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.