Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Autumn Equinox 2017

It's been 12 years since I was run off the main road and onto this radical road of healing without cure. It's baffling. And wonderful. And sometimes difficult. Such is life in its fullest expression, eh? But most of all - to even still be here in the game -- there are no words, just profound gratitude and amazement.

If you follow this link it will lead you to my road as it continues unfolding today:


Remember the Path.
Sometimes the way home is long ~
Old earth; still here; now.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Update: Winter 2013

Someone brought it to my attention today [thanks, Jack], that when they looked for any new writings on my blog, "Flor y Canto," that they didn't find anything recent. I explained that I had brought this one to a close and had opened a new annex a couple years ago: http://www.flowerandsongartgarden.blogspot.com/

It's where you can find me now. "Flor y Canto" served its purpose and the new "playground" is mostly a collection of whatever strikes me as collectable. Consider it a garden with an eclectic assortment of art objects. 

It was 8 yrs ago, on Autumn equinox 2005, that I began the journey down the rabbit-hole with non-Hodgkins lymphoma as my companion/annoying roommate. It's a life-long relationship that led to a relapse in early 2012, that I mostly remained very quiet about, followed by "Re-mission: Part Two".  And here we are today.

Eight years ago was when the urge to write began. It's been my shovel -- my answer to the old Chinese riddle:

"How do you move a mountain?"

"One shovelful at a time."

Writing is my shovel. It's been with me steadily since, and I continue. For now, mostly the words are incubating in my computer, hopefully growing to some maturity when some of them will step out into the world. Until then, if you're looking for me, come visit over in the artgarden. Maybe it will inspire me to let some of them out into public domain again.

And if you're someone who has found yourself reading here through the circumstances of cancer and some internet link that brought you here, just know, if nothing else, this road called "Cancer" [which can often seem more like being dropped into a dark jungle without a path], that there are many footsteps of others who have gone before. Look closely. There IS a trail. You are not alone. Some of us down here even have shovels, machetes and other tools to help. This blog simply marks my own personal trail, one that has turned a supposedly "life-long, incurable cancer," into what I call the "Gravy Years" in my quest to live my best "well-lived life."

And really, it's all gravy for all of us, ain't it? Even if there's some lumps.

Again, the ArtGarden is:

And if you find yourself here with that annoying roommate trying to bully you that goes by the name of 'Cancer', and are interested in my own personal journey, you'll find the beginning of my breadcrumb trail through the jungle in the archives to the right - starting in July '08, as these are posted chronologically in reverse order starting with "Your One Wild and Precious Life" by Mary Oliver. Bring your shovel. There's a mountain to get moved. Many have done it. You can, too.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gratitude & Directions to the New Spring Garden

I want to thank you all who have stopped by to read these ramblings of mine as I've rummaged through pieces of reconstruction and restoration the past couple of years - piecing together a new life built upon the strongest remnants of the old one.

When I started writing, it was using the pen as a shovel to move a mountain - one shovelful at a time. I've moved a lot of earth these past years - along with some of you, my companions in shoveling.

Now it's time for me to turn over some new ground. This plot of 'Flor y Canto' will lay fallow now - resting while I plant some new seeds in a new garden. Thank you for listening, following along and sharing the good road with me. All the best to you in this Season of Renewal.

And I hope if you're in the neighborhood you'll stop by and say "hi." You'll find me here:
May our paths cross again in a good way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The End -- and The Beginning

there's all kinds of roads out there
good roads, bad roads,
smooth ones, rough ones

you can find yourself going
through good neighborhoods or bad
they're all out there
to choose from --

look for me on the good road
hope to see you there

><><><>< This is the final scene from the last of the silent film era. A favorite. See you on the good road. ><><><><
The new patch of dirt el poquito is digging: www.flowerandsongartgarden.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Restoration: The Full Circle

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,
none but ourselves can free our minds.”
- Bob Marley ‘Redemption Song’

It was a turning point - one of those pivotal moments in a life that remain etched in your mind forever. The elderly gentleman sat across the table from me; others were present, also, but in that moment, only his eyes locking onto mine existed; all else, including the others, receded into a hazy background.

A patch of bad fortune had recently fallen upon me, but as often happens, my bad fortune was quickly followed by good fortune. First, was falling down an unseen rabbit-hole that challenged my mortal invincibility and questioned my immediate survival, then, followed by the good fortune of an older man whom I trusted, just ‘happening’ to arrive --- from 2000 miles away - Mexico.

Tlakaelel, an elder made wise through 90 years of life experience, had befriended myself and my family a number of years before. That was a previous good fortune - that somehow our paths from Mexico to Michigan would cross and a bond forged. His guidance and friendship had meant much to me throughout the years - but it all felt as if it had been leading up to this point - this single moment. His words became a guide to me out of the darkness. Nothing more than this needed saying, and in fact, I remember nothing more than these words from that visit. These were my marching orders. Five years later, they continue to be. Like seeds planted deep inside of me, I tend them daily, some days better than others, but tended nonetheless - essential truth to be embodied during hard and difficult times:

“If you are enslaved, do not be a slave. If you are imprisoned, do not be a prisoner.”

On this day, these words were planted deeply inside me - and thus began the Restoration of one man: body, heart, mind and spirit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Restoration: Saving Myself from Dinosaurs

It was an ordinary summer day. Well, an ordinary summer day for an animal feeling cornered. It started the same as all the other days; at 6:45 the ground shook along with my bed from the rumble of giant earth-moving machines as they started their massive engines outside my door. As they trembled the earth, each one sounded off its own high-pitched, ear-piercing, beep-beep-beep-reverse-warning signal that called out with each backing up: “Look out or be crushed!” ---


This was my morning alarm clock every day for months as the street and park near my home were excavated to replace ancient infrastructures. It was my personal view of urban renewal along with my up-close and constant view of my own Inner Reactionary.

Still, in context of: ‘All the things that can go horribly wrong in life’ - it was a small thing. It wasn’t loss of home or health or loved ones. It wasn’t hunger, war or natural disaster. It wasn’t one of the ‘Bigger Things in Life to Be Survived.’ By comparison, it was one of the smaller things, but still, big enough in its constancy to seem HUGE! If there were ever an occasion for feeling crazy with complaint, this was it. All feelings of safety or being settled and comfortable at home were tossed out the door.

A grove of hundred year old willows were clear-cut in a day, ground down into nothing but a giant hill of woodchips - a heartbreaking shadow of what once was lush, green and alive. The Giant Machines tore and ripped at the ground, sending the wildlife fleeing out of the trees and bushes and into the neighboring yards. Every living creature, including myself, felt the squeeze and alarm of being cornered and closed in. Alarm that for me led to LOTS of complaining, moaning and turning music up loudly to try to drown out the constant pounding forces outside my door.

It didn’t help.

I tried ignoring it, but that was impossible starting every day at 6:45, awoken from a deep, sound sleep -- again. And again, and again, and again. This was too big to ignore. It was impossible with the piercing beeps and clawing at the earth all day long, the dirt and dust coating everything and the not knowing how long this could all last. Overnight, home had become a fitfully uncomfortable place to be with an endless timeframe. Irritation greased the already slippery slope, adding fuel for short fuses, curt words and tempers to flare. The choices were limited: be driven out of the house; learn to live with it; or go nuts - and nuts was looking frighteningly close and within easy reach.

William James, 19th century psychologist and philosopher said, “Wisdom is knowing what to overlook.” Simple instructions - all it takes is practice - lots of it. And practice and practice and then more practice. “You can’t chase two rabbits at once,” a Japanese zen teaching also tells us, or as William James implies: choose your rabbits carefully.

A HUGE part of finding ‘peace’ is determining which rabbits to ignore. Unfortunately, we often choose to give our greater attention to the negative ones -- the thoughts and reactions that we’re so good at spinning endlessly. If that weren’t bad enough, we add fuel to this crazy-making fire by gathering all of the bad news we allow ourselves to be bombarded with, unedited, 24 hours a day, making us feel weak in an overwhelming world. We’ll never run out of tragedy. We’ll never lack for worry or fear. The thing is, our lack of ‘paying attention’ makes us miss out on a great deal of the good that lives parallel to that ‘awful track’ - the good that helps to strengthen us so we can meet the challenges head on.

I’ve been here before, feeling cornered by circumstances. My mind consumed by troubles. We all have - and will be again - if we’re lucky.

Yeah, I said it -- lucky.

I almost ‘left’ this place a few years ago [a euphemism for ‘died’]. I got lucky. I got to stick around to smell more roses - and smelling all the roses of life became the most important thing to me. After you’ve been through rough times and survived, you feel easily that you should be given a break, receive a ‘Free Pass’ on trouble - at least for a while when you’re exhausted and recovering. You think you should only have roses in your life. But it doesn’t work that way. Ever. Life continues rolling on same as always with its two rails - the ‘Beauty’ rail right alongside the ‘Ugly’ one, never one far from the other, ours to learn how to ride -- both, together, simultaneously; ours to choose which to pay more attention. So, yeah, despite troubles, frustrations, worries and fears - all a part of the natural landscape - I’m lucky enough to still be here to have troubles.

You see, like most, I’d like to stick around a while to “smell the roses.” Unfortunately, we don’t get to have only roses. There’s no comedy without tragedy, no light without dark, no up without down, and no roses without shit. If we’re still gifted with life here on this messed up, troubled planet, then we’re always traveling on two rails at once, parallel and simultaneously, often with more choice than we believe if we’re not blinded by our own sense of powerlessness. According to Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, we always have one power that remains -- the power of choice; choice in how we use our minds, what we attend to and our attitude. His intact mental survival of horrific circumstances was summed up when he said: “Remember the leverage point: my attitude.” If he could arrive at that, surrounded by death and destruction, surely so can I. The bar he placed for ‘Responsibility for One’s Own Mental Hygiene’ is a high one indeed, but still, within human reach. He was one of us, after all. He showed us our capability.

The two rails of ‘Beauty’ and ‘Horror’ live side by side - always. Always has been that way, always will be. Such is life here, no? You can’t have one without the other. Not in this place.

So, if I can’t have one without the other, well, I guess I need to accept the fact of having both and get on with the art of living and staying on the rails - both of them.

The months of relentless excavating outside my door, gave me plenty of chances to practice not falling off the rails; to practice keeping my attention constant and steady; to practice managing my crazy, frenetic, monkey-mind. It was this constant source of irritation and destruction that drove the lesson in. Along with a rose.

About a month into living with my new neighbors - the earth-eating dinosaurs, as I came to call them - I stepped outside my door to escape my home by taking a walk. My iPod was securely in place, feeding the calming sounds of Bach’s cello suites straight into my head in an attempt to override the sounds of destruction. The trucks and bulldozers were gnashing and grinding their way through their work - a sight and sound that was impossible to block out. They had been working all day, even through the rainstorm that had just finished pouring down. The sun was reappearing, the water on the streets rose in steamy evaporation. Everything was refreshed for a moment, washed in all of this cleansing rain.

I skirted the edge of the street a safe distance from the giant machines, trying as best I could to focus on the calming music rather than the ripping and tearing sounds. Two rails at once - the challenge was on: could I focus enough on the good one to drown out the irritating one? It wasn’t easy - nearly impossible, but I continued trying as I walked on.

Coming to a quieter corner, I crossed the street to gain more distance. That was when I saw it. There, in the most nondescript place, growing untended under a stop sign, not a part of anyone’s garden -- there it was: THE most beautiful rose I had ever seen in my life! I was stopped in my tracks. Bach’s cello caressed me with calming, soothing silkiness while the last few drops of rain that hadn’t yet evaporated clung to the tips of the petals - fiery, yellow-orange petals kissed with a blush of red --this delicate, boldly strong, perfect rose, born of fire and rain!

Taking it all in, I basked in the awe of this hushed, unassuming beauty that I knew very few would ever have chance to see growing on this curb under a stop sign. I drew in the warm, humid breath of the rose as its perfume ascended in an invisible cloud of what seemed the essence of hundreds of roses. The sight! The aroma! The beauty! The heaven on earth! The moment of ecstasy that can be spoken of, but never really fully conveyed. Rare, ineffable beauty.

In that epiphany moment it all came together: the Beauty and the Horror - and how they live side by side -- always. In the background, the sounds of machinery continued shredding the air, while before me I inhaled the purest, most pleasurable fragrance that lifted me upward. Ecstasy floating me higher while the heavy weight of gravity and irritation tried to tug and pull. Together. Always. Both.

I chose to float.

I floated home, floated through my day, floated into the night and into the next morning when the Giant Machines awoke me again. I laughed. They no longer irritated me - well, at least not as they had for so many weeks before. They no longer had ahold of me by the throat with the power to ruin my day.

That was the day they changed. Or rather, I guess I changed. Instead of the horrible ‘Invasion of the Giant Machines’ they began to look more like curious dinosaurs behind a fence in a zoo. After all, they were as big as dinosaurs, were threatening and made lots of noise like I imagined dinosaurs would, and they grazed all day while stomping on the ground. But they were also comical now, and I could finally laugh more than complain. I decided that I could live with dinosaurs - at least for the remaining warm months until winter would arrive and they would go into dormant hibernation.

That single rose inspired me. I revisited it again and again like an old friend. I took its picture to remind me to gather the good things, too, to not allow my mind to be primarily occupied with complaint and trouble. Keeping my eyes wide open I hope and expect to find more of the Beautiful and Good. It’s out there - in abundance. Or rather, it’s in here, in my mental garden - just waiting to be cultivated.

Cold Michigan winter arrived. The dinosaurs quieted. Things returned to normal. The earth is resting -- healing, laying dormant. The dust has settled, including in my mind. We await a new spring and the return of a new green.

I have a new mental health regime now: I take daily walks. Simple enough, eh? But not just mindless walks filled with my mental chatter of the day, but expeditions with eyes open - to see what I can see, to find what I can stumble upon in my wanderings, unexpected beauty hidden in nondescript places. It’s hiding perhaps under a most ordinary stop sign saying: “Stop! Look!”

It’s a good thing to practice - appreciating Beauty. You just might find it saves you one day from the dinosaurs out there stalking you. Saved, by choosing wisely, what to overlook.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Restoration: Attention

I picked up the telephone: “Hello?”

“I’m dying.” Those were the first words out of her mouth.

My head scrambled for a thought - fast! Mostly thinking, ‘how do I respond to that?!’

I paused, took a breath and just went for it: “No, you’re not,” I answered without skipping a beat. “You’re talking to me on the phone right now.”

She stopped for a moment. I don’t think she had quite expected that response. The quiet hung in the air, finally interrupted by her reasonably dejected voice: “Well, they gave me a death sentence. They said there’s nothing more they can do for me and I’m gonna die.” It was her turn to let the air hang heavy as she waited for an answer to that.

I decided to go out recklessly on a limb: “Well, we all are aren’t we?” She was listening closely now, so I took the advantage and continued: “Some sooner than others - and nobody really knows when somebody else is going to die, do they? They don’t know that. They’re just saying they’re out of tricks in their bag for you - but you’re not dying - not this second. You’re talking to me on the phone right now.”


“Where are you right now in your home?” I asked.

“Sitting in a chair.”

“Where? What do you see in front of you?”

“The window.”

“What do you see outside the window?”

“The big pine tree.”

“Anything else?”

“There’s a cardinal in the tree.”

“Good. Watch it!”

Silence. This time the silence didn’t hang heavily, but was a deep, profound kind of silence one is rarely privileged to hear: the deep silence shared with another.

After a solid moment of silence I pushed on, “You’re not dying. You’re alive - you’re talking to me on the phone, and you’re looking out the window and looking at the pine tree with the cardinal in it. How big is that tree? Tell me about it.”

And she did, describing its height and breadth - how it filled the front yard; its deep green needles and the bright red bird - all cast against the steel-grey, winter sky of northern Michigan.

Over time we had many more conversations where she sat in front of that window and described all of the life she saw before her. She described it in detail throughout the seasons: the birds at the feeder - the cardinals and chickadees of winter, the bluebirds in the summer - the oasis that it became to both herself and the birds - her ‘sitting spot’; her zen cushion of meditation. She never spoke to me again that she was dying - not that she didn't think about it, I'm sure. But she chose to bring all her worries, fears and burdens to that tree - and they were heavy and many. That tiny spot of nature helped her to carry them and it also carried her - not dying, but living clear through to her final day.


Nature heals. Whether looking out at the vista from the mountaintop, the horizon from the shore, or the view of the bird feeder outside the kitchen window, our senses take in the sights, smells and sounds of nature, helping our minds balance out in the most basic and primal of ways. We might find it in sailing the sea, but we might as easily find it staring into the aquarium in a doctor’s office. Nature heals, calms, centers and restores.


It’s in the basic wiring.

We’re only beginning to tap into the mysteries of our brains, how they function and why sometimes they don’t. Research by University of Michigan psychologist Stephen Kaplan, has led to what he calls the “Attention Restoration Theory.” This study examines how time spent in nature in relaxed attention has a restorative quality for our minds. A simple enough idea - common sense, really. Easy and within reach.

The theory is based upon the observation that the human brain has evolved through thousands of generations spontaneous response to the natural environment. According to Kaplan’s research, our species has developed the mental wiring to have a natural attraction to green, to trees, flowers and plants, water and wildlife. When we pay attention to nature we use a different, more relaxed, involuntary kind of attention. It requires no effort - which for some can bring its own kind of challenge. But for a moment, if we can allow it, our mind can relax, offering us the overall benefits of rested attention, mental clarity and focus.

Kaplan, in his ‘Attention Restoration Theory’, lists four components in enlisting nature’s help to restore inattentive and poor quality concentration:

1) Being away from your everyday environment -“Away” could be as simple as the backyard garden or the park at the corner. The idea being that interacting with nature in any form helps one to move away from ‘tired brain’. Tired brain zaps us, robbing us of our ability to attend.

2) Fascination - What engages us requires no mental effort. When we are fascinated, watching the colors of the sunset, the flock of geese heading south, or listening to the pounding of the waves, we engage with an easy, involuntary attention. It takes little effort to ‘look’. We’re drawn in by the details. Remember, it's been said: ‘God is in the details.’

3) Extent or Scope - So you’re ‘away’ from the everyday, and fascinated by what you behold, touch, hear, smell or taste, but can your remain there? Will your attention remain without becoming bored or restless? If you're satisfied and able to ‘let down’, i.e. safe and comfortable, involuntary attention comes to the fore; directed attention becomes unnecessary. Now there’s sufficient ‘scope or extent’; attention span increases.

4) Compatibility - “Different strokes for different folks.” Interact with the natural environment in a way that is compatible for the individual. Fish, hike, garden, smell the flowers, play with the dog, sit by the river, pet the cat, birdwatch, collect rocks, watch the clouds, walk in the open air, feel the wind as you ride a bike --- Find your way. YOUR way.

When life throws us the unexpected curve ball - the job loss; health crisis; the loss of a loved one through divorce, death or an empty nest - the ordinary bumps and bruises of life - they take their toll, leaving us stressed and potentially eroded. We become more forgetful and challenged in clear thinking. Our emotions get the better of us and we feel like an exposed, raw nerve ending dangling out there being stepped upon, irritated by everything. Our mental quadrant governs it all -- not only our clear cognitive functioning, but also our emotional and coping capabilities.

The details of the unexpected curve ball don’t matter much; our responses do, however, - how we find our way back to repair and restoration - how we reboot ourselves. We all need to reboot from time to time; a good place to begin is by ‘Restoring Attention’ through nature.


“Don’t think: Look!” - Ludwig Wittgenstein



For further reading, ask your local public library for: "Your Brain After Chemo: A Practical Guide to Lifting the Fog and Getting Back Your Focus" by Dan Silverman & Idelle Davidson

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paying Attention

Attention - Concentration of the mental powers; from the Latin attendere: to stretch toward.

Thousands of images, events and fires, both big and small, demand our attention daily -- everything from the kids, to work, to the next apocalyptic disaster around the corner, all vying for limited mental parking space. The parking lot is usually overflowing with a line backed out to the street -- and still, we hope for a little space left over where maybe we can also 'attend' to some of the things that help us stand strong another day - the rejuvenation and restoration we all need to find, if only in the corners of our life, in order to have the reserves and will to rise again, to not only survive, but thrive.

Four facts about mental acreage:

> What you attend to matters.

> What you don't attend to matters as much.

> There's a finite number of parking spots in your lot.

> We each are the parking 'attendant' of our own lot; i.e. it's up to us to carefully attend to who/what enters - OR if we allow everyone/everything that loudly demands entry "NOW!" to enter just because they're loudly demanding [it's always 'now', isn't it?].

We work the gate. We decide to allow entry -- or not. There's no one and nothing else to blame - even if the cars are circling the block, leaning on their horns, flippin' each other off, demanding 'NOW!' like a three year old's tantrum. Best thing to do with overly demanding children is to ignore their unreasonable demands. Just 'cuz they're loud, doesn't mean they should get attention for it.

Patience, delayed gratification and self-restraint don't get a lot of 'attention' these days. It shows - just drive a car for 15 minutes among your fellow travelers if you doubt it.

Not much time is spent 'attending' to Beauty either, Beauty with a capital 'B', not the trivial kind you can buy, but the awe-some kind that stops you in your tracks as you hustle forward in your busy day.

Walk with a two year old discovering for the first time the world laid out before them and you'll experience it: "That leaf! That leaf! Look!" and you know you are in the presence of a 'high being' in a state of awe and ecstasy.

If we can stop to look, we'll see how the raindrops from the night's rain have settled on the fallen leaf like jewels - an ordinary leaf - the same as millions of others, except this one - it captures the glint of sun rising in the morning sky - it magnifies the light, magnifies Life and Beauty ---


we stop to notice it - an ordinary leaf on a slab of ordinary gray concrete, made Extraordinary by stopping, getting close, and noticing.


It takes practice. It's not just for two year olds and crazy artists.

We are the gatekeepers of OUR Mental Parking Lots - and mine has gardens, flowers and vines growing all over it. If I let you in, please park carefully and know this is premium parking space [I don't let just anything in!] and please pay attention to not run over the sunflowers growing along the edges.

To read more, ask your local library for:

'Rapt - Attention and the Focused Life' by Winifred Gallagher

Thursday, November 4, 2010

'Restoration' - the Mental: Avoiding Bad Roads

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.”
- John Milton

Over a year ago, I started writing about the “Wheel of Restoration.” I had an outline laid out and it would only take me a short time to write the basics of ‘whole person wellness’ as I’ve learned it thus far in my observations in a life-long career in the healing arts and navigating my own health challenges. Thing is, when you set out to ‘teach’ something and you also know that you yourself are a life-long student, sometimes life comes along and knocks you upside the head with some new schooling, some more advanced lessons on the subject -- especially if your eyes and ears are willingly open to being schooled.

I should have known better. I do know better, but I forgot.

To me, that right there is the core of healing: usually, a circuitous path of forgetting and remembering -- and as long as we keep remembering, keep reminding one another, not so much by our words, but by our actions, we keep moving forward in the strengthening direction - the direction of healing and restoration - whatever it is one thinks ‘That’ looks like and however one personally measures it.

I wanted to write down some of the things I’d learned over the past years from working with thousands of clients throughout my lifetime, to pass on to others, especially my children, gathered anecdotes, thoughts and reflections on the lessons I’ve been fortunate to have been shown over the years, reflected in the lives of diverse people struggling and working hard to be and do their best, owning responsibility for their bodies, health and lives, and DOING something about them. Often, a writer thinks that they are writing to or for someone; always, to some degree, we are also writing to ourselves.

I’ve met some amazing people over the years; they all had something to teach me. Some taught me what a person willing to take ownership and responsibility looks like, others were an example of other roads - ones I’d rather not go down.

Remember those television commercials where an elderly person falls on the floor and helplessly cries out, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”? Motivated to never be like that, my elderly mother’s response was: “Never lose your ability to get yourself up off the floor!” As an independent widow she knew the importance of this. To her, what would save her if she fell was herself -- her own ability to rise up again.

She practiced what she preached, intentionally getting herself down on the floor daily to do floor exercises --- and then getting herself back up again - sometimes by ‘hook or by crook’ - but always, she got herself back up.


That’s what I’ve been busy doing for the last five years, since my personal world went through a revolution. I fall, metaphorically speaking, and by hook or by crook, I work at getting back up, even if it is sometimes frustratingly, two steps forward - a limp and a half back. Still, always forward, thankfully. There are a variety of floors one can fall down upon - and as many ways of rising.

When in a revolution, become a revolutionary. Resist! Fight! Rise up and stand toe-to-toe with the Challenger. Rise Again! And again, and again, and again.

In the summer of ’09 I began writing what was going to be this short series on ‘Restoration’ and Healing. I divided the wheel into four quadrants and was writing on them one by one: the Physical, the Emotional -- and then we came to the Mental....

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! [inside joke for the one or two who know the man behind the curtain]

I thought I could easily and quickly write about the Mental Quadrant - the ‘how-to’ of maintaining quality mental activity and ability. And it’s true, I have learned a lot about that over the years. I’d even recently been studying the subject in my personal recovery from medically-related cognitive issues. Evidently I was going to ‘study’ this from a deeper place; I was swept down the slippery slope, obliging me to “get myself back up” just as mom had instructed.

It wasn’t easy - and in the condition I found myself in, I had nothing to say on the subject -- not until I got back up that slippery mountainside.

When we find ourselves sliding down that mental slope, it’s usually because of a combination of events and circumstances, mixed with lowered ability to ‘spring back’, fueled by a cocktail of adrenaline and other bodily stress hormones. All come together in a confluence with our name on it --- and > SNAP! < .... there we go..... down that slope.

And there I went. Reflections on the Mental Quadrant [which is the governor/determiner of the Emotional, also] are actually all chronicled in these writings of the past year - mostly between the lines, behind the language of poetry: chrysalises and monarchs; haiku, cutting to the bone; and the occasional essay of musings on personal topics such as mortality and endurance. I wrote about sailing high seas, both my young sailing son’s actual waters, and metaphorically, my own personal paddling through choppy seas. I couldn’t hit it directly - straight on - I had to come at it sideways; I had to tack my way forward. I dug my paddle in and pulled hard.

And I’ve been pulling since, digging the paddle into the strong current. This moment of paddling, the only thing of importance. Forward >>> the direction.

When the body becomes not as steadily reliable, when you feel as though your life-long chassis, the old, steady-and-ready vehicle that it once was has somehow betrayed you, then preserving mental ground becomes of utmost importance. It always was important, but it was taken for granted that there was wiggle room. Now, with other parts challenged, mental strength becomes more highly valued. We NEED our rudder of stability and clarity. It needs our attention. Where we place our attention can literally be the difference between life and death and most definitely IS the difference in the ever-fluctuating quality of life.

Where we place our attention is key. A stable, alert, awake, creative, problem-solving mind is what we all want. But how do we create that? Like a fit body, for most of us it isn't just going to happen. It will take work and attention.

We begin at the beginning: WHERE we place our attention.

To be continued....

[Other writings on ‘Restoration’ are archived from July ’09 to present, some under that heading, others hidden in 17 syllables of haiku or instructions from Rumi.]

Sunday, October 24, 2010


for the dawn's release from night
for the rosebud's open bloom
all good things: in their own time
without demand or force
even as we wait
ill winds passing by

the long wait of the rose
the perfume that will not be hurried

Monday, September 13, 2010

wash my spirit clean - haiquatro

my thoughts were angry
holding me hostage again:
they were only thoughts.

Previously, I
held many beliefs sacred:
they were only thoughts.

Yesterday was hard.
I do not remember more:
they were only thoughts.

Today, rejoicing
in lightning, thunder and rain:
my spirit is washed.

Monday, August 30, 2010


haiku for my sons

Never looking back
Fixing on your own North Star
Your sails billow full

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fire in the Sky - Night Magic

The sun was going down last night and the mosquitoes were having a holiday feast. I was providing. I was headed indoors to escape them, when I looked across the road into the darkness of the park across the way and saw something I'd never seen before. The end of my day was echoing the start of my day; a synchronicity of what I had read earlier in Ray Bradbury's 'Zen in the Art of Writing'; stumbling upon a 4th of July childhood memory of Mr. Bradbury's. An excerpt:


A final memory.

Fire balloons.

You rarely see them these days, though in some countries, I hear, they are still made and filled with warm breath from a small straw fire hung beneath.

But in 1925 Illinois, we still had them, and one of the last memories I have of my grandfather is the last hour of a Fourth of July night forty-eight years ago when Grandpa and I walked out on the lawn and lit a small fire and filled the pear-shaped red-white-and-blue-striped paper balloon with hot air, and held the flickering bright-angel presence in our hands a final moment in front of a porch lined with uncles and aunts and cousins and mothers and fathers, and then, very softly, let the thing that was life and light and mystery go out of our fingers up on the summer air and away over the beginning-to-sleep houses, among the stars, as fragile, as wondrous, as vulnerable, as lovely as life itself.

I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange drifting light, thinking his own still thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this.


Now, in the dusk, I looked across the road and into the park and saw a man with his three kids building a small fire. Then, suddenly, the fire became a glowing orange orb lifting up into the night sky. "This is it! I'm seeing a fire balloon!" I thought to myself. "Ray Bradbury's 1925 Illinois has come alive tonight in 2010!" - and I ran to the street for a closer look. It was an incredible sight, just as he said, watching this mystery of fire rising up into the air - an unexplainable orb of fire rising, rising, rising --- higher and higher, burning as it rose till it was just a small, distant, orange dot high and far in the sky.

It truly was magical, from the sense of having never seen anything like it before, and only made sense in light of having just read earlier in the day about "fire in the sky."

Expect the unexpected.

Happy Fourth of July

love, magic, fire,
el po

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

~more waking with Rumi~

~~ gracias, for all the reminders, Friend ~~

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

For You, Sitting There ~

by Jelal'uddin Rumi

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.

Don't go back to sleep.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Revival Haibun

I’m not so much interested in
learning how to die
as I am in practicing how to live.

If you only knew how the earth
really can open up and swallow you whole,
how a complete universe can disappear
in the blink of an eye
regardless of your nationality,
race or religious affiliation,
despite your status, wealth or a future
secured with a pension and good insurance policy,
equally devouring the believers
and the non-believers alike,
with a ravenous, insatiable appetite.
If you only knew ---

you would live as if
this moment really counted --
as if you counted.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"It's the opportunity of a lifetime, wouldn't you say?"

My all-time favorite television moment:

Northern Exposures; Season 3, Episode 8: "A Hunting We Will Go"; the conclusion.

On hearing Ruth-Ann is turning 75, young Ed, feeling concern for her mortality, wants to give her a meaningful gift that will last forever. Ruth-Ann seizes the opportunity of a lifetime.


Seize the opportunity...