wherever you are going, there you are

The first Saturday in May is world labyrinth day.

I would not know that, except the first saturday of this may, 2013, I happened to be in the vicinity of a labyrinth.

A Labyrinth is not a maze, people. It’s different and special and super ancient. In the Iliad, Daedelus made a labyrinth that housed a minotaur. Young people were supposed to go into the labyrinth and find this minotaur at the center.

The center of the labyrinth–that is supposed to be the meaning, the goal and the reason. People have always had reasons and goal.

And that is why the labyrinth has been around so long. There is something to it.

I was not too far from where I live, at Glen Ivy. A spring in a desert, a hot spring with healing properties in the nearly desert area near my home.

One thing we’ve got a lot of around here is rocks. So the Labyrinth was made from rocks, matching my sentiment that we should use what is at hand.

Before I began my spa day, I walked the labyrinth. Stones on the ground, laying out a path for me, with a small natural obelisk in the middle.

I’ve walked these before. Somehow, though, that standing stone in the middle was different.

I wanted that rock. Up in the path, and it is right there. whoops, no, swing around to the left.

Don’t worry though. I will get there. Look, I am almost there.

Whoops, no, and again.

And THIS time I am walking all the way around a circle like I have nowhere to go or anything to care about and doesn’t matter because I’ll never get there anyway.

that rock

in the center

once I reach that rock in the center every desire I have will be fulfilled

and I want that rock

and it’s right there

but it


until I got there

Hey! I am at the rock!

Hello rock. I worked so hard to get here.

and now it’s time to go.

Back the way I came.

I feel sort of silly that I wanted that rock so bad. It is a nice rock, though. Look at that rock I visited there in the middle.

But now that I am walking back I can notice all the rocks along the way. THey are good too, forming a path for me to follow. And looking at this path I can admire how it turns.

And then it was over. A winding and unwinding, like all of my days. Like all of everybody.


passion fatigue

It’s like I am a fish in water. Or at least I always thought I was a fish.

But the water drained away.

And I thought I would die. Then I realized I was an amphibian.

I am a sad amphibian. But I’m breathing.

I miss the water. I used to zip around with purpose. I could swim and swoop and loop-de-loop.  If I saw a predator I could get the hell out of there, fast and smart and invincible.

Now? I am stuck in the mud. And the mud is cracking on the edges.

I feel like I’m cracking on the edges too.

My passion has always been a part of me. But it has dried up. Fear and famine left me here.

It used to be so easy. The distance I could cover with a thought, the fast effortless  accomplishment…Gone. In my imagination, I can think of how it could return.

But it takes so much faith. And I have to wallow a little more just to stay damp.

Let it rain. Oh let the rain come.

Sounding off

I was a teenager, and I remember it well. Robin Williams as a teacher of uptight prep school boys, breaking the mold and standing on his desk to challenge them with Walt Whitman:

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,

I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.

Sound your barbaric Yawp! Cut loose from civilization! Sound your song of yourself over the world.

The verse contains it’s own contradiction. YAWPs may be barbaric, but you know what is categorically not barbaric?


Whitman and Williams were talking to a similar crowd: the housed and bloused. Those who understand and comply with society’s expectation.

I do not count myself among them. I would embrace a bit of taming. I am a foreigner to this civilization.

I am the barbarian coming to the rooftops. I do not sound my Yawp defiantly.

I sound it because it is the only sound I’ve got.  It’s not what the people under the rooftops want, I don’t think. It is not what was expected and cross-referenced.

My voice is a tide-tumbled piece broken out from the school of hard-knocks, dropping in where it lands, not invited and little regarded.

It’s barbaric. It’s my voice. It might not get much better than what it is now.

It’s mine though. I like the way it bounces back at me off the rooftops.

I’ll keep sounding it.




You try it. It feels good.

Can you spare some bread?

At a birthday party, passing out the cake, I asked Madhuri, “How did you celebrate birthdays when you were little?”

Madhuri is from India, born in 1940, and she has spent most of her adult life helping take care of children. She took care of Veronica, and the girl whose birthday we were celebrating this day.

She told me “We would make rice pudding, and neighbors would come get some. We did not make a big deal about birthdays. We did not have cake. We did not have an oven.”

“So, everything was cooked on top of the stove, like in a frying pan? That must be how naan is made, so you had everything you needed without an oven.”

“No, naan is made in a special oven. There was a bakery where people would go for things that must be from an oven.”

And she began to describe with wonderful detail how the family would use the small stove they had to make the food. They would take cow patties and mix it with rice hulls and form balls using their hands, which dried out and could be used as fuel. That would be put in the base of the chimnea-type stove, with small chunks of coal—which they broke themselves. In order to conserve the fuel, all the cooking had to be done at once. So the whole day’s cooking would be done and then that was that.

Later, apparently, they began to use a propane-like gas to fuel the stove. But it was considered very expensive so they conserved it.

“Madhuri, you know that people right now complain that the neighborhood baker is going away because of the big corporate stores. But. We all have ovens in our homes now. We aren’t dependent on a bakery to get bread.”

Suddenly the history of the world (as I know it) flashed before my mind. I hadn’t realized that an oven was a precious commodity. And not just an oven. The butcher on the corner is supplanted by our sub-zero stainless-steel-finish refrigerator.

I think about places like France. Did they not have ovens in France, during the Revolution? When everyone went to pick up their baguettes and croissants everyday? I had a picture of it like it was Disneyland. They went there because they were friends with the baker, or he made better pies then they could. But no! They had no choice.

And an oven was a big investment. You bought an oven, or inherited it, and you were set for life. The whole neighborhood had to come to you if they wanted to eat bread. And a butcher would have set up a place to keep his meat cold enough not to go bad. A root cellar? A supply chain of ice? Either way, this kind of setup would be a very secure middle class business. Back before refrigerators and ovens.

But wait! Russia is famous for peasant houses having enormous stoves. Is that one of their advantages over the other world peasants? And oh yeah! Isn’t Russia obsessed with Bread? As I recall, they have a whole big fetish of bread. Maybe that is in part why. They had the ovens to make the bread.

I would have to spend a long time with Wikipedia to thread out the true history of the oven. But this technological advance of something I take so fully for granted is a huge leg up.

You know what is strange now? I don’t go to a bakery shop to buy my bread. I go to a big corporate store…Target or Vons. And I buy bread that was made a long time ago in a location far far away. But we have figured out how to preserve bread—as well as a thousand other necessary foods—and get them all over the place.

I have lived in this house for 7 years. I have not made bread. I have an oven. But I could probably—no assuredly, I could survive and thrive without using my oven.

America spent some time building infrastructure that Vons and Target takes advantage of. And I take advantage of Target and Vons, so I get the great benefit. AND for a hobby, if I wanted to DIY I could go bake bread.

India is still trying.  I know it is better than when Madhuri was a child. There are a lot of places that have a ways to go with building the systems that can get people what the truly need. But her story made me rethink the world I live in.

And it made me appreciate the cake I was finishing.


exiled motherhood

There is a routine and a ceremony. The teeth brushing, the bath, the donning of the jammies and the tucking of the blanky.

And lately, there is the holding of the hand to sleep.

I do not enjoy this. I am getting a very stiff back, sitting on the floor night after night, holding her hand to get her to stay calm to fall asleep. She did not always require this extra time consuming step. It seems like, for a long time (or maybe it was long in my memory, a golden age) where she would talk to herself and drift off to sleep with minimal re-visits- less than 12.

But she got scared with the advent of preschool. There was monsters and new fears. And a desperate need for mommy.

Lately, she seems to be coming out of it a bit. She allows me to leave without promises of return. Before there was uncontrollable sobbing. Then, there came the allowing me to leave with promises to come back. For the last couple weeks, I’ve been able to say good night and leave. This is progress

I can use this released time to practice some yoga and release the pains in my back.

But tonight, this night of christmas break and no preschool, she was going through the ceremony, and she hit me. She does this frequently. Not hard, but it’s a bad habit and it interferes with the donning of the jammies.

I was starting to lose my temper, and she was wiggling past the safety zone into going-to-hurt-herself territory. There was a time out. I have to hold her in place for the time out. She took on a remorseful mien and said “not supposed to hit” I asked her to say she was sorry. She said it.

But punishment is a time-boxed thing. She had to complete her punishment. She kicked me.

Now I really lost my temper. I told her I wouldn’t hold her hand tonight.

“NOT FAIR!” she said

But I said it. She can’t hit. And I said it.

Daddy finished the tucking ceremony. He is on hand for further necessities.

But I should stand by my word. I shall not hold her hand.

She is fine. She is happy in her jammies, and content though not yet asleep. I am filled with guilt and conflict. I have exiled myself.

the men and women hallelujah

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
she tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

What kind of crazy man can sing Hallelujah with a crazy woman like that? She ties him to the kitchen chair and takes all his power away, like Delilah cutting Samson’s hair? What is wrong with this guy?

Men and women. All the crazy the world can hold and room to expand.

But I get it. I like men. And most of the time, I really like men. They can be the best the world can hold and still  surprise you with courage and compassion. This song slaps me and then I realize how true it is.

In a book I read, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. the womanizing hero finds himself facing a woman who asks–demands?–that he marry her. He is not really in love with her. But he’s not the sort of man to wallow in uncertainty. He looks at her, and decided to marry her. He tells his friends, “How would I know if this is the right thing to do? Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. The only way to know would be to live two separate lives, one that includes marrying her, and then another which is not marrying her. But I can’t live two lives. I only have this one. So I will try the one in which I marry her.”

I think about that when I hear that song. How there are a lot of men who make choices like that.

Most of the men I know care deeply about the woman they love. And a lot of them have been hurt, but very few of them mope on about it. A lot of them really do remember with fondness. They will look back on a wreck of a relationship and see the good.

breathe out the hallelujah

Maybe I am romanticizing it. Maybe guys just don’t want to talk to me about their fractured hearts and how they wish they had never met the woman.

But it really seems like for most of them, they do believe it was better to have loved and had your heart shattered than never to have loved at all.

Funny, cause a lot of women seem the opposite. We can be so cold, we could say it and mean it

“I wish I had never met him!”

Is that how it goes? Do men, the stonger muscley ones, have less to fear? Do we, the women who might have to take care of a baby, have to be more careful?

it’s true. And we women get together in our huddles, “Oh, well, watch out for him. … you know what you need to do?…Bottom line…” with our get togethers and advice and herd instinct.

And the men will go out and try, and risk. And even if they get flattened…A good bunch of them will still be grateful.

It’s a beautiful thing. Hallelujah

what do you do with the bad guys when you want to be a good guy?

My lawyer friend came over today. We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time. The last time I saw her she had just barely started practicing law. and I mean barely.

I’ve known her for a very long time. One of the amazing thing she did was take a break between high school and college to go work with underprivileged Mexicans. In Mexico. For a year.

That’s not what people do. People run off to college as soon as possible to start being a grown up and having fun. But she put her own pleasure second to help other people.

And then after college, she started working on some social-worky kinda stuff. Being basically a genius, she was bored. She figured out that the real power to effect change was with the lawyers.

She became a lawyer. Because, remember, she is a genius.

And now she’s in criminal law. This is the opposite of how I imagine ‘making the world a better place’ works. Aren’t we supposed to fight against the bad guys and win for truth justice and the American way?

I asked her, “how do you do it? How do you defend bad guys?”

Earlier this week, I had watched an episode of a TV show about a small town that lost all reason when it was suspected that the tax auditors were visiting. Every one of them had something to hide by the end.

“Everyone deserves to be heard. Everyone deserves a defense, no matter what they’ve done.” She told me how she’d spent some time in a prison, speaking with inmates who were jailed for murder.  And she saw their humanity.

But I had to ask, “What if you know that the person you are defending is guilty? Aren’t you afraid they will go free?”

“That is incredibly unlikely. Even in the case of someone like O.J. Simpson, when the supposedly guilty person got off, the laws were immediately adjusted to keep that sort of thing from happening again.And,” she went on, “afterwards, he was under so much scrutiny that he is in prison now.”

She believes in the system, and knows how very harsh it is.There are a lot of criminals. And most of them do not have much money to get good legal counsel. Add that up, and that means there are not a lot of criminal defense lawyers and law firms.

One has to look hard to find a place to do the kind of work she’s chosen to do.  I am humbled and impressed by her compassion for the people who society would condemn, and her work on their behalf.

I think I’m gonna go try to clear out my closet of the judgey-pants I usually put on. After all, everyone of us has something we are ashamed of. Love and compassion ought to be closer at hand.


tipping point

I was describing recently, my last job. How when I arrived, the users were very skeptical of the conferencing technology i was serving up. But after I straightened it out, the heads of the firm were expanding their usage of the stuff and requesting me specifically.

I said, we came to the point where the people who used to say “THis never works!” would say, “Oh, ignore that little hiccup. This stuff works great.:”

The tipping point was when people stopped looking at a working model and seeking flaws and began looking at a flawed model and seeing that it worked. That makes all the difference.

But it is true in so many other things. Faith. Trust. Hang-in-there-itude.

This is true for relationships too. When I am friends with someone, and they are flawed as all people are. I have a good friend right now who is ignoring my email requests for us to get together. But that’s okay. I trust him. I know he is my friend and that he does indeed want to get together.

But there are times, sad times, when I have had to take a relationship over the tipping point and cut it off. Not enough benefit to the parties involved. When after a series of “Oh, she couldn’t have meant it that way” remarks. Or when there just isn’t reciprocation. Or a number of thing.

The tipping point heads it off into looking for reasons to find good instead of excuses covering the bad.

The Bible says love covers a multitude of sins. That’s what I mean. if you love something or somebody, the flaws are almost invisible. But in this life, it is possible to make enough withdrawals from the love bank to run a deficit.

When it goes into the red, and the 30-60-90 day grace period runs out. Then it takes a lot of deposits to get back over into the grace zone.

time in despair

in Death Valley, there is a place where the rocks travel. Slowly, so slowly.  We can tell this only because the hot and dry desert shows the trails of the stones dragging themselves. It’s miraculous!

It makes me think of time. When I have been in despair, time moves like those rocks. When I am sad and overwhelmed past counting, the seconds move like those rocks.

“Okay. Is it done yet? Am I past the part where I am going to feel this way? Come one. Where is the part where I get to be possible again?”

That rock doesn’t intersect with our time. And in despair, my life and me don’t work together.

Here’s another way to show what I mean:

Psalm 22

14  I am poured out like water,

And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.

I wrote about this, when my baby was very new.

Perhaps those moments, which I recently named apocalyptic-adjacent events, deserve a different name. Overwhelmed is not right.

Outwhelmed? when all the ‘stuff’ ebbs away and you are left high and dry with nothing to hold onto or hold you up?

Time ticks differently in those moments.

apocalypse adjacent

Comedian Dana Gould said that phrase and it made me laugh. And it made me think.

I’ve had a number of personal apocalypse experiences. The most recent and lingering was about 2 years ago. A perfect storm hollowed me out.

I imagined myself an eight-year old girl, small skinny and dark, lying on the cold ground with no coat in the mud. I’d been kicked, beaten and starved, but I imagined I laughed. Maniacal laughter, but victorious.

You think you got me? I am not done yet. I am going to triumph. It’s what I do.

That was my imagination. It takes a lot of work and time to triumph.

I staggered on. I got up and staggered. and I kept staggering.

And the pages fell from the calendar. Eventually I noticed that that days were not triumphant. I thought, “I need to not focus on the negative. I should cherish the happy moments.” So I looked for the happy moments, for cherishing purposes.

They took a long time to come. After a few weeks, I wrote


on the calendar in red letters. Because that day I had felt happy once on that day. And I wanted to remember it, and see how long it was until the next time.

During this apocalypse, I gave up this blog. I ask you, how am I supposed to survive an apocalypse if I can’t blog it? Not a good disaster recovery plan. I think I could have recovered faster if I’d stuck it out.

I kept reading. Because i always keep reading. But instead of fiction books that tell true things about the human experience, I had to run for cover. I had to KNOW that human would win over adversity.

I needed a hero.

Dragons, magic, forces of good and evil and


No losing. Winning. Always. Never any doubt.

Because in my life there was doubt. And doubt is for the losers when the apocalypse comes.

I needed to be sure. So I found the books that were. And I didn’t stop reading them. Fortunately, there seem to be enough of us needing that reassuring to keep them in circulation.

I don’t usually try to be escapist. But this was an emergency. Dive into fantasy worlds and don’t come out. And naps were important. Whenever possible. Because I needed to reconnect the broken bits, and rest was required.

It took so long, but I have strung together a chain of happy days. I can feel them regularly, pretty much back to touching happy at least every day.

I owe that to my friends who kept in touch and talked and talked and talked and talked with me.

But I haven’t hit triumph yet.

I look at that two-years past imaginary me, muddy and bruised and crying and laughing in the face of the persecuters. I think, it wasn’t easy. I didn’t think it would take this long. And I’m still walking.

At least I’m not staggering. But I want the story to tie up into a triumph bow.

Let’s get to the triumphant part.