Short Meditation on Awareness

I feel a shedding of skin. A molting process like a snake goes through when it outgrows its old skin and transforms into newer skin, or a skin that can handle his being and patterning. This meditation on the Gita, one of Yoga's sacred texts describes the process well. The more awareness we can grow into our soma's, a Greek term for body, mind and spirit, the better able we are to navigate life here impacting our life's purpose and choices in the moment; moment by moment.
"The Gita describes spiritual growth as an evolution from darkness to light – from ignorance to full awareness of our unity with the rest of life. Darkness is self-will, ignorance of the needs of others, preoccupation with our own private concerns and prejudices. Being angry, being greedy, being afraid is living in darkness. In this state we cannot see those around us, cannot see life as it is.
"Yet, the Gita says, we don’t have to stay where we are. We don’t have to say, 'Well, I am just what my cells and chromosomes are, what my conditioning is, what my parents or my school made me to be.' We can emerge out of this darkness, through our own endeavor, by drawing upon our deepest resources within.
"Through the practice of meditation and allied disciplines, we can slowly push ourselves from darkness into light. This brings certain on going challenges, and no matter how long a person has been meditating, everyone can benefit from keeping some simple guidelines in mind every day."
– Eknath Easwaran


Autumnal Awareness

Today I am unsure what to write. which seems like a waste of words really. I am sitting here on my porch in late October with only a down puffy vest on aware of how the sun slants in on the douglas fir floors, next to my dear friend Melissa who is also writing along with me, and keenly aware of the faint sounds of birds chirping as they fly overhead with the jet airplanes on their flight patterns elsewhere or returning home, and squirrels rustling in the fallen colored leaves, that make everything outside look like it is littered in bountiful colors of Christmas tree lights. I am more aware of the breath that exhales in that soft space beneath my nose and the whistle of it at the back of my throat as it rises out of my center, my belly, and wraps up my ribs underneath my underarms and into my throat and head. I am also observant of the excess tension I hold in my hip flexers, something I have done for some time now, maybe even my whole life, but as I sit fully supported without the full strength of my abdominal rectus muscle in tact I have transferred tension and function to my hip flexers and even sitting they are not aware to relax unless I tell them. Moving this automatic reflex from my subcortex to my cortex takes awareness and mindfulness that I float in and out of today as I meditated in silence watching my thoughts float in and out of my to do list for the day, and feeling my second cup of coffee move through my system with a hyper-ness I am unsure of needing, but grateful for its internal warmth.

Something that is floating through my consciousness is the role of a healer and educator. I heard people talk this weekend how a healer heals but an educator helps people heal themselves. Yes, this may be part of it however, a faint memory of this discussion in SP floats like dust particles through the sunlight and I make a note to myself to go back to my notes and look this up. For I do not think this is an either or situation. But truly a both. An and, and more...The invitation to become more aware internally so I can be more present to my life that is before me is huge! To feel the subtle lines of energy moving through me is something to nurture. To recognize my habits in posture, in this body, is something for me to grow awareness around, to become an experimenter around, an explorer of my body and how it lives in this daily world. To try to find that edge of internal and external presence and the dance between them.

This weekend, for the first time without fan fare, or much deliberation I wore a headband and went to yoga training, no wig. Not even a hat. A safe experiment. Thursday and Friday I wore my wig and hat and the itchiness of my scalp as it grows back wore on me. I was hot underneath it all and felt hidden in a sense. I realized the freedom that comes from wearing my wig was now not there in this situation. So while I almost did it Friday morning, I mustered the strength to do it on Saturday. I walked out with my wig in my green bag packed just in case along with my hat. I tried not to think too much about it. Molly, one of my yoga teachers, kissed me on the head as we made a stop at French Meadow bakery for coffee and pastries before training. We did not exchange words about it. I walked into Tula. I felt my nervousness grow a bit as I saw more and more people. I grabbed a moment with Marcee, a woman I love from my 200 hour training, to ask if it looked ok. She peaked, her dad having had alopecia for her whole life, and I knew she would answer me honestly, "Well, it is a little thin in back but not bad, way more than last year." She tucked a piece of my hair back. We walked back out from the upstairs kitchen to the studio and I sat on my mat. I decided I would take a deep breath and own it. Who cares! I chided myself. (I do I whispered back.) And I settled into myself with a breath. I knew some were wondering but I did not let it get to me. I just sunk into the gloriousness that it was growing back enough to do this moment. I decided people could approach and ask me if they wanted, but I would not announce or deflect it by wearing my hat. No one did. I know some wonder. I know some wanted to ask but did not know how, this is theirs I thought.  For now, I sit in gratitude of my bravery.

And I watched how this bravery continued on into Monday morning at Macalester while I dropped Seamus off, and wore only my kerchief. I debated on the stairs as I tied shoes before school. Peter said, "I never liked your wig any way." His comment took me by surprise. I hadn't known that. So for a few more days into the week I payed with not wearing the wig. Gaining freedom to wear it when I need or want it because it allows me to enter a situation more gracefully, and the invitation to not hide behind it. I felt proud. Excited even. The leaves continue to shimmer in the sun this morning, and I feel the warmth of the sun's rays move across the floor. As a few leaves let go of their branch, I feel my own beliefs and contractions let go too. I wonder what this winter has to bring.



This weekend I started my 500 hour part 1 training of Yoga Therapy. I was hemming and hawing a bit on it because I was not sure I really could bite off this training and still have the downtime I needed to create, write, be present to myself and my family, and continue my deepening in SourcePoint Therapy. But then I flipped the logic on its head. I decided to go for it, and use the training for my own self care and deepening of being an educator that can support people healing themselves.

During the training we learned more ways to heighten our interior awareness of our bodies and how they function in the world. We began to peak into our patterns and habits and see others patterns and habits with deep love and reverence and support one another on the way toward freedom by inhabiting our bodies. More fully, more readily, and with more function and freedom, a steady ease. As I worked through the various sessions in somayoga I had a moment where I recalled driving on Cretin Ave. in St. Paul, the sun was shining, the clouds fluffy and perfectly floating in the deep blueness of the sky, and I realized with such reverence and awe how lucky I was to be alive, in this body at this time with this life. I was freaking in love with my life, with my body in all its glory and with all its imperfections, they were part of my beauty instead of something I needed to fix or heal or get rid of in order to be happy....it was blissful. I was blissed out. And I caught myself being blissed out sitting at one of the red lights on Cretin Ave and Hwy 94. And people I was wildly happy, and no major event was happening I was driving from here to there. That was it. I was on my way. I gratefully was able to witness this moment about myself. Take a snapshot of it, tuck it away. And I remember feeling like this is a glimpse of how some live all the time and bravely wondering could I? Today I recalled that moment and was blissed out knowing it existed.
Photo by Elizabeth Sullivan

As I was having this remembering...I had this beautifully written piece What the dying really regret... sent to me, and then came home from training to this piece in my newsfeed from Momastery...

For so many years, while I lost my hair, I kept telling myself, you will be happy again when you have hair. Or imagine myself and how happy I would be when I did have hair. And a faint whisper would say, but maybe you need to be happy now even without hair. And a fainter whisper said, maybe you need to love your body as it is, and let it bloom again. And a fainter whisper yet, said maybe you need to stop ignoring your body, as it calls out to you, screams at you to listen, to pause, to pay attention, to be in it. Really in this body, not a spirit floating above it, not a mind revving its engine, running it, but a full body experiencing this world, this life as it is now. One of the beliefs I was raised with was that we get one life, and that brings us to the afterlife, which is either Heaven or Hell or purgatory. This thought filled me with fear. With the belief that I had to get it right or else...and the or else was frightening. Thank God, I no longer believe this! Right now is heaven. Right now is what there is, and there is love and abundance if we chose it, and we are energy and energy changes but it does not go away. Isn't that a possibility? That we transform, and what we do now informs what we will do if we come around again, but the next time we come around might look similar or vastly different, but it will never be the same beauty as now in this moment in this life in this body. This is a curiosity I am playing with and an invitation I am exploring as I become more embodied and more in love with this amazing physical tool I have to experience this stunning world! Love wins. Always.

"It would be something like 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Also, stay open to whatever life presents you with, because it will teach you something if you'll let it. It's about keeping an unbiased heart and mind. A lot of it is forming an unconditional friendship with yourself as you begin to see all the stuff you've been running away from."    -Pema Chodron



The moon woke me the other night. It was 3 am. Its beams streamed through my window. The rest of my house was asleep. It woke me and worked on me, making it hard to fall back asleep until it passed by my window frame moving through the night sky. The moon beams filled my heart with dormant dreams that I am waking up to more fully. Writing, claiming time and space for it. Being a present mom. Person really. 

I thought of our travels as I laid in the tousled sheets and how the places we lived felt like bases on an infield, and like we had been rounding them stopping and waiting at some. Even playing hotbox running back and forth on a baseline between two trying not to get tagged out. Rounding the base literally to home in the dark of night underneath the moonlight, the moon seemed like home base to me. And as I dreamt about this I thought of Kieran, and how he is beginning to venture out of homebase, into the wide expanse of school days and activities more and more away from me. When my first began this journey, this happening, I sobbed for days it felt like mourning the loss of his time with me, cocooned at home. As Kiki does it I am aware, not sobbing but aware of what is happening. I feel his palm slipping out of mine as we walk toward his school line in the morning. I feel the shadow of his imprint linger there for a moment and then absorb into my palm. I watch him line up. And in he goes as I walk back to the car. This time round it is he who tells me he is not sure he likes how long school is or how every day it is, and when can that change? I look at him, aware that his deep brown eyes already know a door is closing behind him as this one cracks open. More time structured, less time to play. My heart aches a little for him. Childhood feels so short some moments. This is one of them. He still wakes every night and comes to my side of the bed and stares at me until I open my eyes--waking me like the moon, and asks to snuggle in. Most nights I let him pull me from my slumber and make room. I wonder as I lay there how long this ritual will go on with him. I know one day it will wan like the moon, fade away to a crescent memory. 

So I allow the moon to wake me. Pulling me from my underworld of sleep. Allowing me to let the tides ebb in my life that I no longer need, in order to bring in greater flow. I feel the urgency to get to work. I feel it like I feel the itchiness and tingling sensation in my scalp before the hair follicles wake up and grow in a certain area. There is an urgency to get down to work. Like a veil is being lifted and consciousness is streaming in to bring more peacefulness and love to the world. The nocturnal animals wake up in the darkness and so must I. I run my hand through my hair sometimes amazed at how much has emerged, and as the moon slips past my window leaving its faint memory of light there I return to slumber, to let the magic of the moon integrate and settle in my system. Only the streetlight peaks up from below into our second floor window now. I bid it goodnight as I roll away from its intrusion. I need the darkness now like a seed needs the dirt to grow and sleep. As I drift off, I wonder about the long name of Goddesses in every culture that have been inspired from the moon, I mark it as something to return toward tomorrow.


Cat-Walking from Child's Pose

I lay in child's pose this morning feeling my breath enter my hips that were tight from sleep and lack of exercise these past few days. With the start of school my running and yoga schedule have yet to settle into their new routine. Feeling my spirit floating above my physical body I willed it to come back in, as I came into crescent lunge and returned to child's pose this time sinking a little deeper, feeling my breath circulate into my legs out of my contracted spine. And flashes of walking and my childhood catwalk came to me, the call to write flooded me and with a few more yoga poses I rose and begin to type as a recent post of Pema Chodron floated in my consciousness.

Maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart


I sat up in the hospital bed nursing Seamus, the pediatrician on-call entered, rubbing her hands enthusiastically with the foaming soap as she asked how I was doing, and introduced herself. I asked my midwife to note on my chart that no I did not have cancer and yes I was ok, even though pregnancy had left me nearly bald, with only a few strands of dark hair on the top of my head, the strands of hope that one day my locks would return. Bob, my teacher of SourcePoint Therapy and Healer and friend, suggested I shave my head when it was happening, but I couldn't bring myself to do it I was so attached to having hair. In hindsight, I think it would have helped me get over it quicker. But here and now that no longer matters. What it shows me is how much I struggled to accept my reality that I was losing hair. That pregnancy and hormones and sleepless nights and many moves was taking a toll on my physical body that I thought I could continue to ignore. 

The pediatrician began looking over Seamus from head to toe, checking his reflexes and listening to his sweet heartbeat that earlier I had heard through the intermittent monitoring the midwife was required to do. What was once audible in the hospital room was now only heard through her stethoscope, and what was once felt on the inside of me was now felt against my chest as I nursed him on the outside. She turned to look at me, my head wrapped in a turban, and asked, "Are you ok?" Her eyes scrutinizing my body from head to toe. The unasked question lurking beneath the ok.
"Yes," I replied with shaky confidence.
She said, "Is your cancer prognosis good?"
Had she not read my chart? Keenly aware of the power of a doctor's words on a person's psyche and reality when it came to healing, I wondered. The one scenario I hoped would not bring itself into reality was being played out, like through my fear I had called it forth. I curled myself around my now nursing newborn son, to shield my heart from her, and try to shield her medical stare as she assessed what was happening in this baby's postpartum mother. I faltered and glanced up as I wiggled his body flush with my stomach for a better latch. "No, I am good. No cancer," wincing as he clamped down setting off the post birth contractions again deep in my uterus. "It's alopecia." At least that was the western term they named unexplained hair loss. I was yet to unearth my low ferratin levels, extremely low, those iron stores hidden beneath my ok hemoglobin. I was yet to realize my Vitamin D deemed ok by western standards of medicine was borderline low and that these two culprits can play key role in fatigue, hair loss etc. I was also yet to admit that I was hard on myself, harder than I would wish on any one else. And I was yet to realize how much stress I carried within my thoughts and body and daily reality.

Doctors I would seek counsel from would offer generously are you stressed and I would reply no, not me. I was so stressed I hadn't realized what not being stressed felt like. On some levels, I had grown up in an environment of stress and anger. It felt like a natural backdrop to being. To existing. I asked if she had read my chart as the information was in there.  The doctor apologized, blushed and excused herself. I was relieved she was not someone I would need to see again as she was only a ped on-call and returned my focus to Seamus long sweet sweeping sucks from chin to jawline letting me know he was properly attached. Wishing I could make my hair grow like his sucks made my milk let down. I thought of Medusa's snakes emerging wildly and quickly out of her head. Not knowing how much compassion I would need to nurture for this to happen to my scalp. Wondering how much worse it could possibly become at the four month marker when I typically had a shedding and knowing there was nothing left to shed. Also wondering what I could do to shift this reality and feeling lost in the pool of my emotions that flooded me post birth.

I remember walking the morning Seamus was born, 9 months and 13 days into being pregnant with him, a light mist fell and I wore Peter's chartreuse colored Patagonia rain jacket the only thing that would fit around my expanse, and a white hat. I walked the streets of my neighborhood up and down and felt myself filtering between the sublime world of here and the majestical world of how things become; transform into life. I imagined how God may have felt as he built the world each day out of something into form, how the blueprint for human health was informing my child's being and becoming and how connected I felt to it within me and around me pregnant. I felt the crescent moon waxing beneath my belly and the pull of its tide for him to be born growing stronger as I walked and the contractions, the surges picked up pace, until I returned home, knowing deeply within that this would be the last morning I would know my baby as I knew him, cloaked in darkness absorbing the world through sound and taste and emotions moving through me to him, and the sound of my heartbeat and its rhythms against his feet that now pressed up under my rib cage and the breath patterns I was consciously and unconsciously passing his way.

The midst and the colors of the world seen through the light April rain bridged the world of form emerging and I felt calm and blessed to know intimately the power of motherhood, the power of the great mother that informs our world if we only pay attention, take heed. Know that each moment there is  a present playing out and storyline of past and future unfurling with thought and action and breath. From my studies of SourcePoint Therapy I have heard this definition of karma form Padmasambhava, " If you want to know your past life, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future life, look into your present actions."  Someone said to me that an embryo needs karma to come into form. It has me thinking about all that comes into place to make us come into being. It deepens my desire to learn more about the mystery that unfolds through conception and pregnancy and birth. To bring health to the now, and to how we live is a calling I feel deeply. I only fully grasped this call in me from my own health journey to live better to fully embody this body, this soul, this calling into the deeper call to be joyous and loving--moving away from the small scared sense of self into the larger S of Self.

What do our injuries, our dis-eases wake us up to? What do they stand to call our attention toward? Is it for more suffering--I think we can fall into that thought and nurse it, but I think it is to awaken that deep sense of wonder of reverence. Do we need disease and suffering and injury for this to happen? I would like to think no. We are living in a time where we can get weighed down by the fear, suffering and anger present in the world. I by no means am suggesting to ignore that, but to be aware of it and to call ourselves toward love, toward healing and wholeness is a practice and one that takes dedication and energy and perseverance. Considering what the great mother energy of the world is asking of us is no small feat, but something we can heed and nurture.


Are You Sitting Down?

It's been two weeks since I hurt my knee, and finally I get into see the orthopedist. He takes one look at my Xrays and cries out, "What the.....?!"  

Generally speaking, it's a bad sign when the doctor is so baffled he can hardly keep from swearing.

"Did you fall on your knee?" he asks incredulously. "Was there some kind of trauma?" I can see by his furrowed brow that he's trying to piece together the events as I just explained them to him: I'd been running fast on the rail trail, felt my IT band tighten, felt an electric current jolt through my quad and then heard an ominous paper-tearing sound in my left knee. I hadn't mentioned falling because I hadn't fallen. At least not while running.

SUPing with an angry knee: not a good idea
"Well, as a matter of fact....," I start sheepishly. "I did fall on a slippery mud bank when I was paddle boarding a few days ago." This was on the Green River, and I went down hard, straight onto my swollen knee swaddled in its muddy neoprene sleeve. The doctor has his back half turned from me, still studying the Xrays, but I swear I can feel him roll his eyes.

"You fractured your patella. Look," he instructs, pointing to a thin grey horizontal fissure in my ghostly knee cap. In the Xray my patella looks like a half-moon, pale white and floating on the screen. I have to squint to see the break, straight and faint as a pencil mark. Even cracked, there is something dainty, almost precious, about my patella, this clam-shell bone that's done hard work everyday on my behalf but I've never seen before, the unsung laborer of long-distance running, a little wedge of love inside my knee.

When the doctor turns back to me, he's smiling. I can tell from his face that this is good news. Fantastic news! Much, much better than finding out I've torn my ACL or meniscus or some other mysterious but essential tendon in my knee that would require surgery and months of recovery. The doctor goes on to explain that my patella will heal on its own, if I'm careful and rest for the next four to six weeks. "Don't even think about running," he commands, as if that's even a remote possibility. As if I haven't been limping around on a broken knee cap for two weeks and can barely bend it.

"But what can I do?" I ask. I can't help it. A hint of desperation is creeping into my voice. "Can I ride a bike?"

"No, I don't want you torquing it."

"Can I hike?"

"Nope. If you fall on it, then I will be putting screws in it."

"Can I walk to town?"

"How far is town?" I can see him trying not to laugh, to look serious and doctorly.

"Close," I say. "And it's flat."

"OK, you can walk to town," he concedes. "But whatever you do, don't trip on the sidewalk."

"How about swimming?"

"You can swim if you need a little cardio"—understatement of the century—"but not breast stroke. And put one of those floaty things between your legs." Then he turns to his nurse tech and says with an exaggerated sigh and mock exasperation, "These runners are the worst!"

I'm so overjoyed I forget to ask him about physical therapy or Advil or icing. He pats me on the back with a grin—glad for once, maybe, that he doesn't have to deliver bad news—and I practically tear out of there, flush with my good fortune. I broke my kneecap, hooray!

I've known for a while that most ultra runners have a high pain tolerance, but even I'm shocked to hear that I've been walking around on a broken patella for two weeks. No wonder it feels like someone took a hammer to my knee.

As bizarre as it is, my injury makes sense. Unlike tearing your ACL, which is so common I could spend the next six months straight reading about it on the internet, fracturing my patella in a freak running-slash-paddle boarding mishap seems like something I would do. It reminds me of the time I went mountain biking and peed right on poison ivy and the rash flared up in all the worst places. (That doctor laughed in my face, too.) Or the time I jumped off a ladder and impaled my butt on a door knob and broke my tail bone—the day before going to Baja to sit in a hard plastic sea kayak and paddle for two weeks. Breaking my patella is not as funny as those incidents, but it's definitely funnier than the time I crashed my snowboard into a tree stump and broke five ribs in my back, half an inch off my spine.

Even so, it sort of seems in bad form to mock my own injury, to be glad for a broken bone rather than a torn tendon. Like maybe I'll jinx myself and something worse will happen. I guess this means I'm officially an ultra runner now: I'm injured, physically and mentally.

Of course, here comes the hard part. Sitting still. It's only been two weeks, but I swear I can feel my muscles in my left leg turning to jelly, atrophying by the second. There's a disturbing jiggle in my glute that wasn't here before. Without long runs to fill them, my days stretch out blank and empty. I wander the house, shunning the mountain outside my window, which is blazing in-your-face gold with the turning aspens. I have endless hours to sit and write. Too many. If there's a sitting-down disease, I'm going to get it.

I'm trying to be cheerful, grateful. There are much worse things. Ebola, ISIS. Comparatively, this is but a blip in my training schedule. As a friend wrote today, "It's a great opportunity to s l o w d o w n." I know she's right. I know I should look at this enforced six-week hiatus as an unexpected gift, a rare break from my own self-imposed endurance mania. Today I made a list. All the things that make me feel good, ways I can add structure to my days to fill the hole that running has made. Sit in the sun. Write. Organize the house. Help others. Eat well. Edit my photos. Volunteer. Do I fill the hole with one of these things, or little bits of all of them? Already I miss the mental simplicity of running, the singularity of the effort.

But I will be back. In the meantime, I'll go on a cleaning rampage at home and work a little mental voodoo on my knee, pouring all my best thoughts into my broken bone, my wise-ass laughter and all my restless chi into my beautiful, beloved knee.




I have taken to writing shyly, Karen Maezen Miller. It started by a casual invitation to her FB followers for some good old fashion letter writing. I took the leap and she wrote back. I wrote her a second time. (I appreciate her vision, her voice, her subtle awareness and acute sensitivity.) The other day it was her birthday so I wrote to her and said, "Happy day! On this day and each. Thank you for sharing your gifts, voice and sight with the world."
She replied, "Ah the world gave them to me and so I return with gratitude."
"Lovely. A now of gratitude, " my autocorrect at work when I meant a bow, but now works I write her.
"Always works," she replies.

And like that I learned a deep lesson. A lesson I first heard when I listened to Annie Lamott speak of on C-Span books nine years ago. I laid in our bed in Santa Clara nursing my first born son, watching her speak to a crowd of people in Washington DC, she said, "We all have brilliant ideas, stories, thoughts on faith and life and world, only I listen to them and write them down." She cajoled her audience to pay attention. To respond to the muse. At the time I longed for that spaciousness to do just as she said, pay attention, respond with writing, gift it to the world. It is only now nine years later, that I feel its urgency pressing down on me like an apple press, squeezing the juice out of its autumn harvest. I am trying to suck the marrow out of the growing awareness I am building through sitting meditation, writing practice, SourcePoint Therapy Meditation, yoga, and the deep reservoir of faith I was gifted with as a child that grew through my Catholicism and my studies with the Jesuit priests and Salesian nuns. Yes, I suddenly feel the swell of a dam breaking and the currents rushing out into the flow of the river. And so I write. I write to record and understand how to be fully alive in the present.

There was a time I could not write because I felt it catapulted me too far into the past and I lamented that past, it drained me. Now I trust it will come each day and every day like manna from heaven. No need to horde things and stuff, no need to stock up for what may be, and just like that there is absolute freedom and grace in being. I read my boys an entry that Glennon Doyle Melton wrote on Momastery about Church and it really made me realize how much hoarding comes from being scared, and lonely and tired. I was all those things as we moved us and our stuff and learned to live with less. But I worried during that time that we might need more. So I moved boxes, boxes that had not been opened in quite some time and now I am purging those boxes and my 100 year old basement of cinderblocks looks beautifully empty. Really empty. And the grace of dancing in the emptiness makes me full again. My boys replied that they are all of those things often, tried, scared and lonely. This makes me pause. Growing up while fun is work. A dance between fullness and emptiness. My second boy asks if I am friends with that writer, chiming in thoughtfully that I ought to be.

I watch my 5 year old and 7 year old compose pictures and art with abandon, and do well to encourage them. I watch my 9 year old love to print and cursive and play with fonts, and recognize the art form of calligraphy in him--something that with activities is being squelched. How do I nourish their call to create? Allow space for them to head the muse within?

I went to bed last night after a day of composing and writing and recalled my love of running downhill at my cabin, a steep hill that spilled into the lake. Our shoreline was weedy, with spots of sand and clarity, and the steps unevenly grooved and ridged. But that is the place I first learned the brilliance of letting myself fly, of letting my legs tumble feet over feet and soar down at full strength and speed playing with my balance. Landing on the dock with echoing thuds sometimes continuing to run until I jumped right into the lake, other times stopping short at the edge, plopping down on my belly and hanging my head over the dock hands plunged up to my elbows in water, smelling the algae watching the fish beneath the surface as the sunlight streamed into the cloudy water below given half hidden views to all the life that existed beneath the dock, underneath that steep hill, floating up to the surface. I learned on that hill how to run without holding myself back on the declines, how to let gravity do its thing; we must go down to go up, the beginning glimpses into flight.

When I ran down hill as a kid I loved the feeling of my hair flying free in the wind like feathers--I imagined. Locks whipping in my face. Or the weight of my pony tail bobbing behind me like a horse's tail. As I lost my hair in the height of motherhood, when women grow thick hair and lose less, I felt the failure in this. A betrayal of my body. I felt the confusion and the anger, and the helplessness, and instead of wanting to be seen, I longed to hide. To hide under hats, and behind emotions, I willed myself to not be fully seen. It is only recent that I have begun to find my stature again. My composure. It is at a time when I do not long to have another baby. My babies feel like they are all here. I loved being pregnant otherwise, but the thought of the hormonal rollercoaster sends me into a fetal position. And while I am choosing to no longer have kids, I feel the weight of that too, but not how I would imagine I will when peri-menopause sets in or later when menopause comes--and biologically the option is stripped from me.

My attention now shifts to the long locks of hair I notice on women. I saw a girl yesterday with hair down to her lower back, splayed out, blond. Hair I have never had, bleach blond, nor that long. Hair I used to gaze on with envy, but now look at in amazement, and I notice I have shifted. I am healing. This past summer I felt the presence of the Mother Mary come close to me, she has danced with me since I was a child. Coming in and out of intimacy and in different forms from the Black Madonna to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and this time she came to me in her virgin blue robes and I felt her presence behind me inviting me to shed literally my old belief systems and grow compassion. As I felt this significant shift within myself I saw image of hair pouring out of my scalp like long locks of compassion, like a river overflowing with love and the heaviness of old beliefs leave me. As soon as I became aware of being in this vision like a tranced meditation she left me, but the visceral feeling of that moment remains and when I notice myself falling into old thought patterns I do well to reconnect to that gift of Mary coming to me. Strega Nona made spaghetti like the compassionate hair I saw in my vision, never stopping spilling into the room around the house and out the door into the towns people feeding them. Rapunzel's hair brought freedom. What does my hair bring?

I lay in bed last night, reading Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd, and vow never to let the voice of the muse go ignored anymore. I have spent too many years, hearing her voice and shushing her. But only after learning this lesson one final time, the night before I hear the voice, and told myself I would remember the inspiration in the morning. Only to wake and recall a figment of it; something about spiraling toward myself again, and nothing more. And, so as I lay in bed tonight and the muse comes to me, about listening to the small interior voice, that gives me scents of story on a trail, I listen. I rise, and follow its scent on the winds, and I write. A new practice, to replace the old habit. To give voice to what the world gives me, and run downhill again with abandon.