Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Support – Kindness made Active

Monday, March 21st, 2016

I have some very supportive friends. The extreme demonstration of this was November and December of 2009. I had major surgery to remove a very large fibroid tumor. I lived alone, I had no partner, just my dog and I. Over 50 people chipped in and took care of me for almost two months. I had food, company, dog walkers, house cleaning, even assistance in the first few days turning over, getting out of bed, washing, and figuring out how to walk again.

That was support. And the experience was life changing for me. I had never known that sort of support.

Except of course from my parents. Whose support was strong clear, and very long lasting as it continues through my father to this day. But in many ways fading as he grows older, and actually needs more of my support,

I’ve been practicing kindness. It seems to be my most important spiritual path at this time. And I’ve been considering support, now that I’m single again, and also getting hints of what happily growing older may require.

I had a lot of support in my last relationship, and I am sad to be without the small and sometimes large daily ways of being cared for and nourished. Thrown back into the unwanted status of “single” my support has to again depend on the many individuals who are my community, my friends, people not necessarily pledged to me as a lover is, but who do respond and care in so many small and large ways.

And support comes from strangers and synchronis events and coincidences as well. It matters to stop and appreciate the small and large ways I have wonderful support. People who support my work by being clients or by sending clients to me. Requests for writing and teaching. Peers who challenge and inspire me to do better.

Gifts of food, company, money, chocolate. People who will lend a hand moving something, clearing out a closet, providing expertise as I puzzle out a new project. Those who show up and carry heavy objects, saw lumber, shovel sand and weed the garden with me.

Friends who will read and comment on a book chapter, tell me when I offended them, suggest a softer or more mature way to proceed with conflicts. The support of singing the song while I ranch off into exotic harmonies. The support of giving me a ride somewhere or adjusting my bike for me. Hoisting the canoe, paddling behind me, swimming into the deep part fo the lake together urging me to go further, climbing the mountain (literally) with me when I didn’t think I could do that.

Support in believing in my dreams, introducing me to someone who can make those dreams become real.

And my work, my time, is spent finding how I can support other people. Especially the ones who come to me as clients. I am especially called to support new moms anyway I possibly can. Support them in breastfeeding, support them in taking care of themselves when they are giving so much Support them in having the space and the time to fall madly in love with this tiny person new to the world. I have never been a mom, and never will, but they hold a special part of my heart.

But in all of my clients and students the real purpose is to find how I can support them to be wonderful. Successful. Happy. To make it through hard times, with more than they started with.

I support the cranial vitality when I do Cranialsacral Therapy. I support the brilliant ability of the body to heal when I do other bodywork. I support people being insightful and wise and powerful when we talk about their lives and their struggles. It is all just about being supportive. Finding those small and large ways each person can use support. Making sure they have other people and parts of their lives which are supportive, encouraging them to build more support and move away from the people and things that are not.

It is all pretty simple.

I could use more support in my day to day life. There are tasks and projects and dreams that are behind or delayed. I need help keeping up with day to day tasks, and so many things that need doing. I can be more aware of ways to support my friends and clients and community in those small and large ways, I can do so much more.

When I write about it, I become more aware. As I’m more aware I can be even more active and —- supportive.

Preserving the Past

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Long long ago I created a lecture series and a newsletter called “Contributions to Wisdom”. The lecture series was originally every Friday night, and then every other Friday. The lecture series and the 10 times annually publication lasted from 1986 to 1993.

I videotaped most of the lectures. The small ($3) donations that people made for each lecture covered the cost of tea, a blank videotape, and over time part of the cost of purchasing a video camera.

Some of the videos were available for rent at Crazy Wisdom, I lent out a number of them as well. Mostly they have sat in plastic tubs for almost 30 years, waiting for something to happen.

A couple of people that I videoed are famous – Patch Adams, Susun Weed, and Larry Brilliant. Most of the local practitioners remain well known. A few have died, many have moved.

Those VHS tapes are slowly losing quality and ability to be played. I’d like to preserve them. Transferring them to Quicktime and DVD has to be done in real time. And it uses huge amounts of computer storage space, which does get cheaper every year – even every month it seems. But it is a very large project. It can also be done professionally, for about $20 for each 2 hour VHS. I have 33 tapes of local practitioners, 16 of Susun Weed, and 8 of Patch Adams. Preserving all 60 tapes professionally would cost over $1,000.

If each local presenter could be found and sponsored their own preservation, I could start by saving those tapes. For about $25 I could have the tape transferred to quick time and DVD, put it up on YouTube, and also create a collection that might be of interest to the Bentley Library, The UM Integrative Medicine Center, and maybe Crazy Wisdom might make them available again.

Here is a list of some of the lectures – some have the title of the lecture, but most only have the name.

Jay Sandweiss intro to osteopathy
Larry Brilliant Karma yoga Apr 87
Cheryl Newel
Bonnie Breidenbach
Bernie coyne rubenfeld synergy
Leigh Daniels
Bronwen gates
Aura Glaser
Phil Rogers Amazon toucan Native American chants
John Friedlander
Brian odonnel
Don Mathis therapy
Emily Socha past life fact or fiction
Brenda Morgan
Manny Schrieber making relationships work
Wasentha Young the tau chi symbol
Patricia Current
Marsha Traxler homeopathy
Barb Brodsky
Bob bedard
Leigh Daniels magic and the qubalah
Catherine Lilly MyersBbrigs
Jonathan Ellis
Pat Kramer with Bronwen gates herbs and childbirth
Steve Bhaerman Swami Beyondananda
Leah song
Leigh Daniels Saturn and Neptune
Bernie coyne 4-5-91
Michael Vincent acupuncture
Judy stone

I do believe this is a valuable part of Ann Arbor’s early history of alternative healing and the practitioners who were the pioneers of integrative medicine, spiritual development and alternative therapies. I would welcome your ideas, response, and financial support for the project. You can contact me at
holistic – at –

The Thing About Grief

Monday, November 10th, 2014

My first dog, Zomba, was a therapy dog. For eight years we were hospice volunteers together, although she got most of the attention. She loved the work because she got lots of treats, but she was very connected to the work as well. I learned that when I saw her grieving for one of the patients who died.
z and bear wide shot 11-01 copy
It was someone who she had enjoyed visiting over a few months, and when she died I took Zomba to the empty room. She looked for her friend, she smelled the room carefully, and then she went to the door to leave. When we got home that day, she took her bear out – which by then had no stuffing left. She held it in her mouth, cradling it almost, and sighed very deeply a few times. She just stayed there, and I could feel the sadness in her posture and her breathing.

It was a position she used many times coming back from hospice. Only when someone died, and it was the only time she ever took out her bear and held it in that way.

My grief for Zomba when she died was like none I had ever experienced. I had cried losing pet cats, turtles, and even birds and other animals we held funerals for as a kid. Losing my first ever dog was much more visceral, deep, and painful. She had been such a part of my life every day nearly every hour for 9 1/2 years. It was a bond and a connection I had never felt before. I was so very alone without her, and she had been such a true and wonderful companion.

Everywhere I went, everything I did, she was a missing part. I grieved with my heart, my soul, my hands and my body that was used to having her next to me to touch and to hold. I missed her with every sense – her smell was missing, the sound of her nails on the floor, her warning bark or conversation about needing to go outside. My routines were gone, beginning the day with her by being outside. I noted all the ways I anticipated her greeting me at the door, coming to cuddle next to me. And how she anticipated out walks, visiting the people and stores she liked, the places we visited so often. She was so well integrated into my life I hadn’t known how cold and awful it would be without her.

The grief felt like missing part of my own body. Her absence was so deeply held inside of me. It felt never-ending and too large to ever contain. But that was seven years ago. It moved through me in waves, it did become smaller, the memories changed and another dog found her way into my life and my heart. And the grief is never-ending. It is still present, can still be evoked by photos, or stories. From holding the collar that she once wore. It is now every once in a while, not a daily sobbing and tightening of my jaw and the muscles around my heart. It is more sweet than pain, it is with love and not anguish.

Certainly death brings the largest grief, the never again loss, the tragedy of young death is especially great. When my mother died a friend stayed over, and in the middle of the night I woke him up in the bedroom next to mine and felt that if I wasn’t held and enveloped in his arms I might disappear as well. I sobbed, feeling on the edge of hysteria. He kept me in place. That same night I had spoken by phone with my grandmother, who had just lost her daughter. I heard her cry as I had never heard before. A parent mourning the death of her child, a pain so wrong and raw, so very primitive and piercing. Her loss was not like mine.

My brother gave us long warning of his impending death. Once the doctors said there was no hope he lived six more weeks saying goodby and pondering the transition he knew was coming. So we had moments to talk and reflect, and he said many things that I found important and helpful. But his death was still stunning and sadder than I could imagine. i felt that my whole history and life story was now partly lost. As well as my best source for encouragement, critical feedback, and support. All of the ways he was part of my life emerged as loss, and the grief and realizations continue even more than two years later.
6-14-12 AlDavid

So many deaths of good friends, family, and even the hundreds of strangers I met weekly at Hospice. So many tears, sorrow and connections. Sometimes I am at peace with our last words or times together, sometimes I ache for more or something different.

And it is mostly just the passage of time that soothes, that eases that ache, that allows me to explore that deep space the paradox of hollowness and fullness that is love, life, and loss.

The grieving of those still living is different certainly, but also mostly healed by time. The loss of a love relationship also hurts deeply and uniquely. It is one that i have mostly, in my past, tried to hide. Because it is embarrassing? Because I’ve been rejected? Because someone has found me not good enough? I don’t really know the impulse, but it is a strong one. My first love ended in total confusion when he sexually assaulted me. At 15, I couldn’t share the complexity of my guilt and fear and sorrow and rage at what had happened. I had many things to grieve, it took many many years to sort it out.

The wonderful sweet love that bloomed just after that ended a few yeas later just as suddenly, home from college while I was still in high school he broke it off the day after Christmas confessing to his secret involvement with another woman, and demanded I not contact him from that day on. I showed up for dinner with my family trying to conceal what had just happened just an hour ago in the room above the dining room table. I had to run back to my room in tears, midway through the meal. I had no idea how to hold the grief of ending. I certainly didn’t know that other people could be comforting and supportive.

I have been that comforting and supportive person so many times now. I’ve been given the opportunity to be with people grieving their losses and pain and suffering. It is an incredible honor to share those darkest moments with someone, to be wet with their tears and add my own with theirs. To just simply offer all I can be. I was once afraid to go there, to be there, to feel and to witness such vulnerability. That has changed to awe and to love.

There are skills in working through grief. There are therapies and rituals and waves of change and feelings to go through. The simplest help is knowing that time will help. That grief can overwhelm me, and I know it will also recede. It always has. It always will.

I also know that deep grieving allows the sky to be more blue, the leaves of the trees more stark and alive, food more filling and nuanced, each step I take has more meaning, the moments of happiness are sharper and more live. My state of grief is very close to ecstasy. When my mom was dying I first found that agony/ecstasy relationship and had many years to explore how that worked. It is simply about feeling alive.

I am grieving the ending of a relationship I thought, I felt, would last my lifetime. For now, every day brings tears of loss and sadness. I live within the waves of tears and changing mood. Every day I pass through the sudden and unexpected change in my life and how I spend time. I share feeling this heartbreak with times of joy and contentment. It isn’t really confusing, it just is. I’m happy to have loved so deeply, and I grieve what has ended and what never will be.

I appreciate knowing time will help. Time will pass, and the grief will lighten. It always has. i would like to live even more fully.

My Imaginary Energy Protector Made of Magical Plexiglass

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Sometimes imaginary thinks work really well. This one has been part of my practice for over 30 years.

Wanting to help other people is a natural urge. We may also be able to trace it to an evolutionary trait – those who were good at being a tribe survived the normal stresses and dangers of life better than those who were more outliers. We also have found that you can increase levels of oxytocin (one of the brain’s wonderful feel good chemicals) by being kind and helpful. Ironically – or purposely – when you have more exposure to oxytocin it also makes you want to be more generous. So you can get into quite a self perpetuating cycle when you help other people.

When you’re in a “helping profession” it isn’t hard to get pulled in and empathize with someone else’s pain or troubles. If you do this a lot, it can lead to burnout, resentment, lower levels of functioning, and even taking on the pain or distress form other people. The idea that “I’ll do anything” to help another may be an occasionally good idea, but certainly not sustainable long term for most people.

I found early on that some clients just took it out of me. I’d be exhausted afterward, I’d have dreams about them, I would obsess about their problems and if I helped them. It wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t workable.

So I imagined I had two tubes of magical plexiglass in my spine. One contained my personal energy, the other was inspired form that core current but only through the plexiglass. The core tube was untouchable. I didn’t use it when working on clients, and it could only be replenshed or “touched” by energy that was of equal or greater vibration. I use the term vibration as a way to imagine some spiritual core foundational energy that every has. Except mine is in a tube. The the secondary tube can be used entirely, and it is easily replenished from the core tube.

Why plexiglass? It was easy to visualize, it was familiar, it seemed like a fun thing. PVC isn’t transparent, I didn’t like the feel of soft plastic. No real good reason it was just what popped into my mind long ago. Some people were imagining crystal tubes and gem studded things. I wanted simplicity and practicality.

I’ve had many clients, especially moms in labor or their babies, who I wanted to give my all to feel better, be safer, or come more quickly in the case of a laboring mom. I don’t let myself go all the way. I don’t use that core current.

This has made it a pleasure and a refreshing experience nearly all the time I work with people. I rarely have trouble “taking on” the stuff that belongs with my client. I usually have more energy after working. I feel safe from any psychic jolts or weird activities that can go on. it is imaginary – and it works well.

just recently I’ve been considering instrumentation. Monitoring devices. Because this is all well and good, but can I also watch and monitor how my different energies are being used? That would add more control and specifics to my imaginary system.

I’ve had some digestive issues, and discovered a “monitoring” system for that. It has worked fabulously in choosing what to eat and when. There is a visual image, as well as an orientation of a spiraling wheel. That tells me a lot about how the system is working, if there are current glitches to be concerned about, and it also seems that I can “add energy” to the digestive system and then monitor the effect. Imaginary of course, but actually very precise as well.

I suggest using the idea to make up your own imaginary system to do what you need it to do. Practice using it consciously for a month or two and then let it be an unconscious practice most of the time. I’m still considering imaginary monitoring systems and would welcome any ideas you might have on that front as well. So far monitoring digestion before during and after has been a huge help for me.

I don’t need it to be real – just effective.

Saving a Life

Monday, August 4th, 2014

How many lives have you “saved”? What does that even mean? Is that a responsibility that anyone should accept?

There are numerous feel good stories about people who save someone from dying. Pulling a driver from a car wreck, successfully getting people at risk out of a dangerous country, stopping an attack on the street, knowing critical first aid. But what happens next can be complicated.

There are at least 6 people who I can say my intervention saved them from likely death, five of those instances confirmed by medical practitioners. In 34 years of practicing holistic health care there are other instances of helping people “wake up” to life, regain a sense of meaning and purpose, make lifestyle changes that certainly enhanced and prolonged life. And dozens of times I was consulted about what medical care was needed – and I was fortunate to know enough to send them to the ER or urgent care when it turned out conventional care was urgently needed.

Some were friends, some family, some clients, some complete strangers.

Considering those moments, those stories, those decisions can feel burdensome. Heavy. Partly because if I did indeed save these lives, the converse can also be true that I could have dropped the ball, made the wrong decision, and participated in someone dying. And not everyone will appreciate or thank you or even agree that your actions were helpful.

I don’t think we are meant to be responsible for other people’s lives. Even a parent is priming their children to let go, be on their own, be responsible for themselves. Holding on and claiming authority or ownership of another can’t work. If you are a parent, a teacher, or someone who has saved a life, you must let go.

The cliche “life goes on” is especially profound in this circumstance. You may have touched a person in a deeply meaningful and significant way. Then the best thing to do is to step back, let life go on, and be at peace with that. Maybe you’ll continue the relationship and be thanked on their death bed. That has happened to me. Maybe you’ll be vilified for your actions. Yes, I’ve had that as well. You may never see the person again, or only casually. Or they were too young to know your part or your role has been dropped from the story. That has also happened. Of the 6 people I did rescue, two would deny it and they also let me know they are angry about my intervention. Not everyone welcomes such an intimate and real contact. My one experience with a birth where there was a life threatening complication, it ended a long time close friendship.

I like it when it turns out I am the right person, with the right skills, at the right place, at the right time. And I can reflect that I did the best I could. Thirty years after the fact, my brother told the story of being exactly that. He had been trained in first aid and overdose aid, and as a 16 year old in 1973 he was staffing the first aid tent at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. They were handling people with bad trips, dehydration, simple things.

Then they were called to deal with a young man who was choking, whose airway was cut off. From some drug or allergic reaction, no one knew and there was no time to tell. As David told the story, they had all been trained to do an emergency tracheotomy but of course no one had actually done it. And David and the adults he was with all knew that was needed. But who would be willing to give it a try in this life or death situation?

No one was stepping forward, so David called for the pocket knife and a pen to use as a temporary tube. He says he cut the man’s throat, in the right spot, and inserted the pen piece. The man was breathing and regaining some color when the ambulance finally arrived.

The emergency crew quickly took over, but one of the paramedics commented that they didn’t want to know who did the emergency trach, but whoever did it did a good job and certainly saved the man’s life. What would he have said if he knew it was the bearded 16 year old standing by?

David told the story with great relief – he took action and it worked. It wasn’t the first time he was called to act quickly and decisively. He was the one who found the client who had tumbled down the stairs at the crisis center, fracturing his skull and lying in a pool of blood. He was the one who found the neighbor’s home on fire, and grabbed a hose while calling out for someone else to dial 911. David was very good in emergencies.

He also shook it off. He extracted what he could learn from each crisis, pondered why he saw so many of them, and evaluated his actions and those who were also involved. And then let it go, let life go on. Although he also relished a good dramatic story, and enjoyed sharing the lessons learned when he could.

I’m not entangled in the lives I’ve saved or the times I’ve been able to help. It works better that way, and I also don’t hesitate to be open to the opportunities to help. I believe in each person’s autonomy and hope they can be powerful, strong, fully enabled human beings. I truly cherish those intimate connections and sometimes grieve when that intimacy is cut off or fizzles away. And life goes on.

Talking to Plants

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

About 30 people came to the class tonight titled: “How to Talk to Plants and Avoid Giving the Impression of Lunacy”. Here are the highlights, and one important point I forgot to include.

First, that talking to plants implies lunacy and you might as well give it up.
The communication process takes many forms including visual cues (wilting, leaf discoloration), chemical signals to other plants, taste, smell, visual, how other plants respond, vibrancy, etc.
Plants also ask for what they need by virtue of where they grow, triggering water release if possible (olla irrigation again – the plants trigger additional osmotic release by root growth and pulling water into the roots), and also responding to nutrients in the soil.
How you perceive plant communication is a function of knowledge, observation, possibly synesthesia, and Gladwell’s ideas of Thinslicing also come in to play. As does Neuro Linquistic Programming, although I didn’t mention that by name. So while I may describe an interactions in words, I recognize that the plant does not use words.
Being in relationship with plants is part of our DNA.
We also talked about Findhorn and plant Devas, the suggestion that utilizing that understanding is especially meaningful with psychoactive and other more powerful plants, that synthesis and other potentizing may remove some of that connection.
Finally, I spoke of the Gaia Hypothesis and how seeds are truly awesome and bring us to a state of wonder.
I forgot to mention a simple beginning of relating to plants, starting with trees that have patience. Of course. I would have liked to also talk about the difference between annuals, biennials, and perennials and relating to them.
There is a tree in Wurster park that is a few hundred years old, with a great view from a hill to the city below. I find that just hanging out with that tree, maybe with your back against the trunk, is a very special experience of communicating with plants. Certainly natures wonders – and that tree is one – can inspire thoughts and feelings that are unique in what they communicate.
I loved teaching the class, and am glad so many came from so many places in the world!

Measuring Time

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

My brother David went into hospice care a month and a half after he turned 55. Six weeks later he was dead. I’m going to outlive my brother.
It may seem an odd way to measure time, but I do compare myself to my brother and where he was in his life. I just turned 55. I imagine if I was in that position, of drawing down my life, seeking medical help to survive a few more days, planning for the end looming larger with each trip to the emergency room.
After considering how big and hard and overwhelming and scary and sad that all was, I try it on and then the distancing begins. I would like to live a long life. And I work hard to make that as likely as possible. David died at 55, and our mother died a few days after turning 60. She was ill from congestive heart failure for 13 years. She had a damaging heart attack at 46, and lived the rest of her life less fully than she would have otherwise. She was sick a lot, weak most of the time, and eventually (by about my age) unable to work.
I can’t help but compare myself to them, especially my health and wellness and fitness. I walk a few miles almost every day. Because I like it, and it is often more convenient than driving somewhere, and my dogs need the exercise. But also because I want to live.
I count servings of vegetables and fruits, I eat foods I know will prevent cancer and heart disease. Because I love eating this way, passionately, but also because I want to live a long healthy life.
I think about what my mother did at my age. She was also writing, she was considering the larger questions of the meaning of life, what happens once you die, how to live as fully as possible. But when I’m out in the woods, flying around town on my bike, making love with my sweetheart, traveling and hiking and making new friends, I often reflect that she was not able to enjoy these things at this age. The fear of overdoing it, being incapacitated, having to call for an ambulance, always was in the forefront of her mind.
When David was right about this moment in his life, he went into arterial fibrillation and would have died without his pacemaker and defibrillator. That episode resulted in some long hospital stays, eventual surgery, days spent sedated with a ventilator, and then coming back home to hospice care.
I measure these moments.
It so totally sucks that both of these lives were cut short, and that they were marked with so much time being incapacitated, so many nights spent in the hospital. So many close calls and the pain and knowing life would be cut short. Even worse that both my mom and David haven’t been here to see what happened next, to do what they loved, to be with the people they loved. What would they have created and done if they had had that extra time to be well and strong for the years they deserved to live?
It is a bit surreal to outlive my older brother. The obligation to use every day, to live my life, to create and do and love more fully rests heavily on me at the same time it is an ecstatic state that fosters a deep awareness of the preciousness of life.
I cannot take the simple act of living for granted.
There are indeed many mysteries in life, and in this world. I’d like many more years to confront them, learn them, and go deeper into the many meanings and ways of being. The importance of that, the value of living fully, is made larger by the death of my brother, and also the last almost 21 years that my mother has been gone.
They both lived their full lifetime, but also too short a time. When I helped a client die who was 104 I experienced the contentment of letting go after a very full very long life. When I volunteered so many years at hospice I met thousands of people who died, most of them in their 80s and 90s. The more jarring and difficult deaths were of children, or middle aged people who were at the end, and not the middle after all. So many deaths are too final and too soon.
It is an odd way to measure time, comparing my life and my vitality to another. But where that leaves me is in this reflective state, and also inspired. As I’ve written this the sun has risen and this new day has come.
Taking nothing for granted…


Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I don’t know what to do for “the holidays”. We had tradition. Our family would make a big deal out of Christmas eve. We weren’t christian, but as kids my parents wanted us to have some normalcy and to be part of what everyone around us had. Presents and food and time together.

As we got older, the whole thing was moved to Christmas eve so that we could celebrate Christmas day with our “significant others” families. But Christmas eve was important to be together, especially to my mom.
Once she died, we limped along, and especially continued the tradition for my brother David’s three kids. The core traditions were to exchange presents, and to have a Swedish smorgasbord of food. That was modified a bit with my vegetarian conversion long ago, and David’s daughter becoming vegetarian and then vegan.
The other tradition was to open presents in the strict order of youngest to oldest, repeating that go around until people started dropping out from lack of presents. We also lightened up on that rule. My mother, the main enforcer, had been gone for years when we finally got lax about who was next.

The first Christmas in our new house in Ann Arbor. The three of us and my mom. My dad took the picture.

Then we stopped exchanging gifts once his youngest was 18. None of us really needed more stuff. My dad had been just giving us money since my mom died. Everyone seemed relieved although I’ll admit it was kind of strange and sad to not get any presents at all from anyone some Christmases. I do like presents, when it is something I actually need and will use.
When David got sick, he stopped hosting the party at his house. My dad did it a few times, as did I, but that also wound down. With my mom, and then with David, there was a lot of emotional baggage – what if this is the last Christmas together? Well, for both of them there was that last time.
We didn’t get together two years ago because David was suddenly much worse. We did last year, a short get together at my house, and I even let people bring meat. That was the last time we were all together.
We aren’t going to be getting together this year. I suppose partly because it makes the absence of David – still an open wound for each of us – more glaring. Added to my mom’s absence for almost 20 year now.
It is the end of a tradition. Which seems really sad. And should be a chance for a new tradition, a new way of participating in this “holiday season” that it sometimes feels like everyone else has.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know what matters, what I want to extract from this special time of year. I don’t want to feel alone, or left out, or without a family. I’m not sure even what special way I want to be with my sweetheart, who is really the closest to family that I have – this will be our 2nd Christmas time together. Last year I put up a solstice tree, and really appreciated seeing all the ornaments I’ve collected over my life, and the ones my parents have passed on to me. But that seems a little awkward still. I hadn’t done that since the Christmas after my mom died. That year I did the whole decorating, but ended up tearing down the tree and throwing it out the front door on Christmas. I couldn’t stand the memories without having my mom around. That was dramatic.
I would like to have some new traditions. But I don’t know what to do.
I will grieve the loss of family, the loss of tradition, and look for the opportunity for something new, something meaningful.

The holiday time is a stark reminder of who is missing. The people you have always shared this time with. It could be devastatingly sad. I need something else to do.


Monday, June 1st, 2009

I was part of two gatherings today. And they couldn’t have been more dissimilar. The first was a quiet somber affair, commencing at 8:15 a.m. There was only one person I knew, and there were a couple hundred people there. Jury Duty. No one was talking, people sat in chairs facing front, and tried to put distance between themselves and resisted sitting side by side. The long narrow room was hot and still. It became even hotter when coffee and sugary snacks were brought in.

People didn’t want to be noticed, acknowledged, called on. But we were. And I eventually was part of a group of 60 marched down to the court room. Once there it was an inspiring speech about the democratic process and the duty to serve. But many of us had to stand, it was so crowded, and we remained still and somber.

The seating process asked us to recall our own past horrors and possible connections to this trial, a murder with rape and larceny. Questions of our experience with knowing someone who was murdered, raped, assaulted, asking us to consider and then listen to others stories. Were we fit for this trial which promised to be brutal and difficult?

I had my turn in the jury box, and was immediately asked to leave. Was it because of my own sexual asault? People close to me? I’ll never know. Because I called the police last week? Perhaps. Because of the questions about knowing someone with DNA knowledge, mentioning my brother and his work with the 9-11 identification of victims.

I left feeling shaken, emotional, connected to those memories and stories, and questioning myself and if I should have ignored the real questions I had – could I be impartial and not moved by those stories and my own experiences? I thought I was that sort of person. And I had doubted myself. I told the truth.

After a long nap, I went to the memorial service for Ken King. There was traffic, so m early start got me there only a few minutes before the scheduled time. I arrived to a hall full of people I knew. Almost 400 smiling faces, so many were familiar, I walked into dozens of hugs and waves of hello and recognition. People who had read my article about Ken, and had lovely things to say about it. Old friends from decades past even. People I had lost touch with, people I had seen just yesterday.

I sat next to someone I hadn’t connected with in a while, and I said “I never want to move away from Ann Arbor”. On my other side were some farmers who I have enjoyed getting to know over many years, just chance meetings and welcome conversation. The sensation of home and community was so immediately strong. After the introduction we were asked to think of memories of Ken, and people told those stories, and sang, and told jokes, and the room was a tapestry of emotion and connection and ways that we cared and knew each other so well. The intimacy of 400 people sitting in a sort of circle, all faced to the center of the room, being together to celebrate a great man, I felt enveloped and warm and just wonderful deep inside myself. Accepted and part of something so large, and so sweet.

And after, we were fed and the food was unique and a crazy quilt of its own of tastes and combinations. And it was filling so one plate was enough. And people just talked and hugged and shared stories and they were happy and it all felt so velvety rich and loving.

I could hardly leave. My pain and anxiety and sense of being wrong that I had had all day was not even a memory. I felt loving and wanted to just embrace the whole experience, the strangers and the friends who had all come together.

Many hours later I’m home. Calm, happy, sad and aware I cried during part of the service. Feeling the contrast, so ever so more grateful by contrast for this small part of the world I live in with the hundreds of friends and truly good people to be with.

It was a good tribute to an extraordinary man, who I have hoped to honor in my other small ways. The night seems a little surreal tonight, I can not seem to sleep, but my heart is full, that peace and welcome are still palpable. And so delightful to have dipped into that caldron of love and community and hope and the honoring of a man who contributed so much to the richness of our lives. People like him feed it. And nourish us all.

A deep sigh for the contrast. I’m so glad I could fall into the arms of my place, my community, and feel so loved and blessed. Taking nothing for granted…

Another Canoe Trip

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Last Tuesday Gary and I were on the river before 9 AM, and we shared a celebratory Mango a bit after 8 PM when we took out very far down river.

The beginning was Island Lake Park, just below Kent Lake Dam. The river is immediately the Huron I’ve grown to love – long stretches of trees, grasses, bird sightings, quiet, and very few signs of human intervention. Transported by the river through wild areas and a view of SE Lower Michigan that is unique and that makes me breath a bit deeper just considering the features.

The paddling was easy, the landscape keeps changing and watching the water and the vegetation is more than enough entertainment. The silly conversations, long pauses between exchanges, pointing out sightings of birds or trees or turtles to each other, it all has a rhythm, it all just flows downstream.

I did see probably the largest turtle in a natural setting that I’ve ever seen. A huge snapper was settled in the sun, his/her? shell more than 18 inches across I guessed. This snapper slipped into the water as we approached, then came back out so that Gary could also appreciate how awesome he/she was. Later some sunning mud turtles were nearly as large. A great turtle sighting day. Not so with the birds. The usual companions – geese with fuzzy newborns, the Great Blue Heron flying down river with us, red winged blackbirds with their call that always puts me into a late spring time frame. A few swans, but not many others.

We stopped a number of times to stretch and eat and enjoy the river from the land. Lunch was quinoa salad, three kinds of bread (french, biscuits and past their prime muffins) with homemade butter, chocolate milk. We had found a picnic table in one of the metro parks. It seemed very private and secluded, and Gary commented that the only possible person that could come by on a Tuesday afternoon was the guy who mowed the grass – a circle of intervention in an otherwise pretty overgrown area of poison ivy, virginia creeper, dandelions, and other weeds.

We had finished lunch and were enjoying the quiet privacy when we heard the approaching mower. What bizarre timing. We just endured the loud intrusion and after two swipes at the grass, we were again in a quiet secluded place.

We were back on the water soon. At some point, the flooding and the downed trees became more and more of our focus. The river was blocked by dozens and dozens of trees. It was great practice for me to try and figure out if we could make it past, and where and how. We took a lot of detours into the flooded woods, zig zagging around live trees and back out to the river. But we also artfully found “V’s” and ways over limbs and logs and under branches.

There were also a number of bridges and branches that required laying full flat in the canoe to pass under. The water was high enough that there were just a few inches of clearance form the canoe to the bridge. I had to quickly scoot down flat and hope that Gary would tell me if I wasn’t down far enough. We made each one, but it was a little freaky to glide under some of those very old bridges just inches away from concrete and steel.

On the river the wind was gusty and not much of an issue. Further in our journey we crossed a few lakes, and it was more of a headwind. But even after so many hours of paddling we were still strong and made fast progress. The populated part of the river is interesting for a bit, but after a while it is hard not to get snarky about the over built houses, the overpowered boats, the over manicured lawns, and of course no one is around enjoying any of it.

I was fascinated by how the river changes and is wide and narrow, turns to a lake, then changes course. With no dams, this is all just formation, and the variety of ways that water can flow is just a mystery and a wonder for me. It is a part of what makes the Huron so wonderful. You literally can’t know what will be around the next bend or just a little further. It just kept surprising me.

Finally, after a number of trips on the Huron, the whole reading the signature of the water is beginning to make sense to me, and I’m kind of getting it. What seemed mysteriously brilliant to me a year ago – Gary’s ability to know which rocks we could go over, what had to be gone around – is something I’m beginning to see. What had scared me before — there are ripples! What’s hidden?! Will we crash?! — now I could anticipate what was under the water and know what the canoe could do. And as we went by, I got constant validation and feedback that I had seen this obstacle coming and there it was.

Of course Gary’s patience with my very basic questions, and teaching me more and more were essential in beginning to get it. I’m beginning to understand it, but even better I’m beginning to feel it.

Baseline lake eluded us for a very long time, we got a bit lost even taking a wrong turn into a channel at Gallagher Lake. I think that was the name. It had been a long day, we were both tired, and we paddled a really long time to finally reach the inlet for Baseline, the last large lake to paddle, and from there a quick trip to the takeout. We rested a bit, ate a bit, under a red bud tree which provided some color and a little sweet taste to the snacks. We had spent the whole day with no other boats or even many people to encounter.

The mower guy, 2-3 people fishing, a woman on shore who recognized me and ask me to identify a plant for her, a few home owners working on their lawns. In this chain of lakes, once it was past 5:00, the pleasure cruising began. Lots of large pontoon boats, motor boats, and once we got to Baseline a few windsurfers and kayaks. Only a couple were obnoxious. The one guy who sped up and into some peaceful swans as he passed us, we saw later fishing on the side of Portage Dam where is is clearly marked no fishing. So at least he was a consistent jerk.

No large or fast boat trouble on Baseline, and we made really good time getting across. After that, the river returned to how I best know it, and I relaxed for the final hour or so of river time. The few small rapids we found were easy with this much water, and the Hudson Mills rapids were fun – even more than last year – as we shot through them into a standing wave the poured a fair amount of water into the canoe. The sign on the bridge before them warns that they can cause drowning and death. So does that mean I’ve done death defying rapids? No, I didn’t think so.

I felt a strong sense of accomplishment as we passed the spot we had put in last year, our first canoe trip from the bridge above Hudson Mills to below Delhi. A long strange year, coming back to place with Gary I had only hoped I might return to with him, and certainly 6 months ago never imagined I would.

And completing that segment means I have just two lakes to travel, and I will have canoed the entire Huron. I can do that solo this summer, or with Gary as he has time.

The take out was a relief and also some sadness the long day was over. Gary sliced up the mango and just as we finished it Blanche met us in my truck for the journey back to Gary’s car.

I was grinning and happy, relaxed and excited still. Tired and wanting to run around to further work off the excitement of what I had just accomplished. I really loved the day. All of it. So glad I could experience the treasure of the river, with a wonderful man, and the perfect sun and nature. A lot of happiness, inspired by the Huron.