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.



The perfectly shaped V floats across the Autumnal sky
above the great Mississippi
people crane their necks skyward
as we drive over Lake Street Bridge

Our faces pressed against our glass windows to see what the fuss and attention is about
skyward our gaze
a v floating across the great expanse of blue
backlit by white fluffy clouds
the 22nd letter of the alphabet out for a walk
pull it south across our skies
over our waters,
through our trees
We watch a Nation pass over us
as our neighbors to the north fly south
good day they seem to call
The geese honk
as if saying hello
look at us they seem to call
look at us, look at us.


We Need to Walk Before We Can Fly

I am walking more and more these gorgeous fall days that are stretching summer into the narrowing path toward winter. I find these slower paces a way to catch up to myself, really feel my body's movement patterns and habits, and bring awareness to the miracle of walking. I find myself contemplating, if our wings grow out of the soft spot behind our heart and attach further down at the highest point of our sacrum, it is there that I think our walking pattern emerges, shoulder connecting to opposite hip through that place of wing attachment. An x marks the spot so to speak. Front and back body connected so that my stride is fully supported by my glutes and my abdominal rectus muscles making my connection from earth to sky one of tall alignment, not of collapse. Feeling my spine pivot at the four places it curves naturally as my body takes its steps.

My walks bring me downhill toward the Mississippi River, into my stomping grounds as a child, my old neighborhood. It is here, I am told F. Scott Fitzgerald got his inspiration for the Great Gatsby. My yard connected with my neighbor's parcels of land was once the site of the Crosby Mansion. An estate that once sat prominently on the majestic land, but a vision of grandeur that could not sustain itself past Crosby's life. Wealth evaporated when he died. It makes me wonder about legacy and the role of material wealth in legacy. Material wealth is not what I have dedicated my life toward. When I enter the neighborhood set one block from the Mississippi, my whole body calms, my breath returns to me like I imagine it entered me as a newborn as I figured out my patterns of breathing and the rhythms of the house, and listened to the spirits of the trees, and the magic of the flowers in the gardens around me...the scent of lilacs wafting into my open window in the back of the house.

The power of scent so strong that two years ago when I ran my first ten miles post Seamus' birth, and I found myself with my neighbor, a track star in college, Michelle, encouraging me on as my body wanted to collapse in on itself from lack of strength and stamina, we took to the Summit Ave trails into Lilac ally and the mere scent of those flowers grabbed hold of me and I began to sob. Full on tears. Michelle turned to me to ask what was wrong and all I could conjure up at the time was that these were the flowers of my childhood, flowers I could pick and tuck into my hair behind my ear, and sit in my sundresses on our porch and pose for a Polaroid my sister, Anne, snapped of me.
At the time the longing for my hair, longing for my physical beauty. A longing so visceral and deep it took hold of me in those lilac arches. I cringed at the way my beauty faded, or what I told myself had faded with the shedding of each strand of hair; strand by strand; baby by baby--worsening at my four month postpartum mark, this time leaving me quite nearly bald. I wondered out loud to Michelle how my husband could ever think of me as pretty or beautiful or even sexy, like in my hair loss I had not only failed myself but him as well. He never complained about my looks--which even writing that now I still find hard to believe. Did he secretly speak to his brother about it? No, I just can't imagine, perhaps this is the silver lining of Irish denial, it can be so thick that the obvious can go without complaint or focus. But was I focused on it and focused on it in loops of what if it never comes back, what if I am always bald?

That ten mile run set the pace for a deep release, I felt a healing wash over me as I cried and ran and cried and Michelle encouraged me onward. We ran through lilac ally into the open trails of the boulevard ducking pine boughs and shielded from the sun by the branches of old Oaks and Maples rooted into the green earth, while our feet kicked up the dust of the worn single track trail from runners. We turned left onto Fairview Ave, the last mile of the ten, and streetlight by streetlight we made our way to the finish, the coffee shop at Randolph and Fairview. Here other runners would meet for post run chat and a deep cup of coffee--mine usually being whole milk hot chocolate. Triumphant and emotionally tapped we arrived.

Michelle who is also a family doctor who delivers babies really healed a part of me I hadn't known was lost to me until that scent of a multitude of lilac bushes in full bloom that only happens once a year in June came at me in full force. Those same lilac bushes of lavender and white and dark grape color lined my childhood backyard. Our line for drying clothes were shrouded by them scenting our sheets for those sweet three weeks in June. In winter they outlined themselves like Narnia a winter wonderland, some of their branches finely pointed and when outlined with fresh wet snow reminded me of a winter ice queen's nails. I could get lost in those branches for hours when it snowed. Buried in the magic of each unique snowflake, under the wide expanse of blue sky and huge hanging clouds-- soggy with condensation letting each drop of water fall out of them and be transformed into crystals that would bless the earth. I would lay down in the fresh snow and make snow angels feeling the wide expanse of my wings in the snow carefully sitting up trying not to press too far into the place where I sat so as to disturb the imprint of the winter winged being I would leave behind me. Working to jump out leaving no markings. Sometimes this worked; regardless always an exercise in careful movement.

As I continued my walk, I came past the house I grew up in, and without thought my feet went straight to the "catwalk" as it was referred to in my school aged days. I left the quiet streets I was walking I followed the stones up the hill that blocked this part of the neighborhood off from the busier part of the world, cutting through the Plunketts yard and then into Mrs Brooks, who I happened to see coming down her staircase from her garage, older now, but recognizable. At 39 I flushed being caught cutting through. I paused and explained myself. She laughed and smiled, "Yes, I remember you, this used to be the unofficial cat walk of course you can cut through. Just say hi when you do if I see you." She was struggling to get her suitcase down the stairs, I offered to help. She declined. So I waited my turn for her Brady Bunch styled staircase and then leapt those stairs two at a time landing myself in the ally. Once in the ally I paused to make sure I was about to cut across the sidewalk of the Queenens old yard and back down the hill to the other side of the neighborhood. Landing on Mount Curve Blvd I began the walk I did every day for years up Stanford to my elementary school, where my kids now attend, and I walked past it to the house we now call home in Tangletown.

Back at home this morning as the sunshine pours in all our windows and it feels more like August than almost October, I find Seamus calling for Peter as I finish my morning coffee. I walk up the stairs to meet him. He glances at the People magazine our neighbor, Mrs Lanagren, bequeaths to me after she reads them, and asks "Who is that?"I glance at the curved wooden banister where unopened mail sits and atop of it the recent magazine with Joan Lunden on the cover smiling brilliantly, confidently, I think, even, with her bald head. She wears a touch of makeup and earrings and diamond rings and the cover says she is fighting cancer. I explain she lost her hair, but now it is growing back to Seamus. Feeling the truth of this in my own bones as I hold him around his waist kneeling on the steps to be lower than he is; I am not wearing my wig and my hair is wild and bedheady. "Is that a girl?" he asks. Yes it is...and then as he lays down on the landing and I hold his feet I recount a story to him. "When I was pregnant with you, I lost my hair and now it is growing back."

Silently I worried he would not love me when he was born and saw his mother with very little hair. I am riveted back to that feeling of embarrassment I held as I thought about giving birth in the hospital and what would the nurses and doctor think of me? I worried that they would presume cancer. I worried that I would be judged for not being able to grow hair like I did babies, beautifully and brilliantly. I worried that when my newborn son gazed up at me and I down at him, he would cringe, maybe even be sad he had chosen a mom who had no hair. The worry so huge and looming that during a meditation I was deeply, soothed, when I realized "This baby already loves you deeply, and nothing can change that." While this quieted that fear then, on our landing with my "baby" now three, I recall that current and I tell him about it and he laughs his mischievous smile. He teases me, "I don't love you." And I reply, "Yes you do," and we chorus that way for a few moments before I tickle his stomach causing him to giggle and pull his arms resting beneath his head out to block my hands. I gallop over him up the rest of the stairs back to my studio to write.

Grateful I am not fighting or learning how to heal from cancer, and grateful for the awareness to be grateful for my autoimmune disease that has begin to reveal to me the deep need to love myself. The deep call to love oneself because from there all else flows. And, the deep realization how much of our beauty is rooted inside the soul, emanating out through our heart space flowing out our arms, into the currents of our palms, how we move in the world. Our mind, it is just that, our mind, thoughts floating trying to make sense of things, and sometimes taking us down paths away from the current moment. The practice of meditation helps train the mind and the body to sit and stay, like a puppy mastering a command I am growing into my adult size dog so to speak.

As I write this three of my boys are playing banker with the fisher price cash register I had growing up and their notebooks are out drawing and a pretend cell phone rings and they talk to their boss about driving some place. The sunlight comes through the window casting its rays on my right hand as my left hand stays in the shadow of the day yet to emerge from the positioning of the sun in the sky, but day I know will come. Sometimes I am in deep awe at the beauty of this ordinary moment and too often I am asleep to its beauty falling into the dullness of the day: of the morning routines of breakfast, dressing and making beds (or really encouraging others to make their bed), that I fall out of the amazement of our pure existence. The breathing of the earth that gives rise to life and patterning as I know it in this moment. I watch as my boys navigate the folded and unfolded piles of clean laundry to continue their play within my presence. Ducking through the laundry room to their rooms and back again to the other side of the laundry room where the studio exists. Some mornings lately I wake and do my practice of giving thanks for the day and for each of my boys and husband and myself and I marvel at the collective breathing happening under our roof at the same time, and know I will miss it when they are launched and gone, but that is not now, and now is all we have. And I know this as I marvel at the fact that humans can walk on two feet and wonder how we can use our wings to fly.


Not Knowing

This is a hard place to be, the not-knowing. The wondering. It is not a place we humans are used to resting in comfortably. We fight it, resist it, try to outsmart it. Pretend we know where our life is going and where it will take us. But we don't know; we cannot know. We live here all the time, in the uncertainty, in the flux; only seldom are we awake to it. 

Last week I hurt my knee. It made a loud, audible, alarming sound as I ran. Like paper tearing, possibly a pop. I heard it through my headphones. I know what that means, and it can't be good. I walked the last mile along the dusty rail trail back to my car, cursing myself for stupidity and ego, wishing desperately that I could go back, to the moment before my knee snapp when I passed the Kenyan runner with long hair and a longer gait, who I always see out there on the high windblown flats. It seemed a dream, impossible. My knees are strong; they never give me any problem. Within hours, it had swollen fat with fluid, a large angry knee that did not resemble anything that belonged on my body. I didn't cry or panic. I was resolute and weirdly calm, maybe even part of me relieved, though that seems sacrilegious to say out loud.

Relieved, why? Because we think we know our bodies, our lives. We function and thrive on this illusion of control. I can run 14 miles fast today and get up and do it again tomorrow. My body is strong, my knees never any problem. I can run 50 miles or 100K. I can win. The ego required to sustain this illusion can be tiresome, depleting, even as the running builds us up, makes us stronger than we've ever been. Formidable, alive, deeply confident. Beneath the strength is our weakness: pride, ego, a deep assumption that we are strong and always will be. It takes work to carry this everywhere we go. Sometimes we want to put it down, rest a while, remember we are human, afraid, even though this terrifies us, too.

The knee, then, is the wakeup call. A week later, it's almost my knee again. Most of the swelling has subsided, though I am leery of bending it too far, walk with a slight limp, wear a neoprene brace still stained brown from the silt of the Green River, from where we've just returned, floating, drifting, paddling, cocooned in the canyon.

I must wait a week to see the orthopedist, to find out what I've done. In the meantime, I see two PTs in town, both of whom fiddle with my knee, maneuver it into different positions, and cautiously proclaim it free of major damage. At first I am excited, buoyed by their opinions. But my optimism doesn't stick. In my mind I question their credentials. I discredit their expertise. What do they know, I worry to myself, as I reach for the iPad and, with a deep sense of foreboding, type "torn ACL symptoms" into a Google search. For several hours one night before bed, this consumes me. I study knee anatomy diagrams from all angles. Assess the purple ligaments, the red muscles, the blue tendons. Try to figure out which one on my knee is responsible for the dull ache, the stiffness, the feeling that someone has taken a hammer to my kneecap. Of course I can't tell from the pictures what happened to my actual knee. The hot swollen joint that holds me up. That I love and need. That I have lived with all my life. Scarred and mine. I am vexed with uncertainty. I keep Googling. I think I might start to panic. I pick a fight with my husband instead. The night is black and starry, promising another brilliant late-summer day tomorrow, a string of them. But I am house-bound, DQed from the trails. Everything feels wrong.

I want answers. I don't know how to wait, to live in this limbo, to surrender to not knowing for six more days.

But it's what I must do. I am ornery, short tempered, full of shame and self-loathing. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but life is a tangled mess and to get to doctor's appointment I must drop into the murk, the fear, swim in it with my children, with Steve. This is deeply uncomfortable. I would like to board a conveyor belt to Wednesday and short cut all the rest but I can't. I must be a mother and a wife, too. First. I must try to be patient and loving and not let the worry take me away from them. Because they are the salve, the healing, if I let them, if I stop pushing away and bring them in, and sit in this kitchen while my six-year-old reads aloud, haltingly, from her book, and try to pay attention and be grateful and think of anything but my knee.

None of us knows anything, really, but this one moment and then the next. How can I have forgotten this already?


Laundryoga: Simple Life Hacks

New yoga form: laundryoga. Laundry a necessary evil. I am simplyfying the kids drawers and clothes so that there is less to do. However, there will always be some to do. So the other night as I looked at my pile that would be magically transformed into stacks I began to bring some awareness to my posture and my breath. And a prayer to my hands as I thought of all the places my kids and husband would wear the clothes that I folded. Have worn the clothes before me, and I began to breathe a bit deeper and pay attention a little closer and straighten my posture and brought some floor yoga to my practice. So a real life simple hack is to do the laundry while sitting in lotus, heroes pose, toes curled under in heroes pose, wide legged straddle, cobblers pose, staff pose...And keep breathing through it until it's done for now. Repeat tomorrow. 

Chronic Tension

It is the height of summer and I'm in class teaching. We have come to the end of the 60 minutes of somayoga. The yogis are invited to enter into corpse pose, I invite them to sink a little deeper. To release more. To practice the muscle of letting go. Most are fit and in shape and used to working hard to bring tone and physical definition to their bodies, but in this class we are experimenting with how much tension we can release and still function.

Most know how to feel tight. Many know how to feel strength. I know I do. I do it with regular ease, I hold tension. Its an underlying current most of the time I have never realized resides in my body. I clutch. I hold in contraction. Tightness can be my norm; if unexamined. I realize this more this summer. It is such a contradiction to what summer calls for, being in full bloom. Open. Relaxed. Basking in the sunlight. Growing toward the sun. Being deeply rooted into the nutrients of the earth.

With this growing awareness, I have begun to play with how much tension I can release. How much awareness I can bring to my chronic tension. How much I can exhale and let go. While a certain amount of tension is helpful to have for daily activities, the unconscious chronic tension most of us hold as we stand, walk, run, even miraculously hold on to as we lie down is amazing. I can be lying down and my neck can act like it is still in an upright position. My hand can still be clutched like I carried grocery bags into the house and have yet to fully set them down, like their ghostly memory lingers onward.  Unless I slowly bring an internal light to my body and invite it to release.
art by David Hackney

Why do we hold unnecessary tension? I wonder if this chronic tension held in the body is some of the origins of unexamined anger or our hurried nature doing and doing. Does the exhale come when we be? The anger that lurks beneath the surface, and seeps or explodes out when the external pressures become too much, when the nervous system screams, "Stop! I have had enough!!!" I became aware at how much I no longer want to hold this excess tension, this harbored anger in my soma, my body, my system at the last advanced intensive I did in SourcePoint Therapy. A larger awareness washed over me while I had a session, and a long exhale followed of my entire system especially of my physical body that said, I am tired of that anger, I no longer want to know that current. And I felt it leave me. It has me aware, alert to its presence how much can I release, let go of, no longer harbor so that I can remain in full bloom?


Parenting--An Invitation to Connect to Something Larger.

A short post...to mark it you know, for myself, something to come back to when I forget because let's face it I forget. And it's good to remember...that when interacting with your kids or really anyone, it is best to have some distance, not be right in the muck, connect to something larger than yourself and them. It brings perspective and keeps you from digging into old familiar patterns. You learn to do this in SourcePoint Therapy, to connect to something larger, that guides and brings in the information of human health. But we can really do this with anything, in any circumstance. It does not mean do not connect intimately with that person, or show a compassionate response. Quite opposite, it means you are able to give a more compassionate, less selfish response to who is before and with you.

This is becoming more of a habit for me, but believe me I forget it. Like last night when I was at the pool waiting for thunderstorms to pass and my boys to be able to swim. I needed them to swim and burn energy. I needed to pass the rest of the evening of my two week stretch of solo parenting. I needed to be out. (Notice the I's--when those appear and appear and appear, it is a clue you are not connecting to something larger than yourself. This does not mean that the I disappears, it means that it is not central, well last night it was central.) Boy #2 kept burping in my face showing me his newfound talent at being able to burp on command while I wallowed between laughing at his annoyance and crying the bottom boy began to screech in my face over and over again. I was hooked. I wanted to push boy 2 away, and finally did and shove cotton in the bottom boy's mouth to keep him from screaming, which I did not, only covered his mouth which he then thought was a fun game. How might have this looked different if I connected to something larger? I may have grown a taller spine, and not slumped in my mesh pool side chair under that canopy hiding from the intermittent rain. I may have realized that boy 2 needed to sit on my lap, and the bottom boy already on my lap may have needed a story or a song while we waited. I may have met them in the waiting instead of checking out and staying single-mindedly focused on what I needed. Instead I was slouched forward closing in on my heart center like I see my boys do when they are feeling bad, and my thought patterns instead of passing through me began to loop down my curved spine.

I felt bad about my response to them in that moment, but I am not beating myself up about it. I am human. I am practicing compassionate awareness when I am less than my stellar shiny brilliant being I am called to be...you too! I realize with compassionate awareness there I went again, down a less so stellar road. And instead of burping on command I burped out of reflex. So I return to connect to something larger. Something that brings in health and awareness and wisdom and love and shifts the context from I to relational awareness. It'll shift your response. For in parenting there is magic all around us; to become aware of it, to bring a vision of gratitude toward it even in the mess, even in the hard times, even in the call for something larger at work is a spiritual practice.



You caught yourself musing over lines, strokes, differences on a predawn run the other day. The difference in three strokes. Three markings. Their directions can make a difference between a capitol A and a capitol Z. Each have three strokes. Yet the letters vary in placement, meaning, and usage greatly.You sit here at night as you write still considering this as you hear the West Seventh cross-country train sound its horn warning the city of its impending approach. A soundtrack that plays in the backdrop of your life. So many sounds that go unnoticed. This train zooms through here with urgency over tracks that are a mile away from your home in Saint Paul, and yet the train's whistle can instantaneously place you in the backyard of the rail yard at the Santa Fe Hotel where this train first came into your awareness. This train is one of the same trains that sits there, where you used to live. The pale yellow box car with the words Santa Fe painted on it in fading red letters. Yes, that box car you noted from your hotel window has passed you at the tracks in Saint Paul and you have sat in your car and watched, as your boys in the back seat delighted at the sight of so many cars, such a long train, passing before their eyes.

Today you swam in the Highland Pool for the first time without a swim cap, without a hair covering, in front of others. You battled and played with the sound track that floated through your mind with each stroke as you did lap after lap of 100's. I wonder what my spotty hair growth looks like to others. Should I have worn the swim cap? You extend your arm scooping water that is in front of you back as you swim. These thoughts like that faint whistle sounding off, a whistle that many nights goes unnoticed. You begin to sense and feel your body from the inside out. Letting the outside judgements float away. Let yourself know yourself from within. You watch. You play being the witness of your thoughts that the practice of yoga, of meditation, of running invite you to be with your life. You watch as your little self shrinks. The thoughts that can pull you down, thoughts that can make you sink without enough ability to catch your next inhale get pushed behind you with your next arm stroke and your feet flutter kick them away.

In between your training plan's laps you rest standing in the shallow end, head above water, playing with the plunge between watching others watch you and the self consciousness that comes from that, and you watching yourself as you moved through water, now standing tall to rest, letting the thoughts move through you. Pulling yourself back toward thoughts of love. Thoughts of  I am enough as I am.  This leads you into playful territory. Into playing with breathing on your left side of your freestyle and alternating your breath between arm cycles. Extending your exhale to naturally lengthen your inhale. Hair, no hair. Three strokes. Covering up. Not covering up. A. Z. Caring. Not caring. Playing with "both and ands" and shedding the "either or" mentality. Letting go of right and wrong thinking and allowing yourself to experiment, to play with cause and effects. Tomorrow you will run the annual trail race at Afton Alps, a 25k, and you've been there before, but this time it is different. And as you conclude this post, the whistle of the passing train sounds in the distance and you become aware again.


Alpha & Omega

When your last name ends in Z you know where you will land in the pages of the morning obituaries; the last page. And quite possibly the last person to be announced that you died that day. You know that your obit will be called up by clicking page 5 of 5, like you did the day your friend's dad died, to read about him--and learn more about her. You know this because with certainty, no letter comes after Z in the English language. But what comes after death?

Maya Angelou's obit would loom before the section of the obituaries. Her death announced on the front page of newspapers would also come on the first page of the obituary section because of the luck of the draw her last name had when it began with the letter A. So many letters fall in-between. You rooted further down the line of letters when you married, going from E to S.

You wonder about the in-between, the pause between the exhalation and the inhalation, the pause that gives rise to the next movement of breath you take for granted until it is no longer present, and what remains is your life settled in print on page. You wonder will you go out on the in breath, or the out like your writing teacher, Natalie, once asked. And the dramatic pause that lives between the inhalation and the exhalation, how big will it be? (And yet, in your study of breath, you learned a little trick if you want to lengthen your inhalation focus on a longer exhalation it will happen without force on the inhalation and you will feel calmer.)

Sometimes like today, the ferns blowing in the wind with the summer sun shining on the greenness of the earth you wonder at yourself and how much you take being in a body for granted. How you just presume your life will follow day after day. Sometimes this presumption when it rises to the surface catches you off guard, takes your breath away, and your heart aches at how much you will miss this life when it is no longer your life. It's sometimes a dull ache and other times quite sharp. You feel your breath, and your body spiraling into form and light and pattern, and you can feel your heart center opening to receive more of what your life has to offer, and you think you are preparing to fly. Yet, some voice inside says humans don't fly. You are told yogis do, and can and you wonder its truthfulness? You feel that sacred soft space at your back body between your shoulder blades where they meet your spine, and you imagine your wings growing out from that soft heart center and expanding like angel wings--shimmery and strong, shades of white iridescent light. And you sit a little taller while you sit on your front stoops watching those ferns sing in the wind.

You sit, amazed at all that was hidden in the winter months from your view, all that slumbered beneath the thick sheets and layers of ice and snow and polar winds. These ferns you think would never survive that howling wind that whipped through the landscape carving out crusted snow dunes, yet they laid buried beneath snow and ice and soil. And you remember your delight when your footing fell through the snow's crust in March giving way to the promise that the greens of the earth would once again reveal itself, because you began to wonder if it would. Your winter so cold.

When your seven year old boy returned home from school angry at being left out and hurting himself on the playground during free time, you were certain that some sunshine and grass on his bare feet would reconnect him to his goodness, his shiny self, his body. And so, you knelt down as he splayed himself defeated on the douglas fir porch floor and peeled off his shin high socks inviting him and his bare feet back outside to the earth's green carpet. Reluctant he went. And you watched him, and wondered about the final retreat back to the earth's soil is it met with reluctance? Do you return to your body with resistance? Do you find your breath with revere? Does loving yourself mean as Thich Naht Hahn states you come back to your body over and over again, saying "Hello body, I will take care of you....You're body is a wonder." And like that your heart wings grow.



You have to go down to go up. A basic law of physics we forget as we watch people walk around collapsed in on themselves. I know this. I know this from years of doing just that. I went from a deep inner awareness I honed as a child, to a push, push, push, mentality that left me shoulders back, lower back tight, chest out, chin high, back line tight. Then we moved, not just once, but a bunch of times, and had lovely boys I nursed and held and cradled, and I began to overlay a collapsed posture upon the strive posture I had honed through college and grad school completions. I began to close in on myself. My shoulders drooped in-ward, my heart center spaciousness that had been exaggerated previously, was now smaller and hidden. And my mind went from “what's next” to “what now,” and “what if.” Thought patterns that took hold and were caught in a loop inside my body.

The spine meant to naturally curve in four distinct places, to create a flow of energy from the earth to the sky and back down again, a yielding with gravity instead of a prop or collapse state, in my body was batted down, and with this harsh hash-crossing in my body a harsh hash-crossing of thoughts emerged, looping on a repetitive play. "Is this the best choice?" "Am I right?" "What if..." It took me too many days, years, to realize I had left my body and hovered above it, around it, beneath it, even dragged myself behind it...my mind leaping ahead while my body lagged behind. Grief and shock mixed together to create this state. And my usual joyful self got buried. 

"Can I bring you dinner?" she asked me. We were standing outside, on an early warm June morning as my oldest boy started kinder camp, a week of adjusting to what the fall would bring. Preparing now for his leap ahead. I waited on the concrete, white paved plaza of the school I attended as a child. We were in the midst of discerning our return home, or to my childhood home of Saint Paul, from Santa Fe which had become our home. I wore skinny jeans and flip-flops with my favorite three quarter Kelly-green J. Crew sweater. A flowered bucket hat covered my head and long strands of shoulder length hair peeped out, except where there wasn't any. I had grown used to wearing hats in Santa Fe, after moving there with some major hair loss from baby 3. But no one there asked. People there were used to people wearing hats, used to cancer patients dotted about the city, were used to people with funky hairstyles. It was not a tip off. At least I did not think it was; strong was my denial.

Puzzled I looked at her, this woman with four kids of her own, her oldest, a fifth grader, helping at the kinder camp, and apologized saying, "No, I am good. Why do you ask?" She offered, stammered really, "Well because, I um...just thought maybe I could help you," she glanced upward at my hat with questioning eyes as to what was underneath it. A slow dawning of realization came across my face, I know that is cliche to say, but it really was like a slow light spreading from inside my mind to my outside facial expression, Oh I thought, this woman thinks I have cancer." This had never occurred to me. I know that sounds naive but it had not. Silly, really, when I think of it. But when this woman asked, it took me back. She thinks I have cancer. She called me Beth, my childhood nickname. I am no longer in Santa Fe. I am no longer anonymous. I can no longer hide my hair loss. I felt unsteady on my feet. I waited for the kids to come out the double doors to release me from this conversation, as a warm flush of embarrassment came over me, my cheeks reddening and my eyes holding back tears. I tried to casually explain to her that no, it was not cancer, only alopecia thank goodness--and brush off that I was shaken. 

Only alopecia. A term western medicine gives to unexplained hair loss. My bald spots reemerged and this time at a ferocious pace. One after the next after the next. Strands of hair falling out whenever I touched my hair. Hair, falling into the shower drain in Santa Fe. That shower with the tiled walled mural of fish that covered it. The sink that was decorated in desert tiled flowers of the southwest. Daily I would watch in horror as they slipped down the drain coiling just above it, blocking the drainage, while I stood naked. Head cast downward, eyes filling with salty tears mixing with the shower's hard water pellets, I stood-- a spine compromised, energy stuck, its drainage blocked. 

After showering, I took a piece of toilet paper and wiped the evidence up, that once again I had lost more hair that day than I had grown. Placing the balled toilet paper into the toilet bowl flushing away my fear of "What if I lose all my hair this go around?" Toweling off I would look up, barely making eye contact with myself in the mirror above the sink. A glance at the mirror, a glance at my image, bought disgust, all I could see, could focus on really---my emerging bald spots. I couldn’t see my beautiful deep brown set eyes, nor my long limbed bones, or my clear complexion, only the growing baldness and my eyes like lasers boring into those areas—as if with sight and thought I could make each area grow bigger.

My interior voice loomed like a loud speaker in my head, How could anyone think I was attractive, much less my husband, and I shrunk to hide beneath the hats I wore. While underneath them, I grew more and more bald. Inside my worry and fret stirred, simmered, cooked, bordering into self loathing Who losses their hair? Who looses their hair while pregnant? Writing this pains me. I had grown to practice the deep voice of self-hatred. This voice grew loud and disorientating leading me to discern decisions that were no longer best for me. Pulling me away from my centered self, tossing me into the large realm of space without orientation, without a naturally curved spine, without anything but worry to orbit around. And while I orbited I grew bald on my outside. I collapsed in on myself, wearing a posture of protecting my heart, the startle reaction seen in babies in full effect in me, an adult. The inquisitions of does she have cancer grew. Always followed by the wave of relief from the questioner, that no I do not have cancer only alopecia. These interactions followed me around like my lost strands of hair, lying on the floor, leaving a trail of despair.