay sitting on his cage and they appeared to be having a conversation.

When my cat would walk through Oscar’s room he liked to say, “There’s Lemur,” and follow it with a nice meow. Lemur and Oscar became friends and would eat off the same plate and we walked in one day to find them on either side of a chess game. Oscar was holding his knight in his claw.
When Lemur died a month ago, Oscar was subdued, mourning the loss of his friend. We took him to Lemur’s grave-site to say good-bye.  That seemed to help as he perked up afterward.

The stories about Oscar abound…my favorite may be the time he survived a solo journey out into the world, which he has done three times, an extremely remarkable fact in the pet bird world.

It was Oscar’s first Christmas and he had learned his first words, “Merry Christmas.” On December 21st, G was walking to his car with Oscar on his shoulder when a hawk swooped close and Oscar took off. He flew up into a tree high above the ground. G went to get a ladder but when he returned Oscar was gone. For three days friends and neighbors joined the search but Oscar was not to be found. A Grey that gets loose will generally survive only 24-48 hours so by day three G had given up hope of finding him alive.
On Christmas-eve in the evening, there was knock at the door. G answered to find one of the neighbor boys pointing and excitedly saying, “Look, G, Look!” With the driveway lined with neighbors, Oscar was walking home. His wings were dragging behind him and he looked pretty beat up, but he was clearly saying as he walked up to the door, “Merry Christmas.”

Unless he is making his infamous “smoke signal battery test sound” I have grown to be quite fond of Oscar. I long to pet him when he is acting all cuddly and cute but I recall G’s explanation of the African Grey sucker punch. “They lure you in with their sweet docile behavior and then nail you with that lethal beak!” I have been on the receiving end of that experience once, when I too was naïve about these birds which are to be greatly respected, so I won’t make that mistake again.

I am content to have him near my desk on his portable perch on wheels where we look at each other and he makes funny sounds and says whatever is on his mind, and I make funny sounds and say what is on mine.

He is earning his keep. Today he is the prompt for my morning pages.

African Grey