Archives for category: Learning

‘A desert is a place without expectation.’
~ Nadine Gordimer

I am a mountain girl.

Not only does this mean that I find the beautiful in majestic snow-covered peaks,  monumental boulders and expansive woodlands but it also means that I find the common, the banal, the (dare I admit it?) the mundane.

I know!  Presented with such grandiose splendor how could I ever take it for granted?  How could it just fade into the backdrop?

But being a mountain girl is exactly the problem.   With such blatant glory as the setting for all of my days, all of my routine, all of my own ordinary… they can sometimes become ordinary too.

So you can imagine why I never gave any thought to the desert.  Promoted as being barren and desolate with little to no life, little to no color…  How could that be beautiful in comparison to the brilliant and luxurious mountains that are at times not enough to capture my attention?

And so I was in my thirties before I was startled aware by the the exceptional loveliness of the desert.  The delicacy of the microscopic life there, the subtlety of the many shades of orange and gold that exist in the world, the unexplored depth of the sky… or earth… or self…

And I learned that without expectation, I was greeted with wonder and novelty and delight.

I have been thinking about expectation and the fact that it doesn’t seem to offer me any benefit.

Either I have high and hopeful expectations…  As have been my expectations that my partner will do what he said and at least consult the medical professionals to determine his current state of health.

And these expectations,of something out of my control, seem to be directly tied to disappointment and frustration.  Like those I am experiencing nearly two weeks after that promise and two more canceled appointments later…

Or I have extremely low, nearly dismal expectations…  As I have been having with my on-going state of unemployment.  Bemoaning being a highly-skilled specialist in a very narrow field and becoming increasingly discouraged by not even being able to find work in a ‘menial, meaningless’ position.

The end result of this sort of expectation is typically that something unexpected and rewarding causes me to deride myself for my fear and lack of faith in the universe.  But then I am ridiculing myself and have already spent countless hours awake in anxiety…

No.  Neither one of these situations seems to be an advantageous use of my time or energy or spirit.

And so, I have decided to rid myself of expectation.

I am going to focus instead on the things I can control.  Who I am.  How I perceive the world and recognize all of its mystery and wonder.  What I have to offer right here and now.  How to welcome each moment as a new discovery.  How to remain open and faithful to the certainty that there are microcosms and macrocosms spinning around me whose splendor I will know when I need to .


‘May the Light of God surround you,

the Love of God enfold you,

the Power of God protect you,

the Wisdom of God counsel you,

the Peace of God permeate you,

the Grace of God heal you,

the Presence of God watch over you.’

‘Mindful choosing of friends and lovers, not to mention teachers, is critical to remaining conscious, remaining intuitive, remaining in charge of the fiery light that sees and knows.’ 

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

On my 30th birthday, with my lover MIA, my family distracted by their own living, and my baby with his dad,  an extraordinary friend danced with me across the anomalous sand dunes of a high mountain valley under the lucid watch of a full moon.

On my 35th birthday, with my heart breaking, my certainty failing, and my questions compounding, a luminous friend bounded with me along a secluded back-packing trail in full view of the surf and stars, illuminated and elusive.

These are the kinds of women I know and love.  The sort that I stumble upon occasionally and who are so precious and rare that I cannot let them go.

They are brilliant, bold and brave.  They challenge me and themselves to greater being and so I collect them into my heart and life.

Being as exceptional as they are, they are an uncommon find, and so are scattered across continents and cultures.

This dispersion is the reverse of most collecting and it can be difficult to care for a collection like this.

I was reminded this week that I want to be more diligent and attentive to its care.

I recently ran into a lovely woman I know (my partner’s ex, mother to his step-daughter) in the grocery store.  She was clearly in a delicate state, one I have known well in recent months.

Fruits and juices and other edibles falling out of her overloaded arms, I went to help her and saw that she also clutched onto a large book, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a fantastic folklorist and seductive storyteller.

I commented that I was glad J (the partner) had given it to her.  (He had recently picked it up for me at a flea market, but as I already own a well-tattered and marked up copy, I suggested he give it to her.)

She responded by saying that actually, she had just now bought it at the thrift store next door and that he hadn’t yet mentioned it to her.

The synchronicity struck me.

I haven’t read the book in years, and here it was coming up twice in as many weeks, and just when I have been feeling isolated, disconnected and alone.

(For those who haven’t read it, it is an amazing read about female archetypes and the collective spirit that runs through and fortifies the feminine.)

I promptly suggested that we read it together and put together a discussion group.

I know of a couple other women right now who are moving through their days with heavy burdens and unknown futures.  Each time I see them, I hug them and suggest that we get together… but we never do.

Today, I am making the deliberate decision to pull out the duster and polish up the somewhat neglected collection of amazing women that I already have.  I am writing letters of love and appreciation and creating art to reflect the color they bring to my spirit.

I am also taking conscious actions to add to that collection, here, where I am now.

I am going to gather together my tribe that we may teach each other and strengthen each other and care for each other.  There are remarkable women out there and I am going to make them mine!

‘Sanctuary, on a personal level, is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul.’     

~ Christopher Forrest McDowell

I believe strongly in the sanctity of location.

That there are places or points on this earth where the spirit of the Divine resides unrestrained.  Where brilliance and peace and hope are present and waiting to touch and fill up any wandering souls.  Where a blessed wonder is accessible to all who pause a moment there.

Most of said places that I have encountered are natural spaces…

An apse-like alcove built of lavender stone and boulder where sunlight dappled through the trees and water’s laughter kept company; a shoreline where self was transported into the endless expanse of the sky and encompassing revelry of the thundering waves; a valley stippled with the vivid confetti of alpine flowers springing from the immaculate snow, just the opening act of a gala unfurling…

But I am fortunate to have also tumbled onto constructed spaces that have, either consciously or not, welcomed the Sacred and now offer refuge and safety to the weary soul…

An ancient cathedral in the Breton countryside where filtered sunbeams caressed the quiet hopes and apprehensions of those who’d left them there; the rock-cut tombs of a long-forsaken Byzantine city carved in celebration and honor of their much-loved inhabitants; a jungle-swathed Mayan temple wrapped in the celestial embrace of morning mist and mystical myth…

It is harder for me to find those spaces now, today, in my newly dressed metropolism…  And yet my need for this sort of refuge becomes more apparent and presses in on me.

My mountain-raised self is becoming more and more confined and crippled by the concrete and steel which now encase my days.  (I am remembering this feeling from my last city-spell…  Then, it sent me running for isolation, but that is not a tangible option right now.)

And so I am seeking the sacrosanct in urban edifices…  In which modern places (in a rather young, progressive western city) might someone have remembered to invite and leave room for the Sacred?  the Divine?

Where might I find the contemporary spaces which can replenish and sustain my dehydrated spirit?  Those filled with the grace, joy and tranquility upon which my real life is dependent?

Where do you find yours?

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?'”   ~ George Bernard Shaw

Last night I dreamt that I was in the Southern United States after the Civil War, during Reconstruction.

I was in what must once have been a beautiful and affluent city.  From my vantage point, which allowed me a nearly aerial view, I could see wide streets lined with large buildings, Georgian and Neo-classical in design.  Elegant and enormous and entitled…

However, the presiding mood of the city held none of this.  Instead it had been replaced with chaos and rivalry and fear.  The large avenues, once symbolic of an ordered existence, were muddy and torn and often un-navigable.   Many of the once graceful and imposing buildings were falling into disrepair, some reduced to rubble, and some burning, crumbling, turning to ash right before my eyes.

I knew of the enmity that reigned there.  Former military leaders, Majors and Generals, men used to power and authority…  struggled to command control of the city’s restructuring, desiring to maintain their status in the face of defeat and disenfranchisement.

And this new civil-contention kept the residents, the already physically, mentally, emotionally displaced men and women, fearful and confused.

I was not alone in my observation.

I had a companion who watched over the scene with me.  A man who was clearly part of the story, yet who possessed neither the fear nor the compulsion present in the other characters.

He, I discovered, was a Mineral Engineer.

He knew of the resources that lay beneath the stone and wood and failing dreams…  He knew how to unearth them, name them and verify their worth.

He was the principal upon whom the various other factions were depending in order to guide their new conceptions, their new decisions, their new realizations of a new life.

He was calm and confident and clear.  And he was my friend.


I awoke feeling strangely satisfied and secure.

Sensations of smoldering edifices and crying children still evident and alarming…  But it was the certainty of my companion that left me feeling strong and certain as well.

According to Jungian analysis, dreams of fire represent psychological transformation and may indicate either destruction or purification.

Houses are meant to symbolize the emotional self… and I don’t know that the razing, crumbling, looting of my emotional self sounds like a comfortable undertaking.

But I do know that my cohort was unafraid.  He had knowledge of what lay beneath that I did not have and could not see.

He saw treasure and possibility there.  And he was excited for what would come.

So, that is my focus today.

To look below the seeming chaos and disaster of my current situation.  The dying of my love.  The collapse of my friendship.  The trepidation of the unknown.

To know that there are plentiful and untapped resources there, within me.  And that out of the destruction will rise something new and intentional and flourishing.

Once, I knew

how to peer from within,

conscious of the framing of vision

which needs make up my



Now I cannot will that insight


without unbidden stimuli.


Like that first snow which

covers my scrutiny, filtering

its severity until the very

meekness jars me

into bewildered awareness.

‘Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.’
~  Alfred North Whitehead

The lovely, Modern Miracle Me , has recently nominated my blog for a Kreativ Blogger Award.   As I have said in gratitude to her, I am humbled that anyone would take the time to read my random musings, and am incredibly honored to have them recognized by a peer in such a way…

The Award is designed to encourage more sharing, both of oneself and of the other amazing talent that can be found in the blogosphere.

As a condition of acceptance, I am to tell you ten (10) previously unknown facts about myself and then point you in the direction of at least six (6) bloggers who deserve this same acknowledgment.


  1. I listen to Foreign Language tapes when I am feeling insomnic.
  2. I can’t do dishes without wearing dishgloves.
  3. I am in love with trees.
  4. Sometimes when I use sugar-scrub, I forget if I’ve washed my hair.
  5. I find hilarity in the ironic – and have (? regrettably?) passed this on to my son.
  6. I am considering anarchy (the pacifist, feminist kind).
  7. I am a nerd.  (A little cheat, as that may have been known…)
  8. I can’t drink out of plastic cups.
  9. Such things as canyons, tractors and mechanical schematics turn me on.
  10. If you run into me on the street wearing an interestingly textured shirt, I am likely to ask if I can touch you…
And then…

The following are some bloggers I greatly admire.  I am a linguist (oh, #11!) and language and its usage are important to me.  These writers know that words are like paint, and create true art.  Thank you to each of them and to you for offering them your kind appreciation!!

‘We empower ourselves through education and through knowledge, and without that we limit ourselves.”‘       ~ Shakila Ahmad

I am a know-it-all…  well, I aspire to be one.  And not one of those know-it-alls who thinks they know everything, but they really know nothing.  No, I even know how much I don’t know.

And I don’t want to acquire knowledge to hold over others.    I just have this insatiable curiosity that wonders about everything, that wants to comprehend how everything works, what everything means.  I need as much information as possible to understand the world and to, therefore, choose my path in it.

This is at the root of my need to know more about my partner’s cancer and approaching death.

I want to be prepared.  I want to know more than Death, so that I can anticipate it and recognize it and… what else?  What would I do with more knowledge?  Would I try to counter Death?  Would I welcome it?  What?

– Three years ago, half of my body went numb.  Well it was probably closer to 18.7%.  But it was all localized on the left side.  And I had no toe-reflex.  (That is apparently a very bad thing, for those of you who don’t know.)

The experts thought I had MS.

It turns out that I just had a crazy reaction to the emotional stress of my job and family.  But, before I got the results from those final MRI’s I had learned everything I could about the disease and the symptoms of the disease and its progression and impact.  I wanted to know everything, so that I could be ready and I could ready my child and I could prepare for any anticipated eventuality…

– That is what I want now.  To know everything so that I may recognize and ready and prepare.  I want to know so that when I see things happening, I have an idea of what it means… whether it means that Death and I are closer to this meeting.