I WILL ELEVATE YOU IN THE DARKEST NIGHT

“The roads are straight, three lanes, dotted with white and edged with yellow. The leaves of the trees are golden, orange, red, taupe, sage. I am with my love, my heart, my husband. We are on tour with The Kin.”

There was a very special moment this week that I do not want to let pass without honoring it with words. But first, some history.

Many months ago, when Isaac and I were just home from our honeymoon, he returned for a few days to work in Los Angeles. We had just left L.A. where I’d had a soul-shifting moment in a beachside hotel room. I needed to being doing something. My new husband was with his band recording music in a studio a few blocks away. I needed to be at work too, but I’d forgotten what that was while I waited for him. I needed to be chipping away at something that had meaning to me and meant something to others, too. Days spent strolling the beach, having lunch in cafes and riding bicycles on a boulevard, were not enough for me. I needed to chip.

Finding myself then in our house, alone, on the other side of the country after the bliss of two weeks together was a little too much to digest at the time. We’d landed in San Francisco, explored sequoia and redwood forests, seen Big Sur, the Houdini museum, Henry Millers’ Library, laughed on the balcony of Nepenthe and watched whales as we sipped Bloody Marys. It was a rare two weeks “alone together” and having married within four months of meeting each other, I was still head over heels and irreversibly attached.

Then things got ugly. I hadn’t been in our house alone, ever, for more than a couple of days, and now I had a week to myself. Here was my chance to chip at something! Anything! But it was also Valentines Day, so instead that first week brought tears which I know now as the pains of attachment. They always sprang fastest on the night before he’d return, my stoicism pent up and the dam fit to bursting. I was afraid of what was out there, uncertain of my safety, and acclimating to life after a life-changing wedding with the life-changing man of my dreams. Little did I know that I would soon spend many days in our home ‘by myself’ and yet, I would very quickly learn to love this time in solitude.

First it was five days, then ten, then three weeks, then five. Acceptance brings the greatest ease, a flow with what is, all of that magic. Soon I was learning how to make dreamcatchers from materials I found in the forest nearby. I was leaving the door unlocked, not having nightmares about axe murdering rapists hunting me down for no reason. I was learning to trust, to let go, to be with what is, no matter how much I squirmed (Oh, how I squirmed!) I spent weekends in new places, made new friends and connected with old ones. I learnt to separate myself from my lover and husband, the man I am co-creating a life with – a beautiful, epic, adventure filled life. However, there is nothing predictable about adventure!

Practicing my self-defense (it's a bb gun, Dad)

The process of disentangling my ego from its attachments has taken time. I remember a point not so long ago when I realized how afraid I was of (the idea of) being apart from my husband while he toured potentially ever more frequently and ever more successfully. I was so conflicted wanting to support his dreams, terrified that I was losing sight of my own. I scoured the web for writing by women whose husbands were touring musicians, and became more afraid the more I read. “A tour bus is no place for children.” It wasn’t okay. I didn’t want to lead two separate existences.

Needing to feel at peace with it all, I went through the eye of the needle and learnt to let go of needing to be near. I came back to my self. Who am I without a partner to define me? It was almost like being single again, but WAY better. I was in love! I started writing letters to Isaac every night. I realized that the love Isaac and I share is beyond proximity. I’ve seen how it grows stronger, regardless of (and sometimes in direct proportion to) physical distance. We are never very far from each other, really. Our hearts are so near, and our love for each other so strong, that after a while, I stopped noticing the distance.

The truth has always been that our happiness, and therefore the happiness of each other, must come first. We wrote our own wedding vows, and I’m reminded now that one reads:  “I will elevate you in the darkest night.” Another that “I am a stand for your wildest aspirations and highest goals.” Frankly there have been times when I’ve wondered how on earth to stitch Isaac’s dream of touring the world regularly on a man-filled tour bus with my dream of raising children in a natural, grounded environment.

But no matter what, we are absolutely committed to each others’ bliss and so to each others’ dreams. We share them. I adore my music-filled life and am thrilled by all the tours that Isaac undertakes. I am so proud of who he is and cherish the way he shares his gifts with the world. He also needs home as much as I do and treasures his time here. We both want to raise our children in a natural and grounded environment. What happened in the catacombs of my mind was that I realized the cliche of ‘rock star on tour’ doesn’t have to be insoluble with that other cliche, ‘home with the kids.’ Who says they can’t mix? Why can’t we have both? My father once said to me, “Sophie, you could be happy living in a caravan park. The thing is you would make it amazing.

House on wheels!

Perhaps he was onto something there. Suddenly the idea of a converted RV or custom tour bus became very attractive, and as you know, I leapt full in. The marrying of our dreams was nothing short of effervescent. Let’s get a yurt! A guard llama! Let’s tour the country and raise our children on the road surrounded by music, friends and family! (Isaac’s brother is his partner in their band The Kin, all of whom I absolutely adore.)

Soon enough, I had a chance to experience this vision first hand. It was time to visit my husband on tour after four weeks away. The days had flown by this time. As mentioned earlier, one of the ways I have dealt with the sense of living separate lives is that for every single night that we are apart, without fail, I pen a missive to Isaac (well, it’s an email.) I call them Letters from Home, each numbered in accordance with the number of nights we have left to see each other. In them I share anything I want from my day, without the constraint of time – which is often short on the road with big acts like P!NK. He loves those letters, and I love writing them. I have found nothing else that keeps me so connected, and I cannot give them up. I’ll probably be writing them for years to come.

I arrived in Minneapolis and stepped onto an escalator heading down towards baggage claim. A feeling came over me, so I looked over to where a stunning young man stood in the airy sunlight with a huge smile on his face. He did a little celebration dance and then stood watching me, grinning. It had been four weeks since he’d seen my growing belly, the burgeoning form of our first child taking shape. “Ya’ll warm my heart, you two!” said a woman who saw us kissing and embracing by a suitcase in that sunlit airport. We didn’t take our arms or hands from each other for several hours.

Somehow this reunion was different than the others. Perhaps because I was on tour with Isaac and his band, and was overjoyed at the opportunity. Cuddling has never felt so good in an RV on the edge of a Walmart in Idaho. Then came the special moment I wanted to share, while walking along the edge of a geese-filled creek in Ann Arbor. It was a chilly overcast day, and as we walked arm in arm, I realized how much I loved being “alone together”, and that the arrival of our baby in several months heralded the end of this unique time. Tears sprang to my eyes as we shuffled through the fallen leaves. At the same time, I saw the happy apparition of a small child in my mind, running ahead to chase geese from the shore. There were so many questions. Isaac reassured me and kissed me and held my hand and I learnt to let go a little more.

As we looped back around to return home, Isaac’s stride outpaced mine. Being four months pregnant my breath is different now. I need more oxygen to fuel both my body and our baby’s. One of my first instincts was to ask Isaac to slow down, to wait for me, to walk with me. But I didn’t say it. I waited. I recognized that as ye old attachment again. I didn’t need anything. In fact, I was very content to walk at my pace, to enjoy the air and the leaves and the sounds of the geese and children playing in the distance.

I let my love walk beyond me, at his own pace, on his own journey, feeling his own feelings. I let him go, while loving him more. He didn’t turn back, and I didn’t call out. We just moved how we needed to move. I felt my love for him grow larger. This must be what it’s like to have children, I thought, as the voices of the girls in the playground reminded me of games I used to play in those places, too. To let your heart walk outside of your body, and love them from a distance. That’s what I’ve heard it’s like. It was already happening.

When we got to the top of a hill, Isaac walked directly into the middle of the quiet road and turned towards me. The look on his face was very special. I felt his acknowledgment for what I had done, whether he knew it or not. Something had shifted.

“Then you stopped in the middle of the road on top of the hill, and watched me. Your face had a look on it that I can only interpret as pure love and gratitude. I don’t know what you were thinking, but I felt that moment of acknowledgement and basked in your gaze. I see that when I choose how to respond without attaching to how something ‘should’ be, I am able to just enjoy the delight of the moment. It’s a precious gift.”  

May we all learn to love deeply, and let go a little more. It may be one of the hardest things to do, loving and leaving. One day though, we won’t be here any more. Who knows who will enter the halls of the afterlife first, but one thing is certain, we’re all going there. To love without attachment helps me find peace in the distance. The lump in my throat however, that’s still there.

Our wedding vows, January 7th 2012

I AM MY WORD

I SHALL LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF MY HEART

I SHALL CHERISH YOU WITH ALL OF MY BEING

I SHALL STAND BY YOU AS YOUR CHAMPION

I SHALL BE HONEST WITH YOU NO MATTER WHAT THE COST

I WILL CHOOSE YOU EVERY DAY NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCE

I WILL ELEVATE YOU IN THE DARKEST NIGHT

I COMMIT TO PROTECTING YOU AND DEFENDING YOUR HONOUR

I COMMIT TO YOUR FAMILY, TO EMBRACE THEM AS MY FAMILY

I COMMIT TO THE EVER EXPANSIVE NATURE OF OUR LOVE

I AM A STAND FOR YOUR WILDEST ASPIRATIONS AND HIGHEST GOALS

I COMMIT TO SATISFYING YOUR EVERY DESIRE

I WILL MAKE SACRED TIME AND SPACE FOR OUR LOVE

I SHALL HOLD YOUR HEART IN MY HEART

Posted in LOVE LETTER TO LIFE, MY MUSINGS, ON THE SELF, ON TRUE LOVE | 4 Comments

FURNISHING A SOUL

Watercolor by me from before I was pregnant. It really is like this!

“It’s the best thing.

I should always want to be pregnant

Tummy thickening like a yogurt.

Unbelievable flower.”

- Sandra McPherson

Today I am 117 days pregnant. I have waited until now to share with you about this incredible feeling. How does one begin to describe what is happening? What am I feeling? How can I put words to this sensation? It has been four months, and I feel (I am) blessed. I feel strong, full of eternal life energy and coursing with love. It is a buoyancy I am somewhat familiar with, but unaccustomed to living amongst constantly. There are so few moments that take me out of this sensation.

I am furnishing a soul with a body. Who is this soul? Who are you that dreams in utero amongst the body my mother furnished for me? I have the undeniable sense of being used, utilized, filled up, full, fulfilled and complete. I have a sense of being able to do (almost) anything. Contrary to popular belief, my mind is sharpening in subtle ways. Or perhaps, it is not my mind, but my heart, which has expanded yet again, ballooning outwards across the planet.

What a gift it is to feel so utilized. Being a woman, it seems that my entire body is being employed for a purpose. I have a uterus! I have breasts! And they are engaged in their life’s work! I’ve never known this feeling – only the regular release and increase of blood shedding, and a powerful sense of when. Part of me knows I am born to mother. Perhaps born to mother this being, and then the others who will join him or her.

At first I wondered, when, then how, now who. There isn’t much to do except prepare myself for the journey and adventure that awaits as I follow this path – yet another inexplicable journey.

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I FOUND THE HEART OF A LION, IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

I wrote an article for the Sunday Times Magazine in Western Australia which ran last Sunday, and was syndicated nationally via The Australian. I am very proud of the response the story has received and am humbled by the courage I’ve found to share the journey that I went upon.

Photo by Stef Mitchell

That courage, clarity and honesty are testament to the two women who have been working with me on the topic, not only of disordered eating, but the disempowered thinking that accompanies so many women on their passage through adolescence and well into adulthood. What began as an essay sent to me by my best friend, written by a woman I’d never met, became the seed of a book. All that was needed to germinate that seed was ‘YES.’

I was moved by the essay written by de Vie, now co-author of the book we are co-creating. Her stark honesty about the realm she called ‘Eatingdisorderland’ inspired me on that day in New York as I crossed a street to my apartment. I suggested via email that we co-author something on the topic with my friend Libby, an utterly passionate advocate of health and wellbeing, and the woman who had shared the essay with me.

Their response was a resounding ‘YES.’

Image by Erica Ruby via MYSTICMAMMA

Approximately four years later, the seed is sprouting leaves, its flower yet to bloom. I am so very grateful to these two courageous, inquisitive, focused, impassioned women, without whom this soil may have been left untilled. Now we have planted a garden, and the delight it brings to others is its gift and legacy. From the ashes, a phoenix. From the rain, a silver lining. May our message inspire you towards a life filled completely with love, joy, peace and fulfillment.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“I couldn’t keep it up any longer. Anorexia had given me a sense of stability, now it was eating me alive. I didn’t feel vital. Certain organs in my body had completely shut down. I didn’t menstruate for years. Acknowledging I had a problem was the first step out. I realized that my appearance was not worth my health, nor my sense of self-worth.’

“Like countless others, I’d been swept away by the beauty myth, the promise that we could just be better – or even perfect – if we bought this or looked like that. What I didn’t know at the time was that the images I struggled to emulate were airbrushed to the tune of an unattainable ideal. I’d bitten the apple and fell under the spell. It was good advertising. But I was smarter.’

“Yearning for some other model of wellbeing, I paid attention to women who had broken the spell, some of them ex-models. These women made a huge difference in how I saw the world and my potential place in it. It took immense courage to step beyond the confines of the tribe I was in, to leave its members for new horizons.

“When we take this step with an authentic desire for something different, we can begin to seek alternatives to the prison we have locked ourselves into. In the end, I had the key the entire time. Only I knew how to release the lock.’

READ THE FULL ARTICLE ONLINE HERE.

** The title to this post is a lyric from Grace Potter & The Nocturnal’s song ‘The Lion, the Beast, The Beat’

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THE INCURABLE LONGING FOR A FARM OF ONE’S OWN

The title of this post is also the name of a book I just added to my list of must-reads. It was a sunny afternoon when Isaac and I began discussing the possibility that purchasing an RV of one’s own might be the best way to stay together while he tours with his band The Kin for the foreseeable future. I got very inspired by that idea! The thought of being apart, when we have children too, in a house away from the city, gets me a little anxious, especially when the truth of the matter is that he might be gone for months at a time. An RV or converted bus sounds like a perfectly adventurous solution! I have always loved road tripping around this country I am young in, and I’ve only seen parts of this mad world. I want to see Alaska, and Portland, Washington State, the Dakotas, and Montana, and all the wild beautiful reaches that stretch across the earth here, if we would just seek them.

A dream was formed. We would take our young child or children around the country in a vehicle something like this (my dream) playing great music to great audiences, meeting great people and seeing great sights. I think this would be a wonderful experience for everyone involved. So as one does, I made a trip to Pinterest. There I found layer upon layer of images inspiring the dream further! Soon, as one does, I came across a link within link within a picture, and found this. Yet another example of the life well lived. You see, I’m finding myself angling more and more towards a naturally harmonious life, a life truly connected to and in partnership with the earth and it’s abundance.  It’s women like this, and this, and this, who have inspired me to create this dream. We are already one step in the direction of this picture, having moved to the countryside. We must simply begin to explore the land further and find the farm that fits us.

To clarify, it would be a small farm. I grew up spending part of the year on my uncle’s farm in Southwest Australia, where he grew mandarins and oranges on an orchard we roamed, and kept sheep, cows and kangaroo on a large parcel of land which surrounded their house on a hill. My sister, my cousin Vaishali and I, loved trekking this land in search of who-knows-what. The adventure was what drove us. Our curiosity pulled us over hills, across streams and rivers, through thick sticky mud, down gravel roads and back up again. I think it’s these memories that are speaking now. Yes, I dreamt of New York like there was no other place on Earth – but uncannily, almost as soon as I met Isaac, we up and moved to the countryside (it was 10 weeks after meeting each other, and four weeks after were engaged!) There is a plan, it seems. Our dreams and desires are not planted randomly. I longed and longed for New York, and now I know why.

The longing is shifting now. It’s probably something to do with my awareness that there will soon be others in our life whom we are responsible for raising and teaching and loving. Our children. What kind of a world do I want them to grow up in? I once wrote the following, months ago – letters to my unborn babes:

IF I HAVE A DAUGHTER 

If I have a daughter, I want her to know these things. I would want her to feel safe, free and loved. I want her to feel so loved as she lay in her bed looking at the glow in the dark stars on her ceiling. I’d want her to have a full belly and enjoy food with her whole being. I would want her to look at the world with excitement and awe and wonder. I’d want her to take time for herself to look out the window of her bedroom at the trees and the birds and the water, the sky, the fireflies, the snow falling. I would want her to have super friends, friends who were kind and compassionate and thoughtful and generous and loving. I would want her to have interests of her own, and I would want to show her things in life, take her places and teach her things – like baking, making paper toys, how to grow a garden, how to pray, how to talk to the angels and how not to be scared of the forest. I would want her to be encouraged to be herself. I would want her to take joy in her body and everything it can do. I would want her to DANCE and sing and enjoy music, let it fill every atom of her being. I would want her to be hugged as much as she could be, I would want her to be kissed all over and blessed with more love than she knows how to take in. I would want her to know everything she can about recycling and protecting the earth. I would want her to take initiative in her world, to know what to do to protect the earth and herself. I’d want her to roar like a lion and roam the wilderness with her father, be fierce and strong and fearless as she can be – to not fear what cannot touch her. I’d want her to know that there is strength in being female, in being feminine, receptive, yielding and vulnerable, sensitive and open and honest. I would want her to smile with her whole body.

IF I HAVE A SON 

If I have a son, I’d want him to know these things. I’d want him to know that he is sacred, and that his sisters, family, friends and relatives, teachers and the people he sees every day are sacred. I’d want him to know to treat everyone as if they were himself. Not just as ‘his brother,’ but as if they were he. I’d want him to be kind and compassionate and open and generous and to have friends who were the same way. I’d want him to laugh. Loudly and a lot. I’d want him to have quiet time, too. To read and think about the universe and the world and to think about the Earth. I’d want him to study and to learn useful things, and some things that might not be useful, just to practice learning. I’d want him to run and to rest, I’d want him to feel free and loved, so loved, that he could stay naked wrapped in a towel after a warm bath at night. I would want him to feel so loved that he would be cuddled and tickled and squeezed senseless by his parents. I would want him to smile lots, and to ask lots of questions and to have the courage and the trust from his parents to ride his bike around and to be safe and to scrape his knees and climb logs over rivers and look at bugs. I’d want him to look after his brothers and sisters if he has any, and his friends, and to explore the land, the earth. I’d want him to stay out after dark and know that he’s safe to find his way home. I’d want him to look at the stars and build fires with his Dad and eat with gusto and ask for more. I’d want him to cuddle his Mum and to lay with her on the couch and let her stroke his hair and rub his feet. I’d want him to tell me his worries and his dreams and hopes and fears. I’d want only the most beautiful life for him, the life of his dreams.

Photo via instagram/acupfullofsunshine

I think it’s these children who are creating the future for Isaac and myself. I believe their dreams and hopes and wishes are made manifest through the fact that they choose us. I feel the spirits of our children around us, very often, and I know their desires are my desires also.  So, there is The Farm. As I start to engage with this idea, I feel my future self speaking to me, and she has learnt many things. I’m going to order this book among others, and I am going to learn the ways of the past – a time when we weren’t trapped in nine to five jobs, with dozens of bills and an imbalanced reliance on the supermarket. I know it’s a lot of work, to keep animals, but I don’t doubt the desires I’ve had for decades! When I was about 10 or 11, I became intensely interested in the animal kingdom, so much so that I thought I might become a veterinarian. I read yesterday about this woman’s experience as a one-time ‘goat doula’, and thought how powerful it must feel to be privy to the cycles of life and death which we’re often so removed from – and which come as great shocks when they knock on the door.

The idea of living a suburban life, with two cars and a mortgage, sounds very much like a trap to me. After finding this woman’s instagram blog, I have a sudden yearning for the presence of an alpaca. Ideally, we’d have a manageable plot of land, with forest, creek, brook, or river, sunny and fertile plots for growing vegetables and fruit trees, a chicken pen with egg-laying hens, a goat shed with four or so goats to milk and care for, a dog or two, and a guard llama to keep the herd safe (and interesting.) I have gotten into the habit over the past few months of baking my own sourdough and making almond milk, which has eradicated any reliance on store-bought bread or milk, which I now can’t stand.

Thankfully, I notice that several converted RVs house an oven! (For those times when we’re not on the farm, but roaming wider.)

Photo by Tracy Porter

As the days pass, so do I shift and adapt. I am finding my dreams so different to those I had before, and with good reason I believe. It seems we must learn to let go of rotting fruit, to plant new seeds, to rip up the garden that didn’t grow, and start again. To believe in the God-flow of life (for lack of a better word) and participate once again in the dance of its expression. This is what I am surrendering to now.

For lack of a better word, thank you.  

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UNPINNING THE MOTHS

It seems so long since I wrote freely here. I make excuses. Too many people know and see me each week now, who read my writing, and I must make amends to my self-expression. I must not upset or concern them. I must protect them from their worry. Nonsense! I forbid myself to think as such, let alone to act as such. I am a free woman. Free to say whatever I want, however I want.

So what do I want to tell you? The reader I am writing to is a person such as I am, such as I was, someone with the same urges and dreams and fears and questions about life, and how to live it. Preoccupied with the stuff of life, I find myself stepping out of the flow of creativity, of self-expression. I find myself trapped in the expectations of others, on collaborations that are controlled, focused on a final outcome that we each contribute to, but which are not wholly my own.

That is not what I am here for. I am here to be Queen of my own Kingdom, to rule over the realm of my imagination. I am unlike anyone I know, my creativity unlike anyone’s either. I am the best me imaginable. And I am constantly changing, growing, adapting and transforming. I notice myself holding onto the things of the past, lamenting a future I seem unable to grasp, and beholden to my desires. I am not perfect. I don’t pretend to be any longer, either, though I once did, in the throes of anorexia. Did you know about that?  I will tell you more.

One of the things that used to motivate my writing was the perception that everything was moving so fast, that life was too beautiful to comprehend, and that I was going to miss something if I didn’t pin it down like a moth on a board. I wrote to capture life in all it’s mystery, misery and wonder. I didn’t want to forget. Have I forgotten, now? I don’t think we do forget, deep down. I feel I have remembered things I can’t recall, and it is my body that remembers, the thought or feeling tucked away in a particular nook, unable to be reached logically, but intuitively.

So, I haven’t lost anything. There is only new space created, things sorted and folded, placed orderly or otherwise deeply within, for me to retrieve someday when the hours beckon. There is space, now, for newness. It’s up to me. What next? What do I want to fill myself with for this next phase of life? As within, so without.

Yesterday, I spent hours in my office picking through papers I had stowed in filing cabinets, boxes, drawers and files. I threw away everything I didn’t need anymore, and treasured the gems I have kept. I wept. There’s a box I have which my father made himself for my twenty-first birthday. It’s a replica of the box we loved as children – his own father’s box, the drawers filled with ancient marbles, the lid hiding sepia pictures, faded and worn.

In my box, I have stowed every handwritten letter or card I’ve received from those who love me the most, my family, my nearest friends, as well as letters from readers and one, which brought a torrent of tears, from my seventh grade teacher, Ms Booker. She had written to my family after an interview was published in the Sunday Times Magazine some years ago, in which I described the fact that I’d won the Miss Booker Prize for Literature when I was young. She wrote that a teacher hopes the things they do might positively impact a child later in life, and that my mention of this prize and its impact, had not only made her day, but her “whole teaching career!”

It is treasures like this which I am glad to have kept, not just the pages and pages of words I’ve pinned to the page. Ironically, it is other people’s words which have made all the difference. I once thought the best joy was in expressing and sharing and opening myself, which is still true. However, now that I am older, I’m finding that it’s the reflections I see in the world around me, the increase of love, respect, and inspiration (my younger brothers’ notes particularly put lumps in my chest) that bring it all home.

I don’t do what I do for the attention of others, but for the gentle pressing from within which says write. Sadly, I have overpowered that quiet voice more times than I care to admit. Sometimes there is another voice, meaner and spiteful, which asks me, “Why are you not writing?” and I have to tell it, “because I am riding my bike,” or more often, simply “because you are there.” The Critic stands guard over certain documents which I’m angling to hike through like mountains, and questions everything I think with hands on hips. I’ve recently learnt that this Critic is not an ally. (You’d think we’d figure that out from the moment it speaks.) While it may seem to be hustling and jostling me to work, it is the very way it does so which is problematic – igniting fear, doubt, and a sense of duty.

Lest passion become a duty! No! Pure creativity is not to cross wires with the life of chores and duty. Yes, there will and are times when my creativity must be funneled into a shape, into chronological time and tangible form. But today, here and now, the creativity and freedom of self-expression afforded to me, to anyone, is what I choose. We must not be hindered, let alone from within. The realm in which we play is endless. What next, indeed?

There have been stories upon stories that have spilt from my hands, and they have all taught me something. Yet there have also been experience upon experience that have spilt from my life, and these have taught me the most. Life offers itself to our imagination, asking for nothing, and everything. I want simply to keep up with the magic itself, to stay present, out of the past, beyond the future. There is life here, everywhere, and we are it. The leaves shimmer in the wind, glow in the sun, the berries evanescent as the seasons shift. The sun drops to the sky as we spin around and around it, here for a time, and then somewhere else entirely, but not forgotten.

We are here making marks in the ways that inspire us, grappling with the mysteries of life, of purpose, these wellsprings of idea, impulse, desire and duty. Life, what a life.

In all its seasons, let us love it.

Posted in MY MUSINGS, ON THE CREATIVE LIFE | 1 Comment

BLESSED

“I live the poetry that I cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.”  - Oscar Wilde

Oh joyous life, thank you for your blessings.
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I AM

“After it’s all said and done, don’t I still think that the world is scary?  Don’t I go into it every day afraid?  What would that world be like, the one where women don’t make bitter compromises for the illusion of safety?  It’s a world I hope my children will see.  Hopefully one they will help create.  Maybe it’s one other women are living in, although not too many that I see.”Marie Andreau

Today I saw a documentary I have heard about for years, and never come across. I find that the most pivotal moments in my life are the product of events that occur without my conscious effort. The Henry Miller book I was given (changed my writing life); the quotes my father gave me as a teen (changed my inner life); the idea to co-author a book on self-esteem (changed my work life); meeting Isaac (changed my life); becoming pregnant; losing it (changed my perspective on life.) All these moments snuck up on me, and yet they were instrumental moments in shifting that-which-had-to-be-shifted.

I have so much to say. Where to begin? I grew up watching Ace Ventura on repeat with my sister and brothers. Little did I know, the director went through a transformational shift in his consciousness which has deeply affected me today. Tom Shadyac won multiple awards and a lot of money for his films. At some point he had a bicycle accident which left him with a post concussion syndrome, a condition that involves severe headaches, depression, and potential suicide. After medicine and alternative therapies didn’t work, he asked himself, if this is the end, what do I want to say before I go? What he wanted to say, became this documentary, and it reached me today. In his documentary film I AM, Shadyac asks philosophers, scientists and authors two questions:

What’s wrong with the world?

What can we do about it?  

I have been asked twice this week, the same question about death in different ways. “Assuming you had ten years to live, and were given ten million dollars, what would you need to do before you died?” My personal answer to this question is currently evolving. After seeing this film, I hold a firm conviction that there is more I am capable of. Not more in the way that we traditionally think of it (doing) but simply more than I was aware I had the power to change. I wept, remembering all the times I have walked past an outstretched hand, and not given the something I could spare.  I wept knowing that nature doesn’t take more than it needs – the lion doesn’t kill ten or twenty gazelles, it kills one. Darwin mentioned survival of the fittest twice in On the Origin of Species (published in 1869.) He mentions the word LOVE on over ninety occasions.

Why have we chosen to believe that ‘the strongest survives’ and that we should take more than we need? Nature is not inherently destructive, not inherently warring, or greedy. There is nothing to support the presence of war or the remarkable discord in wealth between nations, even neighborhoods. I believed I was “awake” to the condition of the world, but am finding myself waking up more to the reality; in the descent stage of The Hero’s Journey. A sense of deep grief, concern and utter dread has flooded my heart, and effectively expanded it beyond where I thought its limits lay.

I read about the condition of the bee this week, which was a Time magazine cover story, and cried into my coffee about what we’ve done to this planet. How have we gotten to the point where in China, flowers are pollinated by humans with brushes by hand? How have we gotten to the point where colony collapse disorder and the absence of bees would result in a continued dependence on corn, rice, and potatoes, but the most nutritious foods such as almonds, blueberries, avocados, would be absent – unpollinated by bees? One supermarket removed every kind of produce that was pollinated by bees, which amounted to over 200 items, 52% of the regular array.  I came face to face with the thought that perhaps my grandchildren won’t lay on the grass watching bees pollinate the clover so diligently, busily, flower by flower.

Are we headed toward a world where all food is packaged, made by machines, encased in plastic created by the oil reserves we’re warring over and sucking upon? Are we really creating a world devoid of wild spaces, devoid of natural diversity, devoid of a billion year old natural system which works very well without our interference? I believe that planet Earth has the capacity to survive longer than we do, but what kind of state will we leave it in for our future families? If we do survive her, how blindly will we murder this mother of ours? We have been given so much by this world. We have been born into a space of immense abundance, full of beauty and total life support. I have loved being alive. The air is good here. Would you rather not be here at all, than to have been given this chance at life? Isn’t it good to know love, to be fed and housed and warmed by the sun? Isn’t it great?

There are parts of the world full of wonder, and many elements that work. There are other parts of the world that I’m not happy with, and many elements that do not work. I cannot pretend I don’t see them anymore, not the stretched hand on the sidewalk, or the slums, the poverty and war. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist any longer as I dwell in these spaces of abundance and peace. I walked through the forest at the onset of spring this year, and broke into tears knowing how blessed I am to live in such peace. I knew that at that moment there were women, men, children and animals in the line of fire, worried for their lives, living in state of anxiety and fear.

For whose sake? For what end? Why are we warring? I’m not okay believing that this is their karma, that they somehow asked for that experience. I’m not okay believing that war must exist to balance the scales. I used to think that there couldn’t be light without dark. Now I’m completely certain that we do NOT need to be at war with each other. Yes, my focus and energy grows greater (is that ‘light’?) when I’ve seen and understood the nature of the atrocities present in the world. But just like a house with a rotting beam, we cannot keep pretending we don’t see the holes if we want the house to stay up.

Eve Ensler talks about sitting at a table in Africa, listening to woman after woman, girl after girl, who came to tell her their stories of being raped, maimed, tortured, and literally used as human ashtrays and garbage bins. She reflects that at a certain point, her heart completely broke. These stories ripped her wide open. In that space, grew the possibility of doing something, of truly feeling their pain, truly feeling the reality, and mobilizing whatever action she could take to assist in eradicating that. “I just want to end violence against women.” It’s very simple. I am simply not content to coddle myself into believing that these things are ‘meant to be’ or that we have no responsibility to change the way things are for people in other parts of the world or our own city. I am not happy to live a pampered life when there are living, loving human beings who need some of our love.

Here’s what I’m going to do and continue to do, my few drops in the ocean of change:

* Keep reducing our dependency on petroleum. It’s easy to forget that the dollar in your wallet supports the oil industry if it ends up purchasing anything plastic, which includes the plastic packaging of your organic kale chips, the plastic wrap over your home-cooked leftovers, the tupperware containers, the gas in your car, the heat in your home/ stove/ generator, the polyester or nylon in your clothing, the plastic bags we put our veggies in at the supermarket and the cups we are given at cafes. Instead, we can buy reusable glass containers and reusable cotton produce bags, we can walk, skate, scoot or cycle whenever possible, combine errands, stay local and share a car, if any.

* Reduce dependency on mass-produced items. If I need it, I’ll find it second-hand. Convenience has killed much of our sentience around what we actually need. We have two old bikes for example, which we took in to get fixed by the local bike shop. We were told it wasn’t worth fixing up and that we “could just buy two new bikes at Walmart for less.” This is the kind of thinking that supports an economy of more things, more mass-factory production, more energy use, and heavier leaning on the natural resources of our Earth. I don’t need to get those bikes fixed, so I’m not going to go to Walmart. Same goes for the X amount of other things I might ‘want’ but certainly do not need. 

* Give whatever I can, every time I pass someone in need. No more excuses. We don’t know their story. We have more than them. Give something, even if a blessing is all you’ve got.

* Treat EVERYONE with love, respect, compassion and kindness. I met a woman in the market today who gave me a hug because she loved how tall I was. We were friends from then on and are now primed to help and support each other, and whomever we come into contact with. I will continue to give of myself generously, with love and joy and gratitude. As within, so without.

* Cut down on household waste. Keep re-using, recycling and composting. We started a compost bin this year which has reduced our contribution to the Earth’s landfills and in fact gives back to the Earth some of the nutrients we have taken from it. Be aware of what you throw in the garbage and where you think it ends up. Is it compostable or biodegradable? If you’re buying disposable diapers, Swiffer sweepers, anything styrofoam, disposable plates, paper napkins (which you can in fact compost, so long as they’re only paper) or anything in a container, learn whether it’s recyclable, compostable, or not, and make the right choice when you’re at the moment of disposal.

* Buy organic, local produce from non-gmo and non-animal sources. When I drove through Virginia, and even when I drive through the country near our house in Pennsylvania, I see countless fields of corn and soy beans. I used to think this was a romantic sight, all the abundance we have created. I’ve since learnt that these crops are grown to feed the animals we slaughter and consume. This feels barbaric to me now; fattening animals whose genes are over 90% similar to our own, to kill and eat (aka Speciesism.) “What a hungry country,” I once remarked, before correcting myself that it wasn’t hungry, but insatiable. Humans were not designed to eat as much meat as we eat, often more than once per day. It takes days to digest meat, if you pay attention to the movements of your bowels after eating a steak. We have erroneously believed that iron and b12 were best found in meat, but the reality is, if you’re eating sensibly and from a variety of plant foods, your nutrient intake will be far greater than that present in the majority of Western meals.  (Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is another great educational documentary on the impact of modern eating habits.)

*Keep growing produce in my vegetable garden. Having your own garden (whatever size, even a window box with herbs and tomatoes!) is a great way to cut down on a) dependency on stores b) dependency on packaging c) dependency on the car and d) dependency on long-haul shipping. Seeing what actually grows during which season connects you to the cycles of the Earth in a way that makes eating strawberries in summer seem unnatural and sacrosanct. It’s also a great place for all of your compostable material! Make sure you learn about composting first, there are many great resources online you can find by googling ‘composting.’ I believe Portland has introduced curb-side composting, which is excellent!

* Depend less on electronic appliances. Do we really need all these appliances plugged in at once? Use what you need. When we go away for a few days or longer, I’ve started unplugging the switch boards and appliances in our house. The TV, the washing machine & dryer, the printer, toaster, Kitchen Aid, etc. Electricity contributes to the greenhouse gases we emit into the atmosphere. Again, emulate nature and use only what you need. The less we take from the Earth, the more she will give us all, for longer.

* Educate others whenever I can, with the information I’ve come across. Knowledge is power. The old sayings “What we don’t know can’t hurt us,” and “Out of sight, out of mind,” are indicators that we have been keeping ourselves and each other in a state of ignorance. The goal is not to be comfortable. The goal is for everyone to be comfortable – which means having our basic needs met; enjoying freedom of body, speech, belief; living in a peaceful society free of war, torture, murder and abuse. We might feel discomfort along the way towards this goal (yes, we might downsize our homes and lose a few cars, and come face to face with our own avoidance of pain and sadness, our addiction to comfort!) but if we can remember that we do not exist separately of others, that there are humans just like us living in situations that do not work for them, and that we might have been born one of them, we might remember that we share this experience of life, and that we cannot rest until everyone has what they need. In tribal cultures, what was won on the hunt was shared equally, and nobody, not the sick or the weak, went hungry. What happened to that way of thinking? Why are we not feeding our own?

* Remember that I AM part of the solution and I AM part of the problem. We all play our parts somehow, voting with our spending, voting with our actions, contributing with our beliefs of separation or connection. I am not perfect, but I AM connected, I AM feeling you everywhere. I AM here, there and everywhere. There is much more to say and this conversation will continue. I know we get overwhelmed. I know there is a lot to do, a lot of suffering. Don’t give up. Don’t let it go. Let your heart feel. Start there. Start right here. Start with your own household, your own wallet, your own choices and actions. When the fifty-first percentile of deer in a herd turns its head towards a watering hole, that’s where they will go. We’ll make the choice together. I need you and you need me. I love, and you love and they love. Love is all we need – to begin with. . .

Some links to explore:

I AM (aforementioned documentary, on Netflix Instant)

Thrive Movement (documentary on the way the systems we depend upon work)

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead  (aforementioned documentary, on Netflix Instant)

Food, Inc. (on factory farming)

Specieism (the next frontier)

Green Pages (informational source for eco-aware events near you)

Every Mother Counts (making pregnancy & childbirth safe for all moms)

THINX (underwear that gives back to women)

SuperSprowtz (educating kids about nutrition the fun way)

Feel free to share more! I will update with other links as I remember and come across them. . . knowledge is power! 

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THE GIRL WITHIN

“Women have long tended the gardens of others. While providing the context for others’ development, they have historically neglected their own. When a woman carries the virginal girl across the threshold into womanhood, when she speaks in her own idiom as naturally as she mouths the language of the patriarchy, when she hits on the deepest truth about who she is and tells her story of becoming whole, she gains access to a world that is as fertile and abundant as the most verdant gardens. Only when we wed girlhood autonomy to womanly fecundity and recognize the connection between germ and soil will we restore our generatively as a culture and thrive and flower.’*

photo by Nirrimi

A few weeks ago I spoke with a group of sixteen girls between the ages of 13 and 16 who had been awake for 28 hours dancing towards their last day of a Summer Enrichment Program in Virginia. We spent time together over Skype exploring beauty and how we view ourselves. They asked me some incredible questions (“Why is it important for young girls to think about beauty?”) which I answered as best I could from my dining room a few States away.

So, why is it important for young girls to think about beauty? I believe it is crucial for women of all ages to think about beauty and what it means to them, particularly how they apply this concept to their body and self-image. In the west, we are embedded within the multi-billion dollar industry of “looking-good” – a focus which plays out through the mediums of music, film, beauty, fashion, and advertizing. In order for these industries to sell something to us, they need us to believe that we need it. Your skin doesn’t look like this digital, airbrushed image? Never fear, _______ is here.

When we consider that these thoughts (“you’re not X enough”) were never originally our own, nor based in reality, we begin to see the conditioning that we’ve been raised in, something which I believe disempowers women in our society. It’s important for the next generation to think about beauty because we must start creating and affirming our own thoughts about ourselves, thoughts that instill self-confidence and a positive self-image.

It’s not an easy task and the road can be rocky. Often the most outwardly self-confident models are cripplingly insecure. I don’t believe we can sustain a dynamic of inflating our image to compensate for our hurt feelings. We’ll never see nor touch the wound that way. And if we don’t touch something, how can we begin to know how to heal it? If our self-esteem and confidence are important to us, then it is imperative that we begin to repair the wounds we may have inflicted upon ourselves by believing in thoughts that are not our own.

Another of the other questions the girls asked me was how I thought about beauty before I was a model, and how my understanding changed, which I thought was very interesting. I realized that as a young girl under the age of 15, beauty for me was not something to attain, nor something outside of me, but part of life which I was embedded within. As I thought about this question, I remembered a book I’d just read called To Be A Woman: The Birth of the Conscious Feminine. One particular passage expressed the incredible power and sense of possibility inherent in young girls before they reach adolescence.

“Who is this ‘girl within’? What deep truth does she possess? Poised between the make believe of preschool and the thrall of adolescence, a girl this age occupies an intermediate zone of childhood, an interim space between fantasy and reality that fosters creative self-ownership. Playful yet purposeful, she has opened the gate to the age of reason. Practically an old hand at school, she is already reading and calculating, playing group games, acquiring athletic skills, and absorbing the rules of her young society.’

“When she has the good fortune to grow up in a family that encourages independence and and celebrates achievements, a girl this age meets the world on her own terms. A soaring imagination combines with competence and adventurous longing to take her far from home, both in imagination and reality. The rapid development of the girls mind, the acceleration of her know-how , the shift in the way she thinks are acknowledged by cultures around the world. Nature and society conspire to allow a girl this age to flourish; harmony and integrity abound as she enjoys a wholeness of self, a unity with the cosmos, a natural radiance.” 

Remembering this girl within, free from the formations impressed upon us, we may come into contact once again with the inherent beauty in life, living through our bodies. For me, beauty comes forth with laughter, love, or the wonder of a child, an animal, my intelligent body. When we can remember this feeling of being embedded in a world that is inherently perfect and more than ‘good enough,’ we stop ‘buying into’ what someone else says is beautiful, discover our own world and develop our own perception of beauty. We are our own stewardess, wholly self-contained and wholly powerful.

“There is a “critical shift we need to restore the natural balance of those values: the shift from object to subject. By reclaiming the girl’s sense of self as subject, by countering woman’s position as object, by reaching back to catch hold of the girl who embodies a primary feminine identity, women can stay true to the potential of the fertile feminine world that survives apart from the sterility of patriarchal values. [...]‘

“In the alliance between the girl who possesses initiative and the woman who knows her generativity lies the creative force we need to become fully ourselves and to make of this culture what it so desperately needs. The fullness of human development depends on circling back to the girl within and carrying her into womanhood.”

* Excerpts from ‘The Girl Within: Touchstone for Women’s Identity’, by Emily Hancock, in To Be a Woman: The Birth of a Conscious Feminine (ed. Connie Zweig. 1990, GP Putnams’ Sons)

Posted in THE CLASSICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

GONE NOT GONE

“It is now, when the whole jar of humidity has been poured on me like wet petals, and there is no question of dryness anywhere, that I am most close to everything alive. The wet breath that links leaves to sky to my lungs reaches deep inside my body and stirs the silent seeds of all I hold dear, and you, like the powerful muscle we call heart, grow stronger with me.”

– Joan Rohr Myers

Isaac has been away three weeks and six days exactly, with 13 days more to go. I didn’t think I’d be as strong as I have been. Not strong as in the strong that holds together, but strong as in resilient. Who knew!

I’ve been writing him a letter (via email) for every single night that he’s been away. I knew that with his tour schedule and early morning radio commitments, interviews, photo shoots, etc (his turn now) I might be lucky to speak with him for 10 minutes by phone.

Knowing me, I want to tell everyone everything, especially him. So I came up with a special tradition, a method for funneling everything I’ve seen, heard, done and felt into a personal email for Isaac. ”I love these fucking private blogs,” he confided. I highly recommend this tradition for all wives, lovers, friends and family who are far but near to your heart.

Here are some excerpts from my missives:

“I miss you already. It’s the tiny things that give me the twitchiest pangs. Your coffee grinds still in the pot, your papers on the table, your clothes on the chair upstairs. Soon I’ll tidy them all up and soon you will make more coffee and pile more papers and it won’t seem as long as we think.” (1/40)

“In the background is a strange sensation recognizing the absence of you here. I think my body is still adjusting. It’s good for me to be me and get back to a sense of individuation and self without other. It’s interesting.” (2/40)

“There are fireflies starting to dance all around me […] All is very still and yet intensely alive. It’s amazing being here by myself, seeing the empty fullness, the quietness amongst the noise. There are birds rustling in the branches, chirping, tweeting in the distance. There are ants crawling up the tree I’m leaning on. There are tiny insects the names of which I don’t know, who zoom past on their way somewhere […] Life is peaceful here on the river.” (6/38)

 

“There are so many fireflies out at this time. When it got darker we walked over to the field [...] and could hear the symphonic music happening. It was really wonderful. We put the blankets down and watched the fireworks through the trees and the fireflies in the trees, it was as if the stars were on earth, too.” (10/38)

“The number of birds seems to have doubled.” (11/38)

“The corn is about as high as my hip. Everything’s changing. I have felt so embedded in the world recently, so aware and awake to it all, knowing that this too shall pass. This summer time green, the superfluousness of leaves and liveliness, the humidity, the heat, the perfumes from the earth and flowers, that will all depart the atmosphere, and something else will come in. A new winter we’ve never experienced before. A new fall, a new spring, and endless new summers.” (13/38)

“I found the most stunning owl feather in the third forest this evening! Owl feathers are treasured by the Native Indians, they symbolize wisdom and knowing. I knew it was an owl feather because I hear the owl who lives in that forest. I call it the third forest because The Cathedral is the first forest, then there is another forest I haven’t named yet, and Owl’s Forest is the next one. It could also be called Thunder Hideout, because that’s also where we hid during the thunder storm.” (22/40)

“Everything has bust its seams in the last few days. I saw: Pears. Apples. Raspberries. Blackberries. Frogs. Peaches. Mother and baby deer drinking water. Butterflies. Flowers on trees. Flowers in gardens. Flowers above my head, soggy beneath my feet. Green leaves, grass, leaves, leaves. Blue sky and tiny flowers. Bright golden sun. I heard: Cicadas. Birds. Frogs. Deer. Planes. Bikes. Cars. Gravel. Leaves rustling. My breath.” (27/40)

(The countdown is on!)

Posted in MY MUSINGS | 2 Comments

ONE WITH THE WILD FEMININE

“In order to converse with the wild feminine, a woman must temporarily leave the world and inhabit a state of aloneness in the oldest sense of the word. Long ago the word alone was treated as two words, all one. To be all one, meant to be wholly one, to be in oneness, either essentially or temporarily. That is precisely the goal of solitude, to be all one. It is the cure for the frazzled state so common to modern women…”

(Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves, via MysticMamma

I can’t help but write to you. I am in a coffee shop, listening to Bob Dylan, putting my B.L.O.G into a file, piece by piece, which I will send it to a printer, before rocketing it into the stratosphere. Somewhere along the way, we start to gain and lose things, gain responsibility, a sense of adulthood, a sense of normalcy. (Gasp!) Productivity, skirt suits (never!), coiffed hair, earrings, proper underwear. I have missed this energy, this sensibility. I remember you, Bob. I remember you, Henry. What happened? Somewhere along the way I forgot that I was a witch. I forgot about living on the edge. What an edge it was. Such seems the melancholy of growing older.

How do we return? Moment by moment. Edge by edge. It began when I sat outside under the tree my mother-in-law loves to be under when she smokes in the evening, tight pants, long hair, boots on. It began when I started to slow down, alone, quiet, peaceful. When I stop fully, my purest desires rise to the surface. It takes removing oneself. It takes being with all the edginess. With all the impulses to distract oneself, to remove oneself from that hot loneliness, the desires to go back, to be with people, any people. Being without my husband for five weeks is a new experience, and one I have welcomed with open arms. Welcome pure me! Welcome original me! Welcome fear! Welcome uncertainty! Walking through all of that, I have come to be still. Instead of running from all of my edginess, I stay still. I’ve heard that the Chinese say, “When in doubt, do nothing.” It’s a good move.

So, I sat under the tree. Everything was so quiet, so peaceful, and yet intensely alive. As I sit there, noticing the berries on the branches, the fireflies coming alight, even the young fireflies drifting by, I hear the birds cooing and tweeting, and I come to sense what I need in my life, at this time. That wild feminine energy is so ultimate, so essential, so uniquely ours. I start to feel the energy coming, regardless of how relaxed, resistant, or sleepy I feel. That issuance comes only in the quietest and stillest of moments, and it was incredibly refreshing.

These days, the weeks pass quickly without further ado. Much is said, much is done, and there are indeed more responsibilities than before, and my mantra is simplicity. “This too shall pass,” I tell myself often, knowing that not only will the tougher times slip by, but the beautiful moments too. In the quiet, all our urges, fears, tambourines and dreams sound louder. It’s the perfect time to look at all of those noises inside. I’ve found a few parts of myself that haven’t seen the light for some time, and they’re mad and angry and hot and wet and they want to talk to me desperately. They’re full of energy. Like holding a basketball underwater, when we release our grip, the ball rockets skyward. Thank goodness for the opportunity to release that energy, the energy it takes to hold the ball under the surface. Thank goodness for being so alive.

Posted in ON THE COSMOS | 5 Comments
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