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.

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