Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TV Oracle

"The sky is falling!! The sky is falling!!"

Karl Rove Knows

The Debate

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn Equinox - part lll

The Messenger

When I’m able to keep my eyes wide open, keep my ears wide open and keep my spirit wide open – Mystery speaks. As with most things, all it takes is paying attention. It might be an overheard conversation… a phone call from a friend, just when you needed one… a storm… a hummingbird… an eagle feather… an ancient fossil. These messages happen to us all of the time, if only we stop to see.

My wife and I were sitting in the late afternoon sun. We sat on a garden bench outside the oncology center, taking a break from the “too much reality” going on inside. We were noticing how the light is changed in autumn – subtler observations than the reality trying to bludgeon us inside the hospital walls. The last flowers stretched themselves to the sky, to the sun… the last vivid colors before this northern world would soon be stripped down to white, black and shades of gray for many months to come. Soon enough, our eyes would hunger for color and light. We absorbed the last of the warming light falling on our faces that were still brown from the summer sun.

All throughout the garden, chipmunks were scurrying about – under the bushes, through the flowers, busy and hard at work, stuffing their cheeks, chattering to one another, looking for seeds and other edible treasures to stash away for the coming winter months.

Suddenly, darting out from the bushes, appeared the different one – the outlier. He was completely white; no stripes of darker brown down his light brown back; no tan underbelly – totally white. For a moment we tried to grasp what different kind of an animal this was. He behaved just like all of the others, scurrying frenetically as chipmunks do and we realized he was an albino chipmunk. Fascinated, we sat there and watched him closely doing his work, when out of the blue, he charged over the mound of wood chips under the pine tree and ran straight at us, stopped abruptly and fell over on his side about five feet away.

What? He didn’t move. We couldn’t understand what we were seeing – and what we were seeing was a pure, white chipmunk, who had fallen in his tracks, that now appeared either dead or unconscious. He lay there absolutely still and unmoving, as were we. We looked at each other confused, trying to comprehend the scene, while the other chipmunks continued their afternoon’s work of harvesting. We puzzled over the little guy’s demise for a couple of minutes when as suddenly as he’d fallen, he now leapt to his feet, shook it off and ran back into the underbrush, as if nothing unusual had just happened.

In a nutshell: we had witnessed a fluke of nature – an outsider, an outlier from the norm – a little white ghost of a creature. We had seen him active in his chipmunk life of autumn harvesting. We had watched him keel over as if he were dead. And we had seen him resurrect. Before our eyes we had seen life come back into him – a private showing for my wife and I only. I admit, I was highly drugged on morphine at the time, but my wife was not. She confirmed it wasn’t the drugs speaking to me. It actually had been a visitation and a message from an albino chipmunk, never to be seen again. His message I would carry within and remember again and again in the coming months…
The universe has interesting ways of getting our attention if we:

Keep our eyes wide open,
Keep our ears wide open,
And keep our spirits wide open –
Mystery speaks.

Every day,
Mystery speaks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Autumn Equinox - part ll

Dancing in the Abyss

Whenever I feel as though life is hurtling toward the edge, I think of the flyers, los voladores of ancient Mexico… tied by a rope, tethered to the Tree of Life, flying upside-down in the wind; ribbons of color cutting the air with red, yellow, green and blue; music trilling lightly from their flutes singing from the brink of oblivion…. dancing in the abyss. Los voladores are a tradition and vision of equanimity. They breathe grace, even as they spin, hanging by a strand as they hurtle toward the earth. Their sureness and grace lie in their knowing. They know they are held safely, cradled by invisible threads that anchor them to the Infinite.

In the middle of the night, as my abdomen engorged and distended, this unknown “thing” rapidly was crowding my stomach, kidneys, gut and breath. I struggled to breathe – to remain present. The pain cut through my belly with each partial breath, defining the edges of bearable. I fought to find my way to the still-point, the point of balance, where I could float free of pain or at least be released from it’s tenacious grip of fear. I searched to find my freedom and release my fear as I fell through the infinite, through the Abyss. And all the while the pain charged, mounting stronger, searing itself into my flesh, my breaking flesh.

High above the earth, the four voladores settle onto their seats at the top of the central pole. Each flyer, one of the Four Winds: East, South, West and North. The fifth volador climbs above the seated four, standing straight atop the pole on an area that spans no larger than the soles of his feet. He lifts himself upright, defying gravity, height and fear. Drum in hand he begins to beat the rhythm of the heartbeat: ba-bahm, ba-bahm, ba-bahm, ba-bahm. The Heartbeat of Tierra Madre; ba-bahm, ba-bahm, beating on the drum, beating down through the pole, beating into the earth. He sings, calling forth the four winds, the energies weaving together to create a dance of light and air and Spirit. Los voladores sit, each in his direction, high above the density of a world caught in gravity and heaviness. They wind their rickety platform like the winding of a cosmic clock, their ropes wrapping around the pole as they wind it up. Then, together in a synchronized movement, they let themselves go, falling backwards off of their platform into the emptiness of space behind them, trusting that their connection, a single rope tethered to the pole - the Tree of Life, will hold them up against gravity. As the weight of their four bodies pulls downward, the ropes begin unwinding and the flyers soar through the air in ever widening circles. Suspended upside-down, colors flying in freedom, flutes warbling a song of beauty, they defy distress, instead embodying the lightness of Spirit in a state of grace. Los voladres - the flyers: equanimity and balance while dancing in the Abyss.

I lay my body on the earth asking her to cradle me, to take my suffering, to pull the pain from my aching flesh. She calms me, soothes me, comforts me, her child. I give her my fear and panic, the hooks that anchor the intense pain ripping through my flesh. And I breathe…. I breathe.... I could stay here under the nighttime sky asking her to take my pain for as long as she will, for as long as she is able. I could stay here and let go of the body, release it back to the earth…. return it from where it came… “from dust thou came and to dust thou shall return…” And then their faces: my children, my wife - my loved ones appear before me calling me to return to the living, return to the suffering, embrace the pain, to find the rope tethering me to the Tree of Life - the hope for a fleeting moment of grace in the midst of chaos. I pick myself up off the ground and choose to walk forward with courage, to walk myself through the hospital doors. I surrender. And upon arriving in that darkened, pre-dawn hour at the hospital, I surrender myself to the knowledge that my life will never be the same. I surrender to what will be a week-long search for an answer: a search into my body, into my soul.

Los voladores arc gracefully through the air, their ropes unwinding from the pole, 52 times circling in an inverted upside-down dance; 52 sacred circlings of grace under fire. 52, the sacred number from the Ancient Ones, the memory passed from one generation to the next. And they hold to the instructions, hold to the memory, hold to the ancestors, performing their sacred duty, their flying dance of 52 circlings of the Tree of Life that helps the earth to awaken to another day.

The story of the hospital unfolds amidst blood tests, x-rays, cat scans, lymph node biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, consultations and teams of doctors searching for an answer, tracking down clues to a puzzle, in hopes around the next corner the answer lies: 52 sacred turnings of the rope, circling the Tree of Life.

Now the ropes unwind to their full length. Los voladores fly in beauty; large slow circles, the flutes trilling playfully, the drum steadily beating, another Dance of Grace completed… and in the final circling, the 52nd one, the flyers smoothly right themselves to meet the ground on their feet. They take their first steps on the earth... humble walkers once again. Flyers, disguised among the walking - until tomorrow when they will fly again and call the Earth to awaken to another dawn.

Dawn in the hospital held most in slumber, except those who had routines to perform: blood to be drawn, medicines to be dispensed, vitals to be recorded… routines. The dawn of my diagnosis of cancer coursing throughout my body, through my blood, found me escaping the hospital walls to the outdoors – to the garden. Here I was again, under a pre-dawn, still nighttime sky. All of my worldly foundations had crumbled. Now, I sat under a vision of an endless universe filled with stars, galaxies and Mystery; a vision of the Eternal flying high above this mortal ground… and this time I sang. My IV pole on wheels became the Tree of Life; the plastic tubing dripping medicines into me became the rope tethering me to the Tree. I circled the IV pole Tree of Life, inverted, upside down, 52 sacred circlings, defying pain and fear, safely held by the Invisible, connecting me to the Infinite.

I had become un volador - one who dances in the Abyss…and sings:

In the house made of dawn,
In the story made of dawn,
On the trail of dawn…
Beauty is before me.
Beauty is behind me.
Above and below me
Hovers the beautiful.
And I am surrounded by it.
I am immersed in it.
In my youth I am aware of it,
And in the sunset of my life
I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail.

(poem by n. scott momaday)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Autumn Equinox: a triptych - part l

Monday morning the sun's path will cross the equator as he moves southward. Autumn equinox - the first day of fall. The West is the direction of sunset, autumn and reflection; transition and death. It calls us to look within, gather the harvest, prepare for the winter. It was three years ago, in the night of the first day of autumn that the earth opened up to me. I found myself far below this "worldly life", struggling to keep a foothold. I wrote this immediately after receiving the final news in the hospital that my life would never be the same.

There are many events in a life that are crossroads moments - when life spins on a dime, never to be the same... We all, at one time or another, are swallowed by the earth - falling down the rabbit-hole.

This was written in a heavy morphine haze - I believe written by me, to me - an instruction manual in survival in less than 125 words. I offer it for others who find themselves walking a labyrinth.

The Labyrinth

Trust the process;
the process of twists and turns,
left, right, forward, back…
twisting, turning,
seemingly backwards, upside-down, inside-out,
yet always forward, always forward...
Tiahui. Tiahui.
Forward in courage -
with open heart, open mind,
open Spirit, open eye.
I find my way to the center.
I claim the core, the Heart of hearts.
Remembering the old ones; the young ones;
the Ancient Ones; the new ones yet to be...
Remembering the fabric
from which I’ve come.
Alchemy in the process,
changing me from rough gray lead
to shining burnished silver
ornamented with stones of turquoise.
Re-minding me Home.

Trust the process.
The process of twists and turns,
Seemingly backwards, upside-down, inside-out,
Yet always forward.
Always forward.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Silenced No More

Odd, how life in dreams can be. Anything is possible. One night, in a dream, I was “visited” by a black, lesbian poet. By “visited” I mean I was a black, lesbian poet – feeling all of the outsiderness of being a black, lesbian poet in mainstream america. Being inhabited by “another” is a deep way to connect, to feel; and what that dream brought to me was all the feeling of the depth of the experience of being an outsider.

Coincidentally (?), a couple of weeks later in my waking life, Audre Lord, a black, lesbian poet found me. She was a new discovery to me through a book that practically jumped off of the public library bookshelves and into my hands called 'The Cancer Journals'. She wrote this book back in 1980 born out of her personal experiences, and although outwardly her background and experiences were far different from my own, inwardly, I found we had more in common than different -- the shared commonness of having 'fallen down the rabbit-hole'.

Cancer - the great equalizer. The truly equal opportunity employer that doesn't show preferential treatment as it sweeps through the population, touching almost half of us at one time or another. Half of us. Think about it. A daunting statistic most people don't know until they themselves are touched. Once fallen, we find ourselves in a very dark place, but upon looking more closely, as our eyes adjust to the darkness we find footsteps, paths made by those who have gone before.

I found Audre Lorde's very clear footsteps down there. With her words like a machete, she cleared a path for me to follow - reminding me: we're not alone. We're never alone. Just follow the footsteps.

I was gifted when I first had that dream that alerted me. I was further gifted when I recognized her arrival into my life and her words lit my path; when she so honestly shared her fears with me, not always being brave and courageous, but human; human in the rawness of her vulnerability - our shared vulnerability.

I hope and work to listen to her call, to rise above the fears that want to swallow me, that want to swallow all of us into powerlessness and silence, whatever the circumstances of what might feel like our own very dark rabbit-hole.

In 'The Cancer Journals' she writes:

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silence had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”

"Sometimes fear stalks me like another malignancy, sapping energy and power and attention from my work. A cold becomes sinister; a cough, lung cancer; a bruise, leukemia. Those fears are most powerful when they are not given voice, and close upon their heels comes the fury that I cannot shake them. I am learning to live beyond fear by living through it, and in the process learning to turn fury at my own limitations into some more creative energy. I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side. When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid."


“May these words serve as encouragement for others to speak and to act out of our experiences with cancer and other threats of death, for silence has never brought us anything of worth.”

She wrote these brave words in 1979-80, when there weren’t the open conversations and supports that exist in the world today, and if this old dawg, el poquito, can find solace and inspiration in a breast cancer/mastectomy survivor's testimony, then probably most others can, too. Some of our strengths lie in our diversity of experiences outside of our own, where we find we are a lot more the same than different.

Thank you, Audre. I am no longer silent.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Do you know which way I went?
I remember seeing me the other day
talking with the homeless woman
about her missing child -
the auto accident -
and the curse...
and noticing how she
folded and unfolded
the origami change purse
she held nervously in her hands...
telling me her story,
that was my story too,
about the tragedies that had
broken her,
and broken her again
into a pile of human shards
scattered across the land...
unrecognizable from the fine
strong vessels
we once were

Yesterday I was high in the mountains
crossing a dangerous pass -
Dead Man's Pass...
It was too long a journey.
I was so tired...
Last I recall I was looking out the window of the train,
looking out upon the savanna --
The light and heat were beating down upon us
and the gazelles were running swiftly away
fleeing from the hard-breathing animal
that snaked it's way through the plains.
Did you see me come by here yesterday?
Do you know which way I went?

Later I remember seeing me
methodically shoveling the dirt.
How do you move a mountain?
One shovelful at a time...
Restoring hope can take time that way -
like moving a mountain
with a shovel.
It can be done.
I've seen it happen
many times.
But renewal does not birth easily.
Did you catch a glimpse of me?
Do you know which way I went?

Monday, September 1, 2008


It's September. Labor Day weekend has passed. The kids are back in school. The pace picks up - despite nature's pace winding down. In one week the date will be 9-11. The classic images, the ones burned in our collective retina will begin this week - you know, planes crashing, exploding buildings, people fleeing down the streets in terror. Terror - the broad paintbrush of the past 7 years. You don't need me to drive these images of fear and national symbols of trauma deeper.

What I offer instead is a remedy - an antidote, written the week following 9-11-01. I offer it today at the beginning of this week where "they" will remind us repeatedly how unsafe we are. How insecure and vulnerable we all are in a world gone mad. True perhaps, but there's more to the story. There's always more to the story....

"I was to meet with a friend this morning, a midwife who never made it to our appointed time to meet. I assume she was probably busy at a birth with a mom and new arrival. It's good to remember that in times such as these, with the appearance of darkness overwhelming us, that Life keeps moving forward; babies are being born today - new hope, new breath, new life. We certainly have been wading through the other side of it all recently.

I picture you in my mind and heart, well and at peace and will hold that picture as we continue to wade deeply through our human muck. We truly are a strange species - capable of inflicting the darkest horrors and birthing the most tender beauty. Remember friend, we are not alone. I am here fanning tender embers of hopefulness and peace with my breath, as are others. The same breath that flowed through all our ancestors before, flows through and around each of us now and blesses the newly arrived who draw their first breath today.


Share in that first breath of the newly born - breathe in the life, the precious life. Here, Now, Breathe..."