I Have Everything I Need....

ritual

As I was parking my car for the journaling workshop, I saw a woman towing a small cart behind her.

Hmmm, I mused. She must be going to Orly’s class too.

I wonder what she has in tow? For once, I was traveling light. I’d brought my journal, a few paints, brushes and pens.

I’d been following the teacher, Orly Avineri for a few years. I love her style, her depth and her rich textures. Her work feels like someone who’s traveled her inner highways.

I knew I had to be here at this workshop, on this weekend.

As Orly began, she told us to bring out the materials we’d brought – fabric, old pictures, memorabilia. We were building nests.

I looked around.
My stomach did a mini-flop.
I didn’t have any “materials.”

I didn’t bring anything but my journal. After all, it was a JOURNALING workshop. I’d even asked in the FB group if we were supposed to bring anything and I heard nothing back.

I gently chirped, “Ummm, I don’t have any materials. I must have missed that memo,” feeling the heat of embarrassment race down my neck.

With eagle eyes, Orly looked at me, “You didn’t bring any materials?” she said, in a kind and yet curious tone.

“No.
No materials.
Missed that memo.”

“OK,” she glided on without missing a wing beat.

“Well, you can use some of mine and I’m sure people will share.”

Heads began nodding in the room of 11 women.

Before I knew it, I had a pile of papers, cheese cloth, string and pictures in front of me to build my nest. I felt my shoulders drop down away from my ears and I took a long inhale and exhale.

Of course!
I have everything I need, even when I think I don’t.
Even when I think I don’t!

We were building nests.

I’d been thinking about the nest – a home, a safe place, a place to grow and develop. A place that is about coziness, togetherness and family.

Just like Orly’s rich journal art, the weekend was already more complex than I had anticipated. Just weeks before, my half-sister, Vicki, had died and her memorial was in Los Angeles on the Saturday of the workshop weekend.

The moment I found that out, there was no question I had to be there.

My Saturday was spent in Vicki’s nest. I flew into the tender place where her kids, friends, and family honored her through their stories. I walked away with a beautiful picture of a woman devoted to raising her children to bloom into their most authentic selves – a true gift of a mother.

We all laughed and cried and I felt a sense of being inside the nest while there.

On Sunday, the instructions were to pull our nests apart and lay out the newly died strips of fabric and paper. Some balked a bit at deconstructing the carefully stitched together bundles. And yet everything that comes together eventually falls apart. Nothing is permanent.

The whole weekend felt like a dream and like I’d been delivered to the place I needed to be without me having to do anything. It was the perfect lesson. I just have to remember that I have everything I need, even when I think I don’t.


We Have the Same Eyes, Lips....Like His...

I asked for her address a few months ago. I wrote down her new digits on a piece of paper which lay in some pile on my desk. I had good intentions of writing.

Writing a letter to reconnect.
Writing a letter to see how her new life in LA was going.
Writing to stay linked to a past I know so little about.
Writing, perhaps, to just say hi.

After all, we were related by blood. There’s something to that right?

Even if you don’t grow up in the same household.
Even if you have different mothers.

We have the same lips. Similar eyes. They look like his eyes and lips.

Over the years, I’ve scrutinized pictures of our father, me, her, looking for something. But truly not knowing what I’ve been looking for. Perhaps a sense of belonging.

A sense of family.
A sense of connected-ness.

The long Winter came and went, the tulips bloomed, the dogwood shed her pink buds, and now the poppies are blooming.

I didn’t write that letter.

And now it’s too late.

She has transitioned….passed on to the other side where letters are of no use. So now I’m doing my best to talk to her in my prayers, connect in a way we couldn’t in this physical form.

It happened so quickly.
Nine days from knowing she was in the ICU to her being on the other side, address-less.

 

We weren’t close, though she always had a tender spot in my heart. Family. Blood line. It counts, right?

I have no answers.

I spent the weekend going through old photos, looking for bread crumbs through my past to help me make sense of it all. Make sense of the twists and turns in life that have broken my heart open to grow bigger each time it’s smashed to smithereens.

The day after she died I wrote 10 people in my life and sent them photos. I have more to send. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to let them know they’ve been important parts of my tapestry.

That counts right? Letting people know you love them. Or have loved them to the best of your ability.

It’s all I know to do. Sweep up any mess I’ve made in my past. Forgive myself and others and move forward.

So she’s helped me write the letters to the ones who still have addresses.

I will miss you V. Miss the chance to reconnect here in this sphere. As they say,
“May you rest in PEACE.”

 


Whose Dog is that Barking?

It’s 3 am and there’s a dog barking. I’m groggy and annoyed. “Whose dog is that anyway?” I wonder in my melatonin stupor.
“Is that Zara (our dog)?” I mumble to Erez.
“Hmm dunno,” he mutters and pulls himself out of our cozy bed to go check.
“Nope,” he says upon return to slumber-land.

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It’s 6:30 am, I’m still asleep. Erez bursts into the bedroom.
“I found that dog whose been barking. He’s been tied up all night in the park.”

When I come downstairs, I see my husband in the park with the dog. He’s laid down a blanket and has what I can only assume is a bowl of food in his hands. He’s doing some fancy moves walking back and forth, talking to the dog.

That’s when I fell in-love with him all over again.

We just celebrated 10 years of being married last weekend, and right there I see the man I fell in-love with the moment I met him.

He’s the brave one. The risk taker who’s willing to approach the lunging, scared, barking pit bull tied to a tree all night.

I just stand and watch him work his magic.

“Come. It’s ok. He’s warming up to me. I’ve already pet him.” I approach with caution, get on my knees on the blanket and put my hand forward. The dog sniffs and begins to relax. I move in to pet him.

Within minutes, (and after an hour of Erez being with him) he lets us both love him up, rubbing his head, his backside. He offers a kiss.

“We need a name for him,” we say almost simultaneously. “And then what? Facebook? Animal Shelter??”

He has no name tag, his ribs are showing and he needs a bath.

The morning wears on with texts, Facebook posts, calls to shelters, a visit to see if he’s chipped. We relax into the fact that “this is what we’re doing now.” We aren’t going to “get any work done.”

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He migrates with us to our front porch where we keep him on a leash. He’s had a meal, done his business and he’s so tired he crashes on the hard wood floor..

With each passing hour I fall more in-love with him. We’ve named him Cuba. I can feel how I want him to be part of our furry family of two dogs and a cat, but Erez tows the line. “No, we don’t have room or time to take this on. He’s a puppy really. And strong. Not the time.”

I know it’s true. But my seven-year-old heart wants him. There’s room for everybody at the Inn when she is in charge.

With the help of our Corbin Park, yoga and Spokane communities, not to mention friends in other cities lending their kind encouragement, “Cuba” finds a home and is moved to that home in the early afternoon.

I cry. It’s just my nature.

Letting go of him breaks my heart.

I already love him even though I know we can’t keep him.

I love his sweet, fierce, loving disposition.

We pack him off with his new Mama, Denise, who has fallen in-love with him on sight too. As evening comes, I cry some more and Erez holds me, loving me for my own tenderness. I am once again reminded how grateful I am to be married to this man.


I've Left My Hot Steamy Lover

You’ve seen him before. It’s not your first time.

He’s the sexy refined one flashing his seductive ways. He hangs out in the shadowy corner and seduces us with his fast moves and fancy hip swings. Then when you’re close, you can’t resist his allure, and you let him grab you by the waist and pull you close despite the inner danger signals.

The minute his arms are around you, you feel high as a kite. You’re titillated like a blushing school girl who can’t find any way to articulate the word “NO.” Then he works his wonders and looks at you deeply with his chocolate almond eyes capturing every ounce of your attention.

Your whole body says, “Yes, Yes. YES.”

You know what I’m talking about girls? Right?

And you breathlessly say “Oh, I want more. Yes.”

“More.”

And you want it bad!

Even though you’ve been down this road before; even though you know this seductive lover isn’t good for you, you can’t help yourself and you succumb to his polished ways.

In this moment, you are the most beautiful, sexy, alive, desirable one in the room. You’re hooked.

When he dances that sensual dance with you, his strong arm around your waist, he pulls you in closely, and you feel the flush of heat rise up through your core. With shut eyes, your head tilts back and you are soaring in the clouds.

Up until the last drum roll of the song, you are in heaven.

And as quickly as this slick steamy lover chose you, he drops you like a sizzling skillet on the floor. You land in a pile of your own bones, shaking your head, awakening out of the love-sick dream. You feel bruised and banged up, stiff and cheated.

“No, no.”

“NO” you want to scream. “This can’t be. I felt so good. I was so in love.”

You desperately look around the room for the smooth mover. He is nowhere in sight. You are left. Stranded. Alone. Addicted with no fix. No way to soar to the clouds and back.

You pull yourself up and dust off your skirt and your pride. You’ve been here before. This is not the first time. You try to tuck away the huge cloud of shame billowing around you.  For the next few dances you sit on the bench and encourage yourself with kindness.

Feeling a bit hopeless, like there’ll be no life without him, you pick yourself up and decide to dance alone. You sway your hips, roll your spine. And then you see someone else on the floor ambling your way.

“Who are you?” you ask.

“I’m a hot date,” he smiles in a joking way. You look at him, he’s a bit pudgy and round, looks a bit soft, but his eyes glow and his humor is sweet. He extends his hand in an invitation to play with him. When he takes your hand, he twirls you like a lady and you wrap your bruised arms around his neck and settle in for a new dance.

It’s not as mind blowing. You don’t soar as high. Instead you feel nourished, held, grounded. You know he’s not going to dump you at the end of the song. He’s there to lean into, to comfort you. He’s there for support.

When the song ends, he looks into your eyes, bows like a prince to his lady and smiles a wry smile that says, “We should do this again sometime.”

Your heart skips a beat like you may have met someone for the long haul.

You smile back and your eyes say, “Yes.”


Seeing Red!

We are what we feel and perceive. If we are angry, we are the anger. If we are in love, we are love. If we look at a snow-covered mountain peak, we are the mountain. We can be anything we want…” Thich Nhat Hanh
 
I know I’ve heard it many times – "whatever you place your attention on is what you’re going to experience." It seems so simple and straightforward. But this lesson hit home in a new way when I was in India with our group last month.

Each day we had an exercise to look for one color as we moved about the streets of India. Each color corresponded to a Chakra. We were to take pictures of that color throughout the day. The first day was Red, for the Root Chakra and as we set out on our way to see the temples of Mamallapuram, lo and behold, it seemed all of the women were wearing red saris. We all exchanged smiles, and snapped away, often taking pictures with the women.

The next day, we traveled on to Tiruvannamalia, a few hours to the South to visit Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram, and our focus was on orange. Well it turns out, all of the Sadhus were wearing orange, and they lined the streets as well as milled about the ashram.

The group began to ask me if I had called ahead to get India to cooperate with our color exercise. And so it went – whatever color we worked with, we not only found it, because we were placing our attention on finding it, we had the visceral experience of this lesson.

It is true, that wherever you place your attention, that is your experience. The person who sees the glass half full is right. The person who sees the glass half empty is right. It’s all in the perspective.

So, the question is what do you want to focus on? Where do you place your attention and what are you growing in your life? These are the questions I will keep asking myself.


I am in the chaos phase!

Of the painting.

The phase where all of the marks just look like a scrambled egg on the canvas, the kind you think any 6 year old could make.

And it’s probably true.

It’s the phase full of potential, power, possibility.

It’s the phase in the middle, when after “trying” so hard to “make” something happen that the inner voice just says, “Fuck it” and you throw down paint and get back to the truth of who you are as an artist and step back into PLAY.

It’s fun. It’s messy. It has no goal.

It is unbridled energy that infuses the painting with mystery.

The mystery of something greater. That intangible “something” we long to paint, describe in words, but best to just feel it and be it.

The chaos phase is also the phase where the critic can come out and say, “See, I told you so! You’re not a REAL artist.” She knows your tender spots and goes in for the kill, while standing on the side having a cigarette looking cool.

If you let her intimidate you, if you believe her, this is the phase where you give up on the painting. You let her win.

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I have re-framed this phase for myself when she shows up. I tell her, “Yeah, yeah. THIS mess, you’re calling it, is a new beginning. It’s a new possibility infused with so much energy it’s bound to be “better” than what I started out to make.”

She tends to skulk away when I stand my ground. And now, she barely shows up anymore because she knows I’m not giving up.

My layer is dry now, so back to playing with more color to see where it will take me!


Winter Storm: How the Painting Emerged

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The good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. Lao Tzu

As with all of my paintings, I had no fixed plans when I began Winter Storm. I lay down the first few layers in pinks and reds, browns, oranges and yellows, making marks with brushes, my hands, tools from around the house.

I let go into the play of color and movement.

The canvas sat for a few weeks with those layers pulsing their energy. Then winter descended and all I wanted to do was see what snow looked like on the canvas. How could I “express” the feel of snow, cold and a winter storm? How could I make YOU the viewer feel winter?

That’s when I began to drip white, make marks in white and finger paint in white, gold and the super light hues of gray blue.

Winter felt abstract – hard to see through the snow. It felt barren and yet full of beauty in subtle ways. As I layered the whites, light golds and gray blues, I began to see hints of bushes, trees and ponds within the landscape of white.

So I followed the winter path laid out before me and Winter Storm emerged. Here’s the first in the series.

Often I find, I need to drop into faith – and remember that things WILL work out, but perhaps not how I had imagined. This is the lesson I receive from painting again and again!

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Sometimes I just feel so unsure. That is why I paint!

we stand together

Sometimes I just feel so unsure.

About what’s actually real! My truth or someone else’s?

For so many years I’ve been looking to the outside to find the answers. Surely SOMEONE must know what to do to fix things – to bring about love instead of hate, to end discrimination, poverty, global warming.

The pain in my heart.

Unfortunately, I have found no one else who has the answers and that is why I paint. That is why I write. That is why when I get completely triggered, once I get over my tantrum, I look inside and ask why I got so triggered.

What in me was threatened? What in me is that other person reflecting for me to see? To help me transform within myself so I can be a bit more freer.

It’s so uncomfortable.

Sometimes I just have another tantrum and say fuck it, it’s their fault.

But I know that’s not true. I know if I’m uncomfortable, that I have some work to do.

 

So, how does painting help?

When I create a painting – from beginning to finish – I experience the range of emotions. It starts out fun and free, like “yay, I’ve just met the love of my life and they are going to be the perfect person for me.” I’m in bliss. Nothing held back.

Then I start to see the “flaws” in my own mark making. The painting turns ugly. My inner critic saunters in and leans against the wall having a cigarette (notice SHE’s not painting) and says, “See you SUCK at this. WHY are you even bothering?”

I know her now. At first, when I returned to painting she got my goat. Now, I expect her to show up and I wave, give her a head nod and go back to what I’m doing. She gets bored with no attention and eventually she leaves.

I then summon the inner steadiness to stick through the messy, uncomfortable, ugly parts of making a painting, because I know I WILL get to the other side.

But I have to commit. It’s exactly the mid-point of making a painting where I want to give up.

Resilience, stamina, discipline come into play – just like in relationship – oh yeah, that person is not going to solve my personal problems. DAMN. Maybe I should dump them and move on to find the one who will.

Uh uh. No…

As I stick through it, the joy returns. I’ve slid over the hump and the image starts to come together in feel, tone, composition, meaning. The excitement is back and it’s richer than the first fling.

It has more layers.

It’s deep with the meaning that has come through as the painting revealed itself.

My job is to listen to the muse. To be the channel. To let go of what I think I should be making and drop into the space of dancing with the Divine –  then the magic happens. And THAT is bliss.

It is there, that I find my teacher.

Divine intelligence speaking through me.

It is an awesome (note the word AWE) experience to let go and trust something else “has got this” and you can relax into following instead of leading.

It’s my biggest practice – to trust, surrender to something other than my own little efforts.

That is why I paint every day.

That is where I am getting an inkling of why I am here, what I am “supposed” to do.

How about you? Where’s your teacher?

Where do you find your own answers in life?


Donald Trump is my Teacher

Donald Trump is my teacher. No seriously, hear me out. I am in shock that he is our new president, but he is now a reminder to me that ANYTHING is possible.

Absolutely anything.

So why is he my teacher?

Because here’s a guy, who not only was a laughing stock when he announced his candidacy, NO ONE thought he’d become the presidential candidate, much less the president.

And yet he did!

How did that happen?

He believed. He believed he would become President. I heard it in his shoot from the hip rhetoric – “We’ve got this.” “Did you see the polls? We’re ahead in the polls!” “Hillary is a liar and a cheat.” He planted doubt about her at every step of the way, and touted his lead, even when he wasn’t leading.

He TOLD us he was going to win. He got HIS supporters excited and engaged them.

Strangely enough I feel energized and even more committed to my own path. It’s exactly the kick in the pants I need. There’s no more time to be asleep, to drop into self-pity that “I can’t” or “I’m too afraid…” to do what I’m here to do.

No, the time is now to make change – for all of us. We can’t wait for the government, the corporations, our friends and family to “take care of us.” It’s time to step up into the game and play. Play it big. Bring our gifts to the world – whatever those gifts are. Stop apologizing for our faults (note Donald doesn’t do that!).

It’s time to DO what we love. Love who we’re with. Accept ourselves as we are, with all of our blemishes, unhealed parts and to DO IT ANYWAY. Whatever “it” is.

So, despite the “bad” news for half of the nation, I say it’s a wake-up call.

Do something today.

Hug someone (as Michael Franti tells us in his song, Once A Day “Everybody oughta hug somebody at least once a day…)

Do a random act of kindness.

Send a love note.

Pick up some trash.

Smile.

Do something to make this world just a tiny bit better!

 

 


I must confess, I’m not who I thought I was!

The Van Go vision had been so clear: that I’d be on the road, jamming to Michael Franti, windows rolled down, hot summer air blowing my wispy hair. I was gonna be hiking in the national parks, drawing and painting, inspired by BIG nature.

I wanted it like a bee wants nectar, and I worked hard to get Van Go prepped. I painted, decorated, got her all cherried out with artwork wrapped on the outside so she would attract my tribe to me. I had baskets of Spring and Summer postcards to hand out, spreading the love, not to mention I had talismans from friends and prayers and intentions from my circle in Spokane.

And then life intervened. There was a new Divine plan that wasn’t mine, and I got redirected home to my art studio.

If you didn’t read the blog on that, check it out on my website, because the full story is a good one, but I won’t repeat it here. Lets just say in a nutshell, “my” plan didn’t work, but I had a great summer.

Since late July I’ve been painting in my studio, exploring new territory on the canvas. I have journeyed inward. As Kabir says, “Don’t go outside your house to see flowers my friend, for inside your house there are flowers. One flower has a thousand petals, and that will do for a place to sit.”

So, what’s the confession you might ask?

The confession is that I’ve sold Van Go! I’ve let the dream go (at least for now) of driving the country in a Van that has no air-con. I got it this summer that I do want more comfort – I want air-con, I want super comfortable seats, I want more space to lay out my art supplies. I want a cabin in big nature, not a van!

But let me tell you how it all transpired, because it’s a pretty cool twist. When I returned home in July, a friends of mine called and said, “I know someone who is interested in buying Van Go if you want to sell her.”

 “No way,” I thought. “I’m not letting go of Van Go. Not yet. I still want to try in the Spring.” But I wrote down her number anyway.

My friend explained that Ann had a dream of becoming the Peace Pilgrim and traveling the country. When she heard about Van Go, she felt like it was the “one.”

It took me a week to call Ann. No harm in talking to her right?

“I’ve had this dream for years to become the Peace Pilgrim,” she told me. We chatted easily for a ½ hour, talking about life, energy, art, our paths. Regardless of the van, we knew we had to meet.

And that’s how it happened.

In person, our connection was even easier, and letting Van Go move along to Ann almost seemed like part of some Divine order. I had merely been the duala for her to get to her next owner.

 “You know, I wouldn’t be buying a van right now if it weren’t your Van Go,” she told me.

“And I wouldn’t be selling her if it weren’t to you.”

In short, Van Go is gone, (though Ann has kindly said she feels like “ours”) but the dream of seeing the national parks is still alive. It’s just going to take a different form – I’m going to create artist residencies in big nature.

So, if you have a cabin, or second home near some beautiful nature or a national park and want to host an artist in exchange for some art, let me know!!


It happened twice this weekend, and it wasn’t pretty!

As we bought our tickets to the R rated movie “The Accountant, ” the 20 something girl behind the counter with creamy white skin and fine long hair hesitated before ringing us up. She looked at us, assessing something.

“Can I ask how old you are?”

To which my husband snappily said yes in his slightly sarcastic, but hard to detect way.

Me, I paused, running the algorithms of WHY she needed to ask us how old we were to go to an R rated movie.

Were we not old enough?

Do they have a new rule about who can go determined on age?

The answer that popped out of my mouth was actually full of curiosity.

“Why? Why do you need to know how old we are for the movie?”

“Well,” she said sheepishly, “I just wondered if you’d be eligible for a senior discount.”

“REALLY?” I squawked. “Seriously? How old do I look to you?” But then I had to know what age the movie theaters considered for a senior discount. Maybe it was 55 and she hadn’t been so glaringly off in her assessment.

“60.” She said, clearly understanding that she’d made the wrong decision to ask that question. My husband was un-phased because he knew the question wasn’t for his 42-year-old sweet ass. No, the question was for me, the 54 your old standing in front of her.

“How much is the discount?” I pressed on, wanting to know what the humiliation had cost.

“It’s a dollar off each ticket.”

Well, THAT’s not worth even asking about, I wanted to shout out, especially if you’re on the fence and don’t know if the people are seniors. But instead I held my tongue and gave a wry smile.

She back peddled as fast as she could, knowing she’d found dark and dangerous waters with the still menopausal woman.

“It’s ok,” I soothed her nervous, twitching. She handed us our tickets and we left.

But let me back up to give some context. On the ride to the movie theater, I’d been talking about aging and how when I look down at my hands the sun spots are turning a deeper hue, and the skin on my body, like it or not, is getting crepe-like. Not everywhere, but I notice in downward dog I see how the skin is looser and falls away from the muscles in ways it never used to. I also can’t deny the sun spots, or “freckles” as some kindly call them, cover my legs and parts of my arms.

The irony is that the day before I’d just gone to the Dermatologist for a Blu-Light treatment on my face with the intent to get rid of the pre-cancerous spots. But if I’m honest, my vanity is still chasing young and supple skin – at least for my face!  If you’ve never had a Blue light treatment or don’t know what it is let me enlighten. They put gooey gel all over your face and you let it soak in for an hour. Then you sit for 4 minutes under the Blu-Light. It feels like your face is up close and personal with a broiler and the stinging/burning sensation makes you wish you were getting a root canal.

So when I entered the movie theater, let’s just say I didn’t look my best – blotchy, red and a bit puffy. I console myself that this was the case.

 

The next night, I went to a party (albeit with make up to cover the red!) with two friends - both younger than me – 34 and 41. We were all standing around amidst vampires and zombies, TV show characters I had no idea existed, when the hostess ran up to the 41-year-old and wrapped her arms around her.

“I’m so glad you came,” she bubbled and then turned to me, “Oh, and you brought your mom?!”

This time I couldn’t keep it in.

“Seriously, are you fucking kidding me?” I blurted out with the help of my few sips of bourbon.

“I can’t believe it. Two nights in a row. Do you know what happened to me last night? Let me tell you.” I began, and launched into my story. ( now wonder what HER version of this encounter was!)

 

I remember my 20s, my porcelain unscathed skin. I didn’t appreciate what I had.  I do remember thinking I would age gracefully and not worry about it. That I would be sliding into middle and old age with the aplomb of Audrey Hepburn.

But we live in a youth driven culture where Hollywood touts the young, fit and beautiful. The reverence for age is not our root value.

So, despite my years of yoga, my choices to eat well, exercise and really take care of the “vessel,” I find myself still caught in the tide of cultural vanity.

I suppose the question for me is how can I be part of the solution to change this dominant cultural perspective – that youth is better and we should all strive for it, when in fact, I love who I am so much more at 54 than I ever did in my 20s? How can I validate myself and let the inner beauty shine through the spots, the loosening skin and the decay of the vessel?

Well, I believe that the best thing I can do is to live my life with passion and to do what I love so that I can serve this world and light it up from my core. And that, my friends is the reason I make art every day, despite my mood, my skin, my reflection in the mirror. It’s to bring out the inside and share it!

But when do I get that senior discount? 


To Flow, You Have to Let Go!

This tiny little phrase sounds so cute and trite.  “To flow you have to let go.” You might say “Duh!” I know I’ve thought that.

And yet that has been the lesson of my summer, starting in Glacier National Park when I first had to let go of the fact that I’d be continuing my 4 ½ month trip in Van Go around the States, visiting the national parks.

Yeah, that got nixed. In a heart beat.

Back spasms. Emergency Room. Valium and Hydrocodone. A three day stay with new friends in Whitefish MT all helped me “get it” that I was NOT going on the epic journey in the 1982 VW Camper Van.

No sir!

As I turned to head home, I still clung to the idea that I could at least do a partial trip. I’d get body work. I’d “get better” to see at least the Western National Parks.

Then the hamstring insertion point pinching materialized and I could barely walk around our park without throbbing pain in my ass.

Hmmmmm. Pain in my ass. I had to wonder. Was I being my own pain in my ass.

So I turned to my art studio. Started playing with color. Mixing new colors. Making new shapes. Cutting up potatoes and dipping slices in paint and making marks on the canvas.

FUN. I was having fun despite the discomfort in my body.

OK. I’d stay home. For a while. Still compromising with life, until it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to be going ANYWHERE. At least driving in a Van, with a stick shift.

More painting. More color mixing. More blasting the tunes and dancing around in my studio and creating paintings.

More Fun. I was having fun. I let go. Of my agenda. Of feeling bad about myself for not going on this “epic” (at least in MY mind) trip. Ok, perhaps I could just accept the new path. That I’d been giving the gift of time to paint.

The lesson, however, did not stop there. It continues each time I start a new painting. I notice I enjoy the art process MORE when I let go and get out of my own way and just DO what’s fun. DO what I love to do.

So, my friends, I close out summer feeling grateful that “my” plans didn’t work out and that some higher order got me into my studio and I was able to see that despite myself, this was a great plan the Universe gave me!

My trip turned from the Van Go trip into the Van Gogh Trip!!


Coming Up with New Plan

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It’s day 4 of my epic 4-month road trip in my “new” 1982 VW camper van. I’ve just hiked 10 miles in Glacier National Park, and as I get back to Van Go I feel like a 90-year-old with arthritis.

I can’t turn my head left or right without a sharp, knife like pain shooting into my back.

I slide open the door with as much care as possible, but still the pain is crushing, so I get down on the floor of the van in Childs pose to give myself a bit of relief and give in to the tears that start to come.

I’m alone here in Glacier.
I’m at the beginning of my trip.
I’m in massive pain.

I cry for a few seconds, and as I do the muscles in my back spasm and grip on the nerves. More knife like sensation.

“Diane,” I say to myself, “You can’t cry now. It’s too painful. You have to suck it up here. You need a plan. Just pause and think of a plan.”

I’m a 45-minute drive from my campsite on the other side of the park where I’ve left a chair to hold my spot. I can tell that I’m not going to be able to open the driver door and get in the van. I need help.

“Ok, ok,” I say to myself. “Just breathe gently. You need help. You need someone to close the van door for you. And there’s NO way you’re going to be able to camp tonight.”

I step out to look for someone and find a 40 something man and blurt out,

“Hey, do you think you can help me close my van door. I’ve injured myself and I can’t slide it shut.”

He flashes a modest smile and says, “Sure.” “Wow, is this your van? This is awesome. Can I take a picture of you in it?”

I climb in, and grit my teeth through the muscle spasms. Usually I love sharing the Good Van Go Vibes, but this time I’m thinking, “Seriously? I’m in so much pain, I just want to get the fuck out of here.” But the nice girl in me says, “Sure.”

He backs up too take the picture, and as he does his wife and son, who’s about 11, appear.

“This is so cool. Where are you going?” they ask.

I try to breath gently, sit for the picture and get through the spasms.

“Well, right now, I just want to drive out of the park to my friend’s house, but I’m hoping to go across country and to the national parks this summer.”

Before they leave, I hand them some postcards, thank them for sliding the van door shut and wedge my way into the driver seat.

I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the simple tasks ahead.

 

I have to make a U-Turn on this main road in the park, and I don’t have power steering. All I can think of is the shooting pain, the cramping muscles and the fact that I still want to cry.

I drive a short distance down the road and find a turnout that gives me enough room to make the turn without having to crank the wheel as hard as I can. I’m on my way.

Shifting into second is easy enough, but when I reach my right arm forward to move into third searing contractions seize my right side and I start to breath out my mouth like a pregnant woman in labor.

“OK, Diane, what ARE you going to do?” I need to flesh out the plan.

Let me put this all in context for you.  Aside from seeing the National Parks, this whole trip was oriented in my mind around embodying the inner masculine – that side of us that takes care of the hard stuff. You know, taking care of those things that we often associate with the masculine – like the logistics, the mechanics, the directions. The idea was to really learn, in a deep way, to care for myself on all levels.

I feel like I’m getting the explosive, short version of the lesson.

“Alrighty! You’re going to call Lisa (who lives just outside of Glacier) and ask if you can come back and stay at her house for the night.” Mind you, I’ve JUST re-connected with Lisa, and she is a new friend. It’s not like I’m calling someone I’ve known for years, so this is another edge. Yes, I think, that’s what I’ll do. I will go to Lisa’s. Just then I shift into third for the second time.

“Ouuuuuuuuch!” More short breaths out through the mouth. People along the road give me the thumbs up, smiles waft my way. I turn my head to the left to acknowledge someone and another stab of pain slices into my right side.

“Ok, is THIS an emergency?” I ask myself. “You can’t even turn your head, your muscles are clamping down on a nerve. You are stuck in the driver seat and can’t get out of the van. Yes, I think it qualifies.”

It dawns on me as I make the drive across the park that this truly is an emergency. Being someone who doesn’t like to impose on people, the idea of actually having to take myself to an emergency room seems fairly dramatic.

I get Lisa on the phone and she tells me there is a hospital with an emergency room not too far out of the park and on the way to her house.

Perfect!

I still have to get my chair, that I paid $79 for at REI.

When I get to my camp site, I’m hoping I’ll see someone I had talked to in the last 24 hours. Nope. So I pull right up to some strangers, a middle aged man and his two teenage kids.

“Hi there.” I say in a lilting, upbeat voice. “Hey, can you guys do me a favor? I can’t get out of my van and I need to get that chair over there in my campsite and get it into the van. Can you help me do that?”

The teenage boy hops to the task while the father and daughter meander over to the driver side window to chat with me.

“Yeah, I did something to my back. Can’t get out of the van.”

“Awesome van,” the daughter says with a long teenager drawl. I smile. Meanwhile the teenage boy opens the sliding door and throws the chair in.

“Thanks so much. Hey, if you open the front door, there are some postcards you can take…” One of my plans for the trip was to hand out postcards along the way to spread the love.

As I drive out of the park, I can’t believe what’s happening. I’ve been prepping for this trip for almost 2 months. I’ve had a slew of feelings ranging from excitement to incredible fear, and here I am immobilized on day 4.

I notice I’m surfing between feelings of disappointment, to joy because of the possibility of relief coming in the form of drugs, to simply navigating the moment to get to the hospital.

As I drive along the 4-laned road out of the park, at one of the intersections a beat up old Toyota truck turns into the left lane beside me. The truck begins to slow to match my speed, and the woman in the passenger seat is waving her arms at me, pulling out her camera and shouting over the din of car noise. “Cool Van Lady.” I can see her out of the corner of my eyes, her enthusiasm insistent that I turn towards her for the picture, which I try to do and feel the blazing pain kindled again in my back. Her stringy hair blows in the wind while trying to snap the photo. Looking straight ahead, I plaster on a grin, put my left arm out the window with a thumbs up and hope for them to move along.

More short breaths blowing out the mouth.

“Almost there. Almost there.”

I’m so focused on getting there I blow right past the “North Valley Hospital” sign on my right.

“Damn it. That’s it.”

U-Turn. I pull into the parking lot, turn off the engine and brace myself for the scorching pain I will feel as I get out of the Van. Relief is on its way. I grab my day-pack, make the twisting move to descend out of Van Go as I breath out of the mouth and walk the long hallway to the Emergency Room letting out involuntary yelps along the way.

As I register in the office, I am down on my knees, looking over the desk at the receptionist. “How long is the wait?”

“About 2 hours.” I brace myself again.

By midnight I’m out of the hospital, doped up on Valium, Hydro-codone and some other drug I’ve been administered. Lisa has appeared like an angel, and drives me and Van Go to her home, where she and her husband Chris have given me their bed with a temporpedic mattress to sleep in. I groggily make my way to bed and hit the pillow so hard and am out until mid-morning.

Though it’s not the trip I was imagining, I felt graced and blessed and held beyond measure. The trip took a turn and is still happening, just in a way I had not imagined.


Life is what happens while you're making other plans! (John Lennon)

According to my “plans” I’d be heading West now across the United States in Van Go, stepping out to see the river in the Shenandoah National park with my friend Bridget from graduate school. I would then be on my way to the Blue Ridge Mountains, connecting with my friend Tamara, and then off to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. I’d be meandering along in my 1982 van until I got to Colorado in time to see the Aspen leaves turn golden, and to visit my brother and my dear sister-in-law.

Instead, I’m home.

My “epic” trip, the one in which I prepared myself to face my fears, has landed me home.

What happened?

Well, as I see it, I did not follow the advice I’ve been doling out for 15 years to my students. “Listen to your body. Find the edge, but don’t push beyond that edge. Remember Ahimsa – do no harm.”

Yeah, well, I didn’t listen.

I was in Glacier, and I’d driven 45 minutes on the Going to the Sun Road to get to the hiking spot I’d chosen – the Siyeh Pass trail. The day before I’d met Mike who told me it was an awesome hike – lush in the beginning and astounding views at the top.

I was in.

I arrived at the trailhead and the moment I stepped out of the van, I felt the muscles in my back twang. I took note, strapped on my aqua colored daypack and hit the trail. It was early in the morning and I was solo on the trail. I was more concerned with bears after all of the warnings I’d heard. “Don’t hike alone. There’s been bear activity all around Glacier. Get “big” if you see a bear. Make noise.”

With each step, my heart pounded harder than usual with the looming thought of bears. I tapped my walking stick on the rocks and in moments sang out loud to myself. (And if you know me, this is NOT something I do – the singing thing is a last frontier for me!)

I didn’t really pay much attention to my back until I was into the hike for a few miles. With each step, I felt like I was in a magical forest filled with cream colored ball shaped flowers lit by the morning sun. Peaks popped into view through the trees. I was in heaven.

I reached a fork in the road, and the thought of turning back swept through my mind like a buzzing mosquito. I swatted it away. No way!

Onward ho!

At this point, I could feel the right side of my back was a bit tender. “I’ll just walk slowly. It’ll be fine.” That was compromise enough for me. I felt like I was strolling. I told myself it was fine to go slowly, that way I could relish the scenery.

With each passing step, more snow covered mountains peaked out from behind evergreens, then disappeared again like mysterious maidens.

Another fork in the road came. The pesky thought to turn back slipped into consciousness. “Be mindful of your body. Yeah, but I’m only here now. When am I going to be back here? Just walk slowly. You can do it. It’s not THAT big a deal.”

Onward again.

And up this time. I was headed out of the tree line and up the rocky, craggy side of the mountain. I pulled out my fleece sweater, my hat and gloves. The crisp air chilled me and I was so proud of myself to have all the things I needed in my bag.

As I kept raising my legs to chug up the mountain, I felt my psoas muscle tightening and my back muscles beginning to get angry and irritated. Taking deep breaths started to feel painful – not just uncomfortable.

But I was determined. Lured by the majestic beauty laid out in front of my eyes, I felt like a crack addict who just had to do another line. I mushed on despite the signals from my body to turn back. In fact, I blatantly ignored them.

“It will be fine. I’ll just go slowly.”

The incline got even steeper. Each step began to feel like I was harming myself. I still wanted to get to the top. I’d always been fit and able. I’d always relied on my body to do what I wanted to do.

As I reached the top a vast range of peaks stretched out so wide and high that my heart did a little flip. I felt like I’d found a new lover, pain be damned. Pride bubbled up as I sat in the cold noshing on my Lara Bar for energy.

“I did it. Wahoo! I was slow, but I did it!”

At the top I ran into a young couple in their early 30s who were hiking this trail, then going on for 10 more miles to get to their base camp today. “Impressive,” I thought to myself. Damn! I told them about my Van Go trip and they loved it. Little did I know at the time that I’d be on a whole different track right after I met them.

The descent was arduous – on the knees, but mainly on my back muscles that began to seize up, making the trek down less than pleasurable. All I wanted to do was get back to the van. The joy of hiking had now dissipated and morphed into the pure will to get through and down the trail to my safe place: Van Go.

When I finally reached Van Go, I was so relieved that I could relax. But each time I reached for something in the van nervy twinges shot through my back muscles and I realized I could barely move.

So I positioned myself in child’s pose to relieve some of the pain, and gave into having a little cry about it, which lasted all of 5 seconds because each heave of crying wracked my back with searing pain.

“Ok, ok, Diane, Stop crying. You cannot cry. It’s too painful. You need a plan. You’re here alone. You’re 45 minutes from your campsite. You can’t move without searing pain and you have to drive yourself out of here. Think! Think!”

In those few moments on the floor, I devised a plan. And that is whole other story!

 

 

 


Cleaning is my Xanax

I am five days from pulling the great green van away from the house and heading to massive nature to meet the adventure.

In the meantime I’ve been cleaning. And I mean DEEP CLEANING! The kitchen cupboards, the pantry, the refrigerator. Oh, I know I should be preparing for the trip, checking the engine, the electrical connections, filling the water tank for the sink.

But no. I’m cleaning.

It is my Xanax. It calms me in the face of trembling fear.

So, last night I pulled out the big guns – the toothbrush and hot soapy water and got to work on the grit and grease underneath the front chair of Van Go like a dental hygienist scrapes plaque from teeth. As the water turned deep brown with every wipe of the microfiber rag, I felt serotonin flood my system and relaxation set in.

Because, the truth is, this trip is working me over, and I haven’t even gotten to the START line, which is Monday, July 11th.

Flurries of questions crowd my brain at regular moments throughout every day, going something like this:

“Why am I going on this trip? I mean, isn’t it silly? What are you trying to prove, Diane? Are you trying to prove something? Because you know, you don’t have to. You could just stay home and have a pleasant easy summer. On the other hand, once you’re on the road it will ALL be fine, and you will love the parks. You will meet awesome people, see amazing sites, have time to be. Remember, even though you feel alone in this, you aren’t alone. Ever.”

The other channel in my brain wakes me up in the morning with a barrage of things to “remember”:

“Find the bunji cords, get the sticky Velcro, make sure you get the shade issue handled before you go. Should I keep the mechanic appointment? Don’t forget to buy a new cooler. Oh, you have to sew the curtains. Food, think nuts, veggies, ghee, that will go in the cooler.”

It’s endless.

As I clean the van, bringing out the shine of the original yellow paint underneath the front seat, I wonder about rain and cold, and what I’ll do in the middle of the night when I have to pee with “weather” out there. I wonder about the bears and bear spray, and how it works.

When I pause in the midst of all of the logistical preparations, and the burst of doubts, and take a deep breath and remember why I’m going, I feel the flood of excitement. I can’t wait to stand in the great Cathedrals of our country – the National parks – and have my jaw gape open in awe at the beauty created by nature over millions of years, with no help from any human.

When I remember this I am certain I go to have space and time to sit with my bigger questions in life, like “Who am I? What IS this life really about? Why do we suffer? What brings deep joy? What is love? Really? Why do we get caught in fear like a mouse snapped up in a trap? Where does fear come from? And why is it as powerful as a tidal wave knocking down sand castles?”

Once I’m sitting behind the big steering wheel in the van, I will be in the river and I will swim with myself as the only one who can save me with my tools - my breath, my yoga mat, my altar, a good sense of humor, a good book and some art supplies. I am ready to put down the mantle of fear.

I am going to gather up trust and faith in my basket. I am going to embrace the mystery about how it will all work out, where I will go, what I will do, who I will be at the end of this journey. I go open to being a tumble weed on the road, ready to embrace the mystery where I will go, how it will all work out and who I will be at the end of this journey. I go to gather up trust and faith in my vessel.