Being Quiet and Learning to Breathe Again

Sometimes, I need to be quiet. That’s my excuse for silence here. I can be a talker but recently I’ve needed to listen to the wind, the birds, the waves and an often elusive silence. I’ve been cultivating quiet inside of me even as I hear the endless hum of cars on the nearby highway.

Over the past month, I have started paragraphs of posts and then abandoned them as I wrestle with what this blog is for me. It’s personal yet not my journal. I write memoir and that requires raw honesty and so in this space where I have a kind community of readers and fellow bloggers, I should work on that.

I’ve had some dramatically rough patches but that’s just the stuff of life, right? Everyone has a story and together we’re here in a sea of waves of sadness and joy churning away on this remarkable planet spinning through the universe. Somehow we all do our best to hold on for the ride. I’m determined to live this downward slope of my life in as much joy as I can muster. I aspire to not be burdened by the past nor to worry about the future because it is only in the present that breath exists. And I’m filling my lungs!

Posted in Grief and Healing | 5 Comments

Ushering in Love and Light

I start my New Year here, with a mountain of pillows plumped behind me, dog Rufus snuggled against my thigh, sunlight pouring through the window and not a single commitment to the outside world. It’s rare that I catch the movement of light across my room in a day. I will make another cup of tea and return to read, write and dream as the sun shifts in glorious show through my different windows. I am in heaven. This is enough.

I prefer to usher out the old and welcome the New Year in quietly. As my like-minded friend Jennifer put it yesterday – there are the revelers and the reflectors. In the past, I would feel compelled to join my jolly and beloved reveler friends in the neighborhood. It seems expected, and especially now that I am single, these dear ones worry about me. No one likes to think of us single people by ourselves, alone at New Year. We should be celebrating! It can even be hard for me not to buy into that notion – so sometimes, I force myself to join in.

But honestly – I’d rather be reflecting.

Or at least quiet. I’m not a fan of the American way of celebrating the end of the year – being noisy and whooping it up in a frenzy towards midnight. I don’t judge anybody else for wanting to do that, but please don’t feel sorry for me either. Just beam me up to Kyoto every year at this time, and I’ll be happy.

New Year celebration in Japan is a saner business. It’s a time for ritual cleaning and getting rid of negativity. So I celebrated Japanese style here – cleaning my space – especially this space where I wake every morning and now revel in the light and quiet. I lit some sage and ‘smudged’ the house – briefly opening the window to fan smoking old energy out into the frigid air.

Although 2017 brought me profound sadness, there has also been incredible pleasure. This is the year my dear daughter graduated from college. We adopted Rufus – a pretty perfect dog. My daughter and I are healthy. And these last two weeks, the cloud of sadness blocking my joy, lifted. Somehow, I feel in my bones that in our vast universe – Rob is at peace. And his love – still with me.

Of course I’d rather be moving ahead in life with either one of the two beautiful  yet troubled men I committed to and once believed I’d grow old with. I miss them. But — I am not unhappy alone. I am grateful for the love and that I still sense – and them both, now at peace, freed from demons they tangled with in this life. I have that — and this beautiful girl and our pup delivering regular doses of love and light – even at night. I am lucky.

I wish love and light for you, dear readers, and a Happy New Year!

Posted in Grief and Healing | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Clearing the Way

Christmas Eve I cleaned my gutters. At least the ones I could reach from my rickety wooden painter’s ladder or by climbing up on our flat roof garage. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do this last year thus the great layer of sludge that, if I were that kind of efficient, organized person, would become perfect compost for my garden. Instead, I scooped and tossed the rich goop down below with a splat, trusting the coming rain and snow will wash it all away.

Reaching the gutters around the garage and breezeway entailed scooching along the edge of the roof – not exactly treacherous but some bone certainly would have cracked if I’d taken the 7 foot fall.

At first I was fearful wondering what the hell I was doing up there on Christmas Eve when I should have been baking cookies. But I moved carefully and stayed focused and in less than 5 minutes felt at ease.

Every year I try to do some pre-New Year’s cleaning and my gutters seemed a good one — a perfect symbol for my clogged psyche, heavy with sediment. While sitting on the edge of the roof, I pushed through some of it – including a good dose of fear and anxiety.

Earlier in the day I heard an inspiring interview on On Being interview with David Steindl-Rast – this wonderful sounding 90 year Austrian monk who has to be a good guy because he was pals with Thomas Merton. If you have time, read through or listen to the whole interview – you might find it inspiring too.

This bit resonated with me and I thought about it again while crouching on the shingles: “… anxiety has a way of paralyzing us… But what really paralyzes us is fear. It’s not the anxiety, it’s the fear, because it resists. The moment we give up this resistance — everything hinges on this trust in life. Trust. And with this trust, with this faith, we can go into that anxiety and say, it’s terrible, it feels awful. But it may — I trust that it is just another birth into a greater fullness.

That’s where I’m headed: a greater fullness. From my roof I took it slow, payed close attention and managed to enjoy the view.

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Some Kind of Prayer

Ever since the priest behind the confession screen at St Margaret’s church scolded 10 year old me because I’d miss Sunday mass a few times, I’ve had a mental block against prayers. When I got to the altar to say my penance that day, I’d completely forgotten the words to the Hail Mary and Our Father so I left – imagining my young soul still sullied by sins. From then on I only went to churches as required for other people’s events.

My relationship with prayer and for that matter, faith, remains complicated. While most lapsed Catholics can say any assortment of prayers without pause, I still stumble and mix them up. Except for one. It’s not a traditional prayer but rather one adapted by Al Anon where I used to clock many hours: the Serenity prayer. That evens sounds nice, doesn’t it? Some may long for excitement and thrills. Me, I’ll take serenity.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Over the years, these words have saved me. I’d repeat them mantra-like to silence chatter that threatened to swallow me in a flood of anxiety and worry especially about the addicts in my life. Repeating it thoughtfully brought me back to myself, to my breath to my… wisdom. I DO know the difference but I don’t always want to accept what I cannot change. Instead, I’ve long gotten an A-plus in denial.

Denial doesn’t work anymore but anything else feels like uncharted territory. These last few months have been tough. I’m learning that trauma and sadness cannot be hurried out of the way, not forever. Cumulative grief caught up with me after Rob’s death and now I feel it in my bones, my skin – itchy with hives, my heart heavy. And I’m figuring out that I must pay attention.

Today this bit of Buddha wisdom from a write up for this event next May at Tibet house, really resonated with me:

“…Always a realist, (Buddha) made acknowledgement of suffering the centerpiece of his First Noble Truth. The great promise of the Buddha’s teachings is that suffering is only his First Truth. Truths Three and Four (the End of Suffering and the Eightfold Path to its relief) offers something that therapy has long aspired to but found difficult to achieve. Acknowledging the traumas in our lives is important; learning how to relate to them is crucial.”

That’s what I’ve been doing – slowly, slowly acknowledging, accepting, conceding – the things I can’t change. And sometimes, it helps just to say that prayer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Window Closes

He moved out two years ago this month. After more chances than I can count, I gave up. He already had. I’d been slow to accept defeat but when I did, I prepared myself that things wouldn’t end well for him. When his sister called to tell me she’d found him it was some version of what I was expecting. What surprised me is the wave of terrible sadness I am flailing in. I thought he could no longer break my heart. I thought we were done.

Yesterday, his friend Ian and I went to his house to salvage what we could of music and his instruments – an effort to lessen the sense of waste and for me, to search for clues. I asked Ian if he ever spoke about me and was it with anger. He said, never anger – only regret.

We’d known each other a long time – had tried and failed at romance 20 years earlier so when we reconnected again, it was magical. His smile always made me weak in the knees – but there was more: his long, graceful limbs, beautiful face, that jawline. Even aging, his enviable head of hair turned perfect salt and pepper. And he was funny. So damn funny and a mischievous prankster. And so smart – patiently trying to explain string theory and black holes to me as my eyes glazed over. He understood and actually loved Charles Ives and Stravinsky – but most of all, Zappa who inspired his own complex, quirky music that he worked on constantly. He was a brilliant musician – as in everything, going for the difficult, mastering complicated drum riffs. When he moved in here, he built a studio in the basement and Molly and I always loved hearing him play the drums.

My friends became his friends, our home – his. He couldn’t believe his luck. But none of it was enough. A story I’d already lived through before. And again, I chose to save myself and Molly.

A few months after he’d moved out, he came over for a cup of coffee and asked me if maybe, maybe if  he could get healthy, maybe when he’s seventy — we could get back together. I told him yes, of course there’d be a chance –  he was a great love of my life. We both knew our story would not really end that way, but in a flash of fantasy, a window opened for a breath of hope.

Just last month, he turned 62. I’d watched his painful disappearing act over these last years and thought I had already braced myself – but his final exit – breaks my heart. Goodbye my sweet love.

Posted in Grief and Healing | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

Peach Problems

I’m always sad to see summer go. I like the long light and to wake with sun streaming through my window. My mornings are dark again.

Yet by the time late August rolls around, I’ve lost interest in much of what excited me at the start of the season. At the top of the list is gardening. My garden is currently a mess. It hardly seems worth it to yank the weeds from between the herbs and zinnias – the only thing surviving in the raised bed vegetable patch too much in the shade to produce much. I’ve neglected the petunias – now sad, pink blooms on the end of shriveled stems. The grass needs cutting but I can’t be bothered.

I think it started with the peaches.

Did I tell you about my peaches? My enthusiasm for gardening used to last longer into autumn when I was actually still harvesting vegetables. That was before I was bullied out of business by the local groundhogs. I finally relinquished my sunniest patch to them but planted two peach trees and this year, two pear trees determined to grow at least some of our food. And peaches off the tree? Wow, right?

Last year the tree had about 20 peaches or so that all disappeared virtually overnight. I couldn’t figure out where they’d all disappeared to until I watched 4 ground hogs playing like puppies in my little orchard. I watched the gnaw on the trunks and then one just scurried up one of the pear trees. They can climb trees. It was a cinch. These were my peach eaters, I felt sure.

This year the blossoms were spectacular and resulted in what must have been hundreds of beautiful little peaches. I wrapped the trunks in slippery bark protectors and Molly and I did our best to surround the branches with netting. I’d returned a product called ‘sticky feet’ when I read how toxic it was and thought how horrified I’d be to find my beloved song birds stuck to branches. Nope.

We managed to enjoy four of our peaches. FOUR. 4. Quattro. They were delicious. Many peaches fell off while quite small and I thinned them a bit, as I read I should, generously tossing the fruit on the ground for the varmints to enjoy. So where did all the peaches go again? And so fast? Why were no groundhogs snared in our nets?

On afternoon, Molly and I were sitting on our porch – our favorite summer spot – and she pointed to a squirrel sitting on a branch eating one of our peaches. The squirrels! The squirrels ate all our peaches!

As for the pear trees – we just planted them this Spring so I expected none. But there is one lone beauty – so far untouched. I wait carefully – playing a game of chicken with my little thieves – hoping to pick it when it’s just right and before they do.

And meanwhile, I’m a great customer at the farmers’ market. Any advice on my peaches? (besides get a gun!)


Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Slow Walking the Neighborhood

I love the thrum of a summer night – cicadas and crickets and mystery making the darkness vibrate. As a child I was terrified of the summer night racket, sure that whatever made those noises must be huge and awful. Now I am enchanted by their crazy chorus – different at night from day when under the scorching sun the cicadas seem to speed up their crazy chant with the heat.

Have you seen the leaves are beginning to fall? The other day, a yellow leaf from the Tulip tree rocked slowly through the air, floating, floating down – a quiet reminder on a still-hot day that summer is almost over. And the moon tonight was lovely – waxing and bright with a few stars I don’t know shining not far from it’s light.

These are just a fraction of the rewards I’ve found in my recent walks when not gazing at the new love in our lives: Rufus.

This little man is actually full grown – adopted 2 weeks ago from WASA Westport. Last we heard, his two brothers are still available. I’d almost forgotten the joys of a dog. And Molly – well, she’s smitten with Rufus and he, with her.

So I’m slow walking the neighborhood again and it’s very sweet indeed.

Posted in Seasonal Musings | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Lurking Beneath

‘So what’s going on in your life?’

The Doctor’s question gave me pause. Or maybe I was still stunned by the diagnosis she’d just delivered: shingles.

Well, I suppose work is stressful. That’s what I told her – the easy answer. I have been very busy. But it’s a job I’ve done for 20 years and still enjoy. I mean it’s books I sell. And I’ve actually been taking a fair amount of time off. No, I don’t think it’s really just work-stress that triggered this weird virus to emerge from dormancy more than 50 years after chickenpox ravaged my little body with excruciating sores and scabs I couldn’t resist ripping to bloody shreds.

I love that my Doctor asked me this question. Always up for a metaphor, I’ve pondered during this past uncomfortable week, what IS going on in my life – while wincing from stabbing pains, flinching from any touch to the affected skin, strangely on fire. What in my life awakened this virus in me now? What do I need to be attending to? Is it my subconscious screaming at me – too long ignored as I busily go about my life.

Two friends and I recently coordinated our first community building story-telling project a la The Moth, with the idea of strengthening ties in our very neighborhood-centric city. The first one, held last week, was a great hit with so many inspired to share personal stories with more than 50 strangers, that we ran out of time to accommodate them all.The power and joy of sharing stories was apparent in that beautiful space on a summer evening. Every one there was attentive and moved. Jennifer, Judith and I were elated and are planning the next for October. I did not tell a story.

I have long reaped the psychological benefit of telling stories, yet since I began purposefully writing, I have never felt so far off-track as now. I have lost my personal creative practice.

‘What’s going on in your life?’ That question. Are these stories, my own stories, that I’m not listening to – making my skin crawl and ooze? I need to dig deep, dive beneath to uncover what’s there — including toxins that have laid me low.

If I’m not carving out enough time to be contemplative and creative, I begin to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. That’s a message I’ve felt before but never has it manifested itself in such an excruciating way. Community storytelling is brilliant and I’m excited about it. I feel passionate about the importance of gathering people to listen to each other – a small local gesture against the nasty forces of this time. But I also need to heed my own hollering nerves with roots deep beneath childhood scabs. Write, sculpt, paint – get up and tell a story – it doesn’t matter. What matters is to pay attention to my heart and soul – below the surface where endless untold stories and viruses linger for life.

PS: I’d get the vaccine!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Tidal Lesson

from water view

Parking was impossible near my launch spot on this perfect summer Sunday, so I left my kayak in the sand and asked a friendly looking couple to keep an eye on it while I parked my car. Around and around I drove.  I ended up in a lot next to the volleyball, bocce courts and skatepark, a bit of a jaunt back to my boat.

I pushed off with a sigh. Choppy water made covering any real distance a challenge but I’m not an ambitious paddler. It’s really about getting away from land, seeing a different view of my usual world while being buffeted by gentle waves.


Tide was going out and a favorite sandbar was emerging. A wave heaved my kayak onto the gravel. Perched on my plastic boat, I ate a plum, let the water churn around my ankles, searched the broken sea shells for treasures and then, just sat. After a time, I climbed back in and paddled slowly back to shore.

My kayak guardians were still there. I offered them a turn while I went and got my car. She declined and pointing to the sling on his arm, he said he’d end up going in circles. I left my boat under their watchful eye and went to retrieve my car.

Now most people, when they’re parked in the big lot next to the skate park, volleyball and bocce courts, go left when they’re exiting because they’re leaving the beach. But I had to retrieve my boat so needed to take a right and go to the loop of parking where the launch is. Going in that direction is certainly less common in that lot, but it’s definitely allowed. But a bruiser in a gigantic jeep (“RHINO!” writ large in front in case it didn’t look intimidating enough) insisted I was not allowed – and drove at me gesturing like I was an asshole, how stupid was I to be trying to go that way. No graciousness or hint maybe he was trying to be helpful. I paused while he flailed at me and pulled my car slightly back so he could pass since he clearly wasn’t going to move out of what I knew to be a perfectly valid lane going in the other direction.

But for a moment, I wasn’t sure… the car looked a little like it could be a (weirdly souped- up) police jeep. He and his car had an authoritarian look. Was he a cop? I know better than to pick a fight with a cop and for a minute I thought, well then, maybe he’s right. In any case, how preposterous for me, this grey haired late 50’s (but sprightly!) woman to get in a battle with this 30-something beefcake. (Oh, but I wanted to!)

“It’s one way!” he snarled at me.

“No it’s not!” I snarled back – blood pressure pumped, paddling-zen, kaput.

He barreled past. I clearly saw, he was no policeman. He was only a jerk. A macho, bully that feels comfortable and righteous throwing his weight around in his ridiculous man-toy of a car.

“Read the sign!” he yelled.

With him out of the way, I carried on and indeed read the sign – a simple STOP sign and below it No Left Turn. Of course not. It’s a loop. I went right and circled around to my boat being watched over by the sweet couple. I looked out at the water and sky and breathing, regained my chill. Or did I. I continued to think about it – and hours later, here I am writing about this encounter.

He was so sure HE was right. And how positive I felt that I was right. (And of course I WAS right. Haha!) But I wanted to find him and bring him back to the sign so he could see, it’s okay to go that way. I really wanted to prove to that guy he was wrong – as if only then would I regain the power I somehow felt I had ceded to him in reversing. Ridiculous?

In some ways, this exchange of only moments, felt a snapshot of the way I feel in the world these days. It’s a kind of wrestling match with myself to not engage in something that probably won’t end well because the one who’s wrong just won’t look at what the sign REALLY says. I’m joking. Kind of. Ultimately, in the end, these encounters just feel toxic to me. Better to keep my mouth shut, carry on doing what I believe to be right and try to let the crap go out with the tide.


Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

On the Water Again

Freckled legs, thrift-shop crocs and my new ride.

I arrived at the beach just after 9:30 AM, determined to get out on the water before the holiday weekend boaters took over. Ten minutes after leaving the house, I pulled into a spot close to the boat launch — rolled my kayak down off the car, slung it over my shoulder by the seat strap and teetered down to the water. High tide was around 7 so the water was still close enough that I didn’t have to navigate too many slippery rocks. Wading into the water with my boat beside me, I slid aboard, scooted against the back rest and began paddling towards the Norwalk islands, grinning.

Twenty minutes from my door: heaven.

It’s been 2 summers since I’ve been out paddling and I refused to make this a 3rd. Fairly priced kayaks are the first thing to go at tag sales and last year, I never scored one. It didn’t help that I wanted something very specific. I am not a confident water person and had gotten used to the impossible-to-tip-over ocean kayak I’d paddled with my ex. Last year I searched tag sales, Craig’s List and asked friends – to no avail. This year, riding the wave of excitement and satisfaction and yes, financial freedom of Molly being done with college, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods. For just over $300 for kayak, oar, jacket and straps to tie the thing down on top of my Subaru. David, our salesperson, was a prince – guiding me towards the right boat, attaching foam to the rack on the top of my car and showing me how to attach it tight.

My present to myself for Molly’s graduation.

The first few times out, I loaded up with Molly who thoughtfully stood by trying not to help. I wanted to know I could wrestle the thing myself. Finally, she couldn’t bear to see me struggle and with a flip of an arm, threw the boat up on my car. While she’s around, I’ll welcome that help. But this morning, I did it myself from start to finish. I doubt it looked pretty, but damn it, I did it.

I swam here. Briefly. The water is cold.

And this is where I went. I floated, I paddled, I watched the birds, telling them how lovely they were. It’s cooler out there with a sweet breeze easing the heat of the sun. Pulling up to a spit of land that disappears at high tide, I pulled the kayak up and swam, marveling that this sweet beach was all mine. I wonder how I let 2 years pass without this dreamy experience so close to home!

A spit of beach that disappears and appears with the tides.

On my first solo venture out, I alternately felt thrilled and terrified. Nervous that no one was behind me navigating, paddling when I got tired. If I go under, it’s only me and my fierce whistle! But even as huge motorboats bore down on me, I smiled like a buddha. On my own, blissful with the birds skimming across the rolling waves, the odd splash of a fish and yes, the roaring motors of boats. In fact, once I think they see me and will probably not mow me down, I love rolling in the heaving wakes they leave. And I wave, imagining they must envy me – moving so sleekly along, quietly moving towards the egrets in the tall grass, so very happy in my solitude. I would.

Posted in Days of light | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments