Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Once upon a time, long ago, but not very far away lived a family of eight children, and their mother and father in an old barn of a house at the end of a street against a field of horses. There were six daughters and two sons and they lived happily together though they were very poor. They did everything together. They sang, played, camped and worked. They were friends.
The sixth child was a girl. She was content in the warm bubble of love that surrounded her family home. It didn't take much to thrill or entertain the children. A tent in the family room was more than enough excitement for them. A place where all of them could be themselves. Her little brother by 2 years, and older sister by 2 years, were all the friends she needed as a child. Then, one day she started school. Although she was a good little girl and eager to learn, she found it difficult and confusing to be in such a hostile environment. The adults were ambivalent and the children there were fickle and cruel sometimes. There were expectations and a status quo to uphold.The chain link fence around the school yard made it plain what sort of institution she had entered. A soulless, lime green existence punctuated by shame and humiliation stretched out before her for twelve long years. Her little brother grew away from her and her older sister became trapped inside a beautiful body. She, herself,began to change in bits. She hardened and steeled herself against caring too much. She lost herself in books and writing, sheltered in fiction. Somewhere in the tenth year of her sentence she had become a mere shadow of herself. Why had this happened, she wondered. Her life was good. School was Ok. What had she lost? How had she lost it? That is when she fled. In the snowy wilderness she communed with her past self and the diamond stars and God beyond. She walked bare footed in the snow and howled with coyotes. Everything felt familiar. Being cast out from a happy existence was not new. The winter cold turned her inside out and she found a small girl hidden, shivering in fear, seated at a peeling desk on linoleum tile. She brought the girl to the fire and asked her to sit. She let the girl cry and told her it was alright. Soon they were both smiling. In a canvas tent amidst sage brush and bitter bark she learned to smile inside again. After that everything was easier. She realized there was nothing wrong with struggling and striving- it did not have to make you unhappy. Whenever things were hard, whenever home seemed far, she could put up a shelter and look inside for strength and for herself. And that was Ok. Comfort is something you can pack along with you in the wilderness and happiness can be there as easy as it can be found in your own family room. Things were good and things were bad. But she strove happier ever after.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Trailing Clouds Of Glory

When I was 19 years old I went to school in England and had sublime experiences there. I thought I would share with you- something I wrote about years ago describing one experience. Young and immersed in English Literature- I was at my most fecund point for sensation and introspection. Without further blah-blah here is 19 year old me....

Lake Windermere
I will never forget the first glimpse I had of Lake Windermere. The bus leaned from side to side as the narrow road wound through a lacy canopy of trees. As my vision out of the dusty window gently rocked, the shining waters peaked out from the trees between the hills, a mist rising from its surface. The wistful hand of beauty cupped my heart and presses it, forcing a slow sigh from my lips. Green and more green was this tucked away gem of creation. Its sudden glimmer in the early sunlight came through the soft vapor of an English morning in answer to every fantasy I had ever had of an enchanted world.
The coach as they call it, came to a stop up on a hill where a white house nestled in verdant coziness. I was at Rydal Mount. William Wadsworth lived there from 1813 until 1850 when he died. It began as a farm cottage in 1574 and I could almost feel the centuries of life it had seen. Additions to the house in the 1700s made it worthy for a great poet, and it remains virtually unchanged. The Wordsworth family still owns and uses the house when it is not open to the public.
Doorways shorter than I am accustomed to were like picture frames for phantoms…reminiscent of a time when people were different in ways and stature. My feet caused the wooden floors to creak as I entered the rooms of the historic house. Antique furniture placed neatly on the worn floors sat empty, watched by portraits of their former inhabitants. Shelves of leather bound books perfumed the air with age and reflected the mind of the man who once poured over their now yellowed pages. In the kitchen I was captivated by the stained, uneven stone floor which was part of the original cottage. I tried to imagine the people who prepared simple meals there at the hearth with only the glow of the fire to illuminate their work.
Wordsworth believed that a garden should be an extension of nature. From the house a sloping stretch of lawn ended in a tumble of trees and brush, enticing me to explore. As I did I discovered a trickling stream and moss covered stone steps embedded in the earth that carried me up and down a woodsy hill which overlooked the lake in a sylvan paradise. I was keenly aware of beauty all around me and nature liberated. As if on cue a bird sang somewhere and a light rain began to fall through the cool, misty air. I walked along a path with a pleasure that felt indulgent, wanting to melt into the trees and float endlessly in time. I found the small “summer house” on the hill where the poet would sit and write, inspired by the beauty and tranquility that surrounded him. It was like a square gazebo made of gray stone with an entrancing view of Lake Windermere. Sitting there where Wordsworth himself had sat, I understood his poems and passion for nature as never before. I felt his spirit there in the woods while listening to the whisper of the wind as it flitted over a carpet of wildflowers and bushes, and watched the blue gray sky slowly swirl above the placid water in the distance. My skin was alive with sensations as the cool rain blew lightly into my face in tiny drops. But even as sensory as my experience was, it felt almost more spiritual than physical. I had a strange paradox of emotions, hollow and full, poignant and joyful…in this tangible mirage. Lines from Wordsworth‘s poems celebrating these ethereal wonders that nature provoke came to my mind.
The best description of my experience was an overwhelming home sickness. Not for America or even my family, but that greater place of which my soul must be unconsciously reminded when I experience beauty. Imprinted on my spirit is the knowledge of my heavenly home forgotten in this veil of mortality. How it must yearn for home when a touch of the familiar splendor is felt in this lesser sphere. This is the joy and sorrow I felt when awakened to an aesthetic world when I first saw Lake Windermere; touched by the insights of a brother who lived before me when he said:
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.”

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Wildflowers are what they are. They are not necessarily cultivated or protected. But their unpretentious beauty and spontaneity is what makes them wonderful. They can tenaciously grow in rocks on the side of a cliff or in a meadow, or in a neighborhood. Imperfect and sometimes considered a weed; they are unapologetically themselves wherever they spring up. Scattered color and fun in unexpected places.Their whimsy combined with their strength makes them what they are.
I have a sister named Heather. Here she is putting my socks on. In a lot of my childhood memories she is my mom. Nurturing comes easy for her.With her tireless and cheerful nature she provided endless hours of fun and adventures to me and my younger siblings. The nature park, the backyard, under the table...anyplace was exciting if Heather was there. And she taught us, too. Her creative imagery always made the lessons stick. Her mind works in metaphors and analogies...presenting deep connections to my young mind. Come to think of it, I still think in types and shadows...she probably has something to do with that. At night she cuddled and sang to us in her bunk bed. She spun magical stories of fantasy and legend as we would lay in rapt excitement; safe, loved and entertained.
If there was ever somebody you would want behind you it is Heather. A quixotic champion and fearless warrior, she will always encourage and tell you anything is possible. She finds good and beauty in situations seeming bleak- on the stony cliffs of life. She was born with an instinct to protect and a stubborn desire to succeed. She meets life head on and with open arms. Sometimes that backfires.
Someone like that is not always understood. As adults we sometimes have a hard time getting in touch with that innate part of our nature. Often, as we age, creativeness is viewed as overly dramatic or childish and optimism seems naive. Anyone sensitive and open to more love and verve for life is also more vulnerable to deep sorrow and hurt. Survival demands we evolve away from that as we grow. That is what losing innocence and our childhoods is all about. Giving up those joys in order to protect ourselves from, disappointment, pain, failure, looking foolish, or being tricked. We become jaded and expect less than the spectacular...shreds of faith slip from our grasp because we believe it is not safe to keep our feet in both worlds; the child and adult. But despite what we give up and despite our efforts, we are still subject to the things we fear and try to protect ourselves from. So we end up only avoiding the good things in life.
We all like to act like a kid again- let our sense of fun and hope out for a run now and then. And I have learned to do it more and more. Life is wonderful despite it all. We were born to smile and be delighted, be curious, have big dreams and love easily and often.
I see Heather bravely straddling the gap...letting her inner child bloom where planted in her grown up life. Focusing all that energy and creativeness toward the efforts of her adulthood and having child- like fun doing it. She is a very good example of courage and light hearted living; whimsy and strength. She is either nuts or brilliant. Whichever it is- Heather is a splash of color, imperfect, unpredictable, unique, beautiful. She is a wildflower.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Jamie's wild hair days. With a big zero on his shirt. Actually none of this is true. It is all an illusion.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

There comes a point in every good party when people begin swinging from the rafters. Believe me, if anyone can attest that non drinkers have all the fun, it is me. My family parties harder than anyone and none of us drink. Recently, at our family reunion, near to midnight one night, my little brother began whooping and swinging from the rafters. Also one of my big sisters began waltzing around to a love song about cookies. At some point several people began a Bollywood like dance routine and of course there was guitar playing and Johnny Cash songs sung. Beginning to get the picture? In a group where everyone accepts and loves you it is okay to get silly and let out your inner maniac without liquor to soften the blow. And in the morning we all remember it fondly and those vulnerable, nutty moments actually build intimacy. True bonding and without the hangover.