COSMOS OF CHANGE

I drove our old Ford past the rusty sign for cider outside Rancho Arnaz. My son fell asleep in the back to the sound of the rolling wheels. An open umbrella beside him. A dismembered torch. A trunk full of groceries. I remember having dreams about this time. This time of Americana. It reaches so far. All the way to Western Australia, the strange music of this country. Part of me wonders about home, and where it is. I know the potency of being on home soil. But this is my home now. A small country town where I feel most like myself, most able to grow, and most able to root down, also.

What do I want to say? I carried our boy in to his bed and pulled the duvet up over him in the room filled with him and our love for him. I made myself a sandwich. I put the groceries away. I find the old oat groats that the mouse has been eating. I sit down at the table. I feel the presence of something as I look out across the mountains. I am eating when a large brown hawk catches my attention. Circling, lifting, turning. Circling, lifting, turning. The hawk seems to be trying to look into the house on the hill, past the Italian cypress trees that frame the deck and in through the windows. At me.

Who am I? Yes, I still ask myself this question. I feel I have arrived at some kind of peace lately. A beautiful surrender, where the silence sits without taunting me. My critic abated. My soul awash with thank you. But still there is the curiosity. What next? Is this…. the end? The beginning of the end? My life up until motherhood was a series of chapters with rollicking sentences and full paragraphs. Sentence sentence sentence sentence comma sentence comma sentence hyphen sentence and so on. But motherhood, or more accurately giving birth, was a full stop. The end of a chapter. A conclusion. New page. New chapter. Not a new book – it’s still the book of me – but a total and complete end. 

I never imagined it would be this way. I imagined I would sail through motherhood seamlessly like it appears in films and fairy tales, with my sweet bouncing baby and myself a joyous mother. There have been so many moments like that, AND there are the other moments too. The moments so taboo we do not dare speak of them. The moments that can consume a woman with doubt and dismay. The moments of not enough. “I often feel useless,” one mother told me a few weeks ago. She has two year old twins, a beautiful house in Ojai, friends and a nanny. Of course the question arises, how can it be that we still feel this way? With all the rights we have fought for, as women, as mothers, to return to work, to start businesses, to work from home and away from home? I believe we still feel this way because we are mortal and immortal. We have tasted freedom, and we know the sluice of bliss beyond form. We have touched it in sex, in risk, in letting go. But we are bound. And with children, we are further bound. Bound to the sweetness, to the slowness, to the patience and the path. In birth, we touch the beyond. In motherhood, we retreat back from infinity to the rawness of now.

I keep thinking of Patti Smith and her words in M Train about how when she was a mother she read book after book of Japanese literature. No shows, no new music. She was mother. She focused. Her two children slept in the room she had wall-papered black in the hopes of having a small Japanese tea room for herself before they were born. I think about her because of the surrender and the wisdom I feel she offers us, we women of today. Raised in a popular culture of having it all, but somehow knowing that the simple things are the blissful things. Waking into the ancient ways, the old ancestors whispering their messages to us: “Slow down. Take stock. Be grateful. Make soup.”

Personally I’ve been grappling with the concept of it being okay to stay at home and be a mother, as confronting as that sounds to me sometimes. Shouldn’t I be off traveling the world!? Working, at conferences, book tours?! Free wheeling with the best of them!? For me, being with my son at home has been the greatest gift and the greatest challenge. To calm my fast and furious heart and tell my artist self, my muse, it’s okay. I love you. We’re not going anywhere right now. We haven’t given you up. Everyone loves you. Stay. Come home. We will write. We are learning from each other. You are learning how to put your feet in the earth and feel her. Learning not to chomp at the bit and throw your body at the gate. Stop running. Even with your mind, stop running. I am learning, as a mother, that it’s okay to be simple. It’s okay to be pure.

When I touch this place within myself, a lake of tears rises behind my eyes. How long you have been running, dear child. How long you have been trying to get to this, this home, this love, this purity of form. The tears come because I am grateful, and I am present to how far I have come and how slippery life is. I am 32 this August, and I still remember the smell of gasoline from our family road trips and the bond we shared which fractured. I remember that last birthday I had before it all fell apart. When ‘Across the Universe’ played on the black stereo and my two brothers and sister danced around while I sat at the head of the table surrounded by ripped wrapping paper and the remnants of croissants. “Nothing’s gonna change my world,” The Beatles sung. But I knew. The seer in me knew. It will change. I knew this was the end, even though I denied what I was seeing and feeling. There was a bitter sweetness to the energy in the air. I knew we would never be the same again. I tried very hard to hold on to the beauty of that moment, in the moment, but the tears were a wall behind my face and I could feel the train coming.

A month or so later, my sister got a phone call from IMG, the biggest modeling agency in the world, and was soon opening for Miucca Prada’s show in Milan, which set off a snowball effect of unseen proportions. The demand for my sister was staggering. Her career was spell-binding. But for me, it was devastating. I missed her so much, the energy of her being in my life. In leaving however, she is the one who got me writing, got my work published. She is the one whose actions carved me up and poured me out in ways I may never have done had she not walked that path. It’s only now I can see, in hindsight, that perhaps she did it all for me. In some pre-being place where souls make contracts with each other, perhaps we agreed to walk that path together so that I could be who I am today, and vice versa. For years I hated the effect that her fame had on me. I starved myself, I punished myself, I despised myself. I thought no one cared about me or even saw me. I felt invisible. She was on the cover of dozens of Vogues all around the world and I was nobody. But it got me writing. It got me dreaming. It got me really living.

I still can’t listen to that song without weeping. Reading the lyrics it seems to be a hearkening spell of the time to come, when I would go on to flow words like endless rain into a paper cup. I moved to New York to be closer to my sister and started a small imprint called Paper Castle Press, and a blog which I poured my heart and soul into. Literally hundreds of thousands of words. And now? That paper cup is becoming a book, and I am a mother. Everything changes. We live a simple life, and I still have endless dreams. In many ways, I am in the last verse of the song, with its sounds of laughter and shades of earth, ringing through my open views inciting (oh yes) and inviting me. To return, to ground, to remember who I am before all of this dancing across the film screen of reality. 

I’m not sure about the chorus though, because everything will change your world. There is something so deeply melancholy to this line. It reminds me of my son crying to either one of us going out the door, “Don’t go! Don’t leave me!” Nothing can change who you are, your essence is beyond time and space, but the world, and specifically your world, oh, it will change alright. Nothing like motherhood, and childhood, to remind us of that. So I am learning to get comfortable with the constant changing. Not just my son’s evolution, but my own changing. I have been learning this my whole life, actually. Turning and turning like a plant in the face of the seasons. Tuning in to the call of my soul on the other side of the wall, where I have thrown my hat. Even a mountain does not stay the same. Even the sun is altered every moment by its own being. The only thing that doesn’t change is this limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns… The essence of me. The emanation of love that radiates from my heart earth-wise, starry souled heart. It calls me on and on…. across the universe. Chasing my hat, chasing the bliss, chasing the memories, too.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box they
Tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a
million suns, it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.

THE JEWEL IN THE OCEAN

There isn’t a moment when I am not thinking about my writing and how to get back to it. I think about all the streets I walked in New York City and how different my life is now. I often feel far far away from my creative genius because I am not surrounded by eccentric wildlings on numbered streets and decades old facades, holding infinite stories…

But you know what? I’m here now. And I am healed. I’m not her anymore. And that’s okay. I am tired of pretending that I’m not enough, not as great as I was, not as awesome. I am awesome. I am still her. And I have done so much in the last nine years. Nine years! I don’t want to keep living my life looking back and wishing my days away, wishing I could get back to that bohemian life when I wanted nothing more than what I have now.

Where am I now? I am perched in a house on a hilltop in a mountain town called Ojai, in Southern California. My sister’s velvet couch has followed me here and there is the brown and white cow skin rug from our friend’s loft in Soho, the first room Isaac and I shared together. She has come with us on our almost six year journey too. There are the plants we bought from the exotic plant shop on La Brea in Los Angeles, the store owner a mystical plant-whisperer sort, with his handlebar mustache and scent of pot. There is a fire burning in a stone fireplace, a three year old boy in a room of his own, a dehydrator humming while making yogurt, the whole wide world beyond this hill top.* I am alive. I am well. I am breathing.

I do miss the creative stimulation of my New York years, but I think this longing is a signal to go on some twinkling adventures. Permission to explore! Permission to have new experiences! I need them. I crave them. On Monday I took my son to the nearest Wholefoods for grocery shopping + dinner after surrendering to the easy road of parenthood. In becoming a mother I have become passionate (it is more an activation of a past obsession) about health and, well, perfectionism. I must be the perfect mother, my son must be perfectly healthy, perfectly untouched. This drive spilled over to my activism, too (I knew that when we moved to Los Angeles I would either become depressed, or a crazy activist. I became both.) Seeing films and documentaries about the state of the planet I worry about the future for my son. Writhing with discomfort I couldn’t stand it any longer without doing something. So I decided to boycott the plastic industry and work on reducing or eliminating my plastic consumption habits.

But heck. After a year of this I realized that raising a toddler without plastic is very challenging, especially for someone who wants to work, who wants to travel and leave the house every once in a while. My point is, in going to Wholefoods and getting a slice of pizza for my boy for dinner (“What was your favorite part of today?” “Pizza!”) I surrendered and let go to the life that is right in front of me. The beautiful, rich, busy life of raising a small human. No matter how hard I have tried to be perfect, I am not. And my critic could not handle this not-ness. But in surrendering to the imperfect perfection of it all, my critic can rest. It is perfect! It is enough! Look around you! Be in the now! The toys on the floor are beautiful! The ache in your neck, the ache in your feet, the weight in your eyes, it’s beautiful! Sure, you are not trudging through the snow on 2nd Avenue at age 24 any longer. You’re not having to ride the screeching subways and stand in lonely stations waiting to go home with no money and no love life. You’re not having to wonder what’s next (actually, yes you are and you do) and how am I going to afford to eat next week. You are a brilliant and prolific writer, yes, as you were, AND, you have been blessed beyond measure. You just haven’t been listening to your angels too much. You’ve been listening to the critic, and caving in to her demands.

You can never go back. You wouldn’t want to. You can return in moments of memory through the writing you have done, but you are here now. And you are still you! Look at what you have done and all the steps your feet and heart have taken to bring you to this moment. Trusting in the signs. Paying attention. Knowing when to leap. Leaping. Falling. Being caught by the most beautiful man. (“I want to heal your body…”) Walking. Lifting. Moving. Grounding. Birthing. Working. Changing, irreversibly.

Irreversibly.

Not able to be reversed.

Not able to be undone or altered.

Irreparable, beyond repair.

Irremediable, irrevocable. Permanent.

Unalterable, unchangeable, Immutable.

Carved in stone.

This ongoing life. These choices we make that change everything. Beyond repair. Indeed the becoming of Mother altered me forever. I am still integrating this shift. Still working my inner child and my inner artist in with this mother archetype. Who am I? A complex contradiction. A multifaceted, incalculable being. A woman who is always changing, never the same, not even the woman I was when I wrote the first sentence of this piece. I have said it so many times, but I never know what I am going to write about until I start plowing the itch within. Thank you itch! Thank you sadness. Thank you discomfort. Thank you longing. The longing has been here the whole time. One of my readers at Paper Castle Press (where are you Dan?) reminded me once that “You can never step in the same river twice.” Of course we are all rivers and you can never meet the same being twice, either.

I am different, and yet I am still somehow here, same as ever. Still focused inwardly and outwardly on some untouchable goal. Like a jewel whose brilliance I see in flashes beneath the ocean, but can never quite find in the dark once I dive. I know it’s there and I keep mining this vein of gold (perhaps now it is more of a diamond mine, made under great pressure) because the flashes of light are intoxicating on a hunt like this, in the dark. I don’t know any other writers who plow the depths of their being like this, aside from my literary godfather Henry Miller. But this is the writing I want to read the most. Raw, real, human struggle and triumph. On the page. Right here. So I’m going to keep going, because Henry isn’t around anymore and while he has left us a wonderful treasure chest of the jewels he mined from within himself and his own life, I feel the wealth of treasures inside me and I know I need to turn myself (gently) inside out to find them. Like a truffle hunter or a hawk circling for mice in a field, I am hell bent and devoted. The instincts are strong. The risks are few. The riches are infinite.

Thank you for coming along on this ride with me, whoever you are. I don’t know who I touch when I write, but at the same time, I know exactly who I’m talking to.

*Sounds pretty bohemian to me!?

MIDDLE MOUNTAIN

Written July 2016

The voices of tomorrow call me forward. I must learn to breathe again in this middle ocean, stop pushing the boat with every fiber of my being, and let the ocean take her. Learn to love these salty oars and the mist of the splashing seas. It’s easy to begin an adventure, so exciting to reach the summit, but how to we navigate the middle mountain? The hardest part of the journey, the most challenging. I have seen the eyes of women and the tears behind their faces, and I never know what to say. I know. I feel you. I am so sorry.  

I drink the water and feel the heat of the ground. I consider taking Julius to all kinds of places these days, but my bones are so tired. The high noon presses us to the earth. Slow, my child. This modern life, and we animals. I yearn to lay on the grass and find the moments of solace that modern life has seemingly eradicated.

My friend Kristin arrives soon after July fourth in her white Vanagon named Dandelion. I have just had laser eye surgery and am still recovering from that experience. I am asked to sign a yellow consent form upon arrival and reading about everything that could go wrong I question whether I am doing the right thing. What if I never see again? What if it works? I have to trust.

When it’s over, with the flashing purple clicking and the smell of burning flesh, the two nurses and the doctor take the tape from my eyelashes and the apparatus from my eyelids and I sit up. They tell me to open my eyes slowly and the doctor asks if I can see the clock on the other side of the room. I nod my head yes. “Can you see the second hand?” I begin to cry. The nurse pulls me in for a long hug as I breathe in my tears.

My sight is not perfect yet, but I am so grateful that I can see, and I trust in the guidance of my eye doctor, one of the best in the world. It’s warm back in Ojai and I am comforted by the familiar feeling of the green velvet couch and the smell of my kitchen. The light is blinding so I set up the guest room and sleep all afternoon and night. “You a bee, mum?” I wear eye shields with tiny holes in them over my eyes when I sleep and Julius makes me laugh. The weekend comes and goes in a blur of burning and darkness and being taken care of.

July fourth is on Monday. We watch the parade from hay bales set up along the street outside a friend’s shop in Ojai. Americana streams by, old cars and big guns, a marching band and dancing horses. We drink champagne and ride our bikes home for a nap. Isaac gets a call when we wake up about a private party. His band has been requested to come perform for a large fee. He doesn’t mention the part about it being in Portland, Oregon. I haven’t seen him much this month so this is hard on the heart. But I tell myself it’s just lights in the sky, and we are Australian anyway! Still, I wish we could be together for this one holiday. Isaac tells me all he wants is to be kissing me under the fireworks.

My friends pick Julius and I up and we go to the pool at the Rancho Inn. I meet the sweetest couple with sun kissed faces. They live in Kenya with their four month old baby Harmony. I feel I have stepped into another dimension of beauty in their presence. Meanwhile, there are six magnolias about to bloom on the tree across my fence. How do they do it? Such courage to blossom in the face of eternity.

The sun rises and falls each day. We walk beneath it differently than yesterday, still breathing and rising, sighing and crying, kissing and touching. I remember there will always be dishes to wash and laundry to do, empty fridges to fill and surfaces to wipe down with damp cloths. The pace of modern life brings no solace. But I do not need to rush, do not need to engage. There is a voice that speaks to me and me only. You have your angels and I have mine.

We are lucky this way.

YESTERDAY’S HOME

A man plays guitar as we wait to board the plane. He wears a boating cap and thin silver glasses. He is Chinese and tunes his guitar every few songs. I pick out Viva La Vida, Piano Man, a line I recognize but can’t place “and I see my reflection in the snow covered hills…”* Many of the songs are his own, finger picking tunes that soothe the gathering passengers waiting to board. It has been an hour or more since I sat here. He adds a whistle to the tune. I am so grateful for this whimsy! As he strums the ending of a song one woman claps and then we all join in and a gentleman says, “Thank god for this man.” His flight has been delayed too. “Hey,” the guitarist shrugs. “If we have to wait we may as well enjoy it!” People are still clapping sporadically. He raises his fist gently in the air, bows his head and smiles.

This trip has been very good for me. A closing. A completion. The ending I never felt I got to take. I wasn’t ready to leave that place. My energetic body was somehow buried deep in the ground. It’s no wonder – I buried my placenta there, gave birth there, was married there. So many memories embedded in the surfaces and corners and fractals of this house. The coiled electric stove where Isaac would cook dinner in the summer before bringing the food out on plates for an evening picnic surrounded by fireflies, the sky darkening to a royal blue. The banister of the staircase an underline for the images we framed of our wedding day, now empty. The overgrown pot plants like children who went to boarding school, their faces now slightly different and their hair all grown out but they are still so familiar after all these years.

Miraculously the tulips we planted at our engagement party are still growing in the garden bed, untouched by the resident gophers. I remember how each guest at our engagement celebration was offered a tulip bulb and asked to plant it in a portable bed of soil with a blessing or a wish for us. Out of thirty odd guests, there are five or six tulip plants that come back year after year. It has been six years now. Strong blessings! I learn that the neighbors’ boy, who I would watch through the kitchen window kicking his soccer ball in his yard, is now 16 and driving a car. I visit the young willow tree whose tendrils I would make dream catchers from. She now stands alone by the canal – the large tree she was leaning on has been cut down. Only she remains. Standing free and naked in the winter chill. I am proud of her. And proud of myself. I let us both know.

I talk to the tree and let her know I remember her. I talk to the house through my tears and let it know how deeply grateful I am for the experience its walls have held space for. Our friends from New York took over the lease and now use the house as their weekend home. It is decorated differently, but I still feel strongly the spirit of it. This house…  The first house we moved into together, in the two months after we met and the two months before we got married. It was the house where I wrote my first novel. It was the house where I grew pregnant and round, slowly, slowly, while the leaves fell to the ground and then the snow too. My beloved went on tour that winter and I stayed in the house alone, week after week. Me and our baby, sewing our selves together in so many ways.

When I was heavily pregnant it heavily snowed. I would pull on my snow boots and a big black jacket and take a long walk to the forest. The snow came up to my knees and I couldn’t see the grass underneath. Breathing hard I didn’t need to walk far to get my heart pounding. The only sounds were the songs of some tiny, audacious birds and my lunging footsteps crunching white. Piercing silence. Breath. The living field. In the spring that melted everything, this was the house where I gave birth. My water broke in our big wooden bed on the second floor, and the bathroom with the wooden floorboards was where I waited for our midwife. I was pinned like a magnet to the living room as the contractions built. I hung from the limb of a tree in bloom alone as the sky grew dimmer.

At 1AM I gave birth in the house. We carried our baby upstairs and slept all through the night. Spring blossomed in the peaceful river valley. Early summer came with its sweltering humid nights and the electric bolts of lightning that made my two month old  wail. And then we left. We traveled with Isaac for three months as he toured with his band around Australia and America and halfway through I felt a shift. The perfect haze of this glorious time had transferred itself into an ominous sense. An emptiness. We returned to the river valley in late October just in time for holiday season. It was cold again and I could feel it all slipping away. My son was crawling and we were all so happy. But inside I knew when I looked out the kitchen window across the dying grass that my time had come.  That we would not be here next year, or the year after that. It was the same grass I had watched deer run along when we first found the house, and though iridescent green in summer, it was grey now.

And we did leave. We moved to California and I came kicking and screaming. I was not ready. We lived in LA for ten long months before moving to a little mountain town near Santa Barbara. When I say we lived in LA, it was more of a half-life. I was not really living. I felt like I was dying. I was miserable. But holding on to hope, I began crawling my way back up the cliff face. Having heard a whisper in my ear to get a shamanic soul retrieval the month we moved, I listened, and through a long and winding road of kismet, I was led to the town we now live in, flanked by mountains and perched on a hilltop surrounded by abundance. It has taken some time for me to feel integrated after this wild goose chase, but thankfully, in going back to that old house, I feel my soul retrieval is officially complete. I knew I had to go back, alone, and physically retrieve some part of myself. Was it the floral print jeans I had left in the basement which harbored some part of my soul? Was it the leather jacket I had found in an East Village thrift store for $10? Was it the sight of the willow tree, or the tulips? Was it the goat skin bag my sister had given me on the eve of our iconic road trip back in 2008, the trip that started this whole America thing?

Probably yes, maybe no. But who can really say? The truth is, I was afraid of changing, as the Stevie Nicks song goes. It all seemed so heavenly, and then it wasn’t. I wanted it all to be perfect, and for it to stay that way. One of my most treasured memories from that house is of a moment sitting on the grass with my newborn baby watching Isaac hang white sheets in the sun, flanked by the daffodils and marigolds in the garden bed, the violets in the lawn. Sun and life and family. Heaven. In truth it was a moment. A chapter. A season. A memory. Gladly, I have found an ending for that chapter. A happy one. I am okay. We are okay. And we are better for our journey. Somehow I know we will return to that place and its land – perhaps for vacations with our friends, perhaps to live in the area in our elder years. In the meantime, I am so grateful for the chess moves of our family, for my husband knowing that this part of the world was ultimately the best place for us, for the mysterious dance of life and the web that we are woven into. I walk out into our garden in California and it is paradise every day. In my estimation, we have taken that moment of heaven I remember and extended it all around us. It’s only in hindsight that I realize how brilliant this is, how difficult the journey and yet how worthy an effort.

*Stevie Nicks!

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mmm, mmm, mmm
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I’m getting older too
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I’m getting older too
Oh, I’m getting older too
Awh, take my love, take it down
Awh, climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide bring it down
Oh, the landslide bring it down

THE INTUITIVE WAY

“You hold a contraction in your body, as do most people, that comes from early shocks and disappointments about the extent to which fear makes people  cold and hard. By holding it, you unknowingly create a false meaning, or identity, for yourself. This is old thinking, and unnecessary. You are not sad. You are not unloved. You are not invisible. You are not overwhelmed by negativity. And you are not so undeveloped as to be thrown by the blind behavior of others. It’s important now to stop pretending, once and for all, that human fear, human ignorance, and bad behavior are wounding. These things have always been here in every lifetime you’ve lived and you’ve always dealt with it. There is a part of the mind that likes to stay in darkness, that clutches at these shocks and holds onto them tightly to keep its small identity alive. The last of this clutching is to be released now. You are to take no more identity from being a wounded person.

In the silence you are being fed. In the silence you are being loved. It is in the silence that everything you think you’re not getting is actually being given and received and enjoyed by all parties involved. To partake of that enjoyment, simply quiet your mind and drop in. Enter into faith that in this period of quiet and lack of directionality, there is a much richer experience than you have ever had. Seek it, feel it. It is the precursor to the time when many gifts will be given, unbeknownst to your mind at this present time.

So it is time now to be fully available by releasing every contraction, every concave posture in your body. Adjust your posture so that your head is up and level, your eyes are open and shiny, your chest is wise, your heart is soft, your feet are on the ground, you’re breathing evenly, your spine is tingling, and you are receiving like a magnet.

You are drawing to you, up out of the field, many things, many people, many molecules, which would respond to the force that you ARE in the world, to the place that you are. As you exist in the physical plane, you are a field, and many particles of consciousness want to arise to come visit this place, to discover what it’s like to be physical in a way similar to yours, by matching the resonance. So create an environment and extend it, and welcome others into it, even if the guest be one molecule, or the tiniest fairy or minuscule being. This is the next work – the stabilization of the frequency of that which you are manifesting, which starts with the level of energy you manifest, the kind of body, mind, and emotions you manifest, the kind of house you manifest, the kind of social relationships you manifest.

Watch your reactions now. Every day you react to stimuli, to different people, to colors, to sensations. Allow those to bring you data. What’s being communicated? Allow yourself to change your reaction if you notice you don’t like the first gut reaction you have. If you notice you contract for the wrong reason, take a breath, recenter yourself, bring the stimulation back in again and re-act to it the way you want to. Go deeper, stay open.

When anxieties come, do not hold the waves, but let them impress you briefly, feel the subtle postures they cause you to assume, how the breath changes. Feel the resulting apathy, the anticipation of a negative outcome, the disappointment or readiness for disappointment. And then move your body slightly, as though to shudder mildly, and the posture with its thought habits will be carried away by the ripples in the pond. Return to the vibration of your own field and an aligned posture. Only by holding vibrations that are lower than your own energy do you attract beings who are interested in self-sacrifice, who glory in sacrifice. And these test are unnecessary and a waste of soul force.

Let yourself forget what you’ve been doing all these years, how you’ve been doing it. You don’t have to remember how things happened to you, how you reacted, what you did that worked or didn’t work. Let all those memories go and float up and out of your tissues, out through the aura. You don’t know if it ever happened now or not, or if it happened to YOU or not. And all the people who were associated with you in those memories, let them go to a different place in the aura and find their own place of floating. You don’t have to hold them or remember anything about them. Be unconcerned. You’ll know what you need to know. Holding personal history takes too much energy. And now, there is a bubble wanting to puff you up and flow out through you. And now, it pops! And you are new. Like a baby, you are new and your eyes are educating you about now, right now.

Rest and be happy in yourself, in your place, in your vibration, and allow it to increase at the rate it wants to, to the level it wants to. There is plenty of space in the place that is you. you can have privacy simply by placing your attention inside your own body. You can have social activity by expanding your aura to include others. It’s in your mind. So move as you feel and want to move, in your own imagination, as you please. The dammed up waters are now ebbing out onto the long wide flat plain and they are sinking into the earth.”

– Penney Pierce, The Intuitive Way

FULLY EMPTY

We moved into a gigantic wooden tree house built in the 70s, the walls freshly painted white. I really enjoyed the packing and repairing and discarding in preparation for this expansion. What I wasn’t prepared for was the intense sea of emotion I would feel when I realized I had swiftly manifested so many dreams and the weight of the resulting emptiness. Fullness and emptiness. Two sides of the same coin. Now I must turn within and look at the vicious inner critic I have been running from since I was 12. I have perfected and dreamed into being all kinds of things for my external reality. All that is left to unpack, is me.

While the night wind blows I sit here and reflect on my human journey as I used to do in New York, humming itself alive as I was. I sometimes wish I could return to that time, but I know I am looking back with rose-colored glasses. The old blinds clatter in the breeze, washing the rooms clean of my sadness. I wondered whether I was suffering from depression today. Thoughts of leaving this place crossed my mind briefly, and then shame, and then more sadness. The tears could have filled the sink. What am I doing with my one precious life? What next? Always it seems as if there is something missing. Perhaps this will make it all feel better. I have everything anyone could ever want, a doting, devotional husband who works long days and cooks dinner, runs baths and does the shopping. I have a sweet son who loves me, whose beauty inside and out knocks me out. We live in paradise. But when the last plate is washed and the last dream manifested, I do not think very highly of myself. The critic. The vicious, vicious, critic with the heart of a mosquito and the bite of a giant. A self-conscious young girl, who stood up in front of her class and gave a speech, and didn’t win the vote for class president. A teenager who didn’t win the heart of the hottest guy in school. Who didn’t get the call from the most prestigious modeling agency and end up on the cover of Vanity Fair with George Clooney. In my mind, it was obvious. I’m definitely not good enough. The blonde girl who wore the sports bra got that vote. The edgy girl with the father who bought the booze got the hot guy. My sister got that call.

About ten years ago I plummeted to the depths of self-loathing, and then climbed my way out and rebirthed myself as a writer in New York. I suppose in the years of tending to my sweet angel son, the critic crept back in to my bedroom when I wasn’t looking. Today, I realized how tightly it has me in it’s grip. How tormented I have become. How deeply entrenched the pathways in my brain that whisper almost every minute, ‘it’s not enough.’ I hit rock bottom this week and could hardly stand myself. The shame in the sadness in the grief in the hopelessness in the unworthiness. The weight, unbearable. The light, a brief solace. Reaching, reaching, reaching for the flow.

My dad calls me and his words are a balm to my soul. As sensitive and as boldly a dreamer as me, he has suffered from depression, and as a doctor, self-medicates himself. We spoke of the dissolution after actualizing ones dreams. The emptiness after the fruition of a possibility. It seems so self-indulgent to think this way – shouldn’t I be so grateful, and eternally happy, now that I ‘have’ everything!? But something is missing, and it is most certainly me. I have been so busy inventing and dreaming and building the castle, that I have forgotten to tend to my self, my soul, nor to follow my intuition. That old wound I thought I had bandaged pretty well? Yeah, it’s unraveling.

Thankfully, the reaching out is healing. The conversation with another human feeling, is healing. I rise up from my chair and feel lighter. I walk out onto the sun soaked deck flanked by four Italian cypress trees – ‘wizard trees’ as my friend likes to refer to them. I take the plate of food Isaac has made me and some sunglasses and I wander bare foot to the oak tree with the giant rock beneath it. I climb up on the rock and then up into the tree. Grandmother oak holds me without judgment, without condition. She is simply there for me. I breathe, and she breathes. We are ancient dance partners. I spot my beloved family in the distant flowers and herbs, their bodies hidden by the lush spring foliage of this medicinal explosion. When I am ready to leave the tree, I return to the deck and like Juliet I tell them I must go to the creek to be reborn.

It has been months since I was there. The succession of storms and the deluge of rain has significantly altered this body of water. Suddenly, I am facing myself. I am again reflected without judgement in this wild. Great boulders have gathered in areas, jagged and new. The water rages across the old stones and on dry banks I can see how the roots have been severed and torn. The stronger limbs remain, they have held fast in the flow. Seeing these trees I am reminded of something my sister once told me – that we are never stripped of what is essential. Even when we are ripped at the roots and flooded with rain.

At the waters edge I take my blue jeans and blouse off and strip naked. I wrap a towel around myself and walk in the shallows downstream. I close my eyes and feel the smooth rocks and the water rushing past my ankles. Wash me anew, take what I no longer need. Our puppy calls to me out in the water, and I savor the loving care in her eyes. We explore further. The roman bath is still there. Last summer my dear friend Kristin and I would immerse ourselves slowly into its peaceful depths carved in white stone, a bubbling waterfall lacing moss at the edge. Now, it is overflowing and that waterfall is a thick body of water pushing its way on. Change. I look to the other side of the river, and centuries of geology greet me. Their resilience is soothing. No matter how many boulders have fallen from the steep cliff above, no matter how many storms these strata have seen, they are still excruciatingly beautiful. Layer upon layer of depth, and time, and memory. The stories trapped within these layers we will never know. Their resilience captivates. Their uneven beauty. The harmony in this wild.

As the sun sets I find a deep pool within a new arm of the creek. A thin branch with small sprouting leaves serves as a kind of trellis above me as I unwrap my naked body from the towel. The icy water receives my limbs and my face mashed red raw from tears. The cold invigorates and renews. I gasp in quick succession. I awaken. I laugh. I look my husband in the eye. I wrap a towel around my shoulders and he tells me I have never been more beautiful than in this moment. That I have never been more myself, more authentically me. I smile awkwardly. I put my clothes back on. I drive us all home. I write late into the night. I sleep. I begin again.

Perhaps this is all life is about. Showing up in the face of the challenges we experience and writing the story of our life, not as the hero, not as the victim, but as the author. Brene Brown reminds me of this tonight as I let go of perfectionism and tip the contents of my overflowing saucer into this journal. A new journal. A new me. Letting go. And starting again.

 

 

 

THE HOLY WILD

We receive the greatest storm California has seen in 20 years. Old pines slip into the sea in Big Sur. The roads half full in Ojai with great brown rivers. Dams breaking, creeks bursting their banks. In the midst of all this, on the Friday the storm passed over, I drive to a local hub of warmth called Farmer and The Cook to pick up our weekly stock of  vegetables, fresh bread and chocolate milk. My beloved is in the city, and I have our boy. We exclaim with disbelief as we drive through town. Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it either! More water is falling and rushing and raging then we have seen in a very long time.

I have only been in California for two summers, but ever since I first arrived in the dead of August, with the beating sun and the endless concrete of LA, I felt a heavy depression fall over me. We moved to Ojai to be nearer to the land, nearer to the sacred. But even there, the drought was felt strongly. The heat oppressive. One day in July we could not leave the house for the 111F temperature and on ensuing days would dip our bones in an ice cold creek to cool off. Now, driving past a field that appeared empty of life in the summer, currently drenched in vivid green grass growing one, two feet tall, I feel what I can only describe as an ancient humbling of the human being in the face of nature.

Those who worship at the altar of science dismiss the seemingly primitive cosmology of a power greater than us who is sometimes wrathful and sometimes benevolent. Atheists ridicule the instinctual humanizing of this great power, and shun prayer as a useful tool for communicating with anything beyond one’s own consciousness (if only they realized that the single consciousness is a manifestation of The Great Consciousness!) But anyone who has returned to relationship with the Earth, who has experienced the dwelling place of the sacred and its inexplicable, indescribable expansiveness knows deep in their being that there is something greater and more real than anything here. Greater than the sum of our religions, greater than the sum of our symbols and our story telling. In the industrialized west we have literally left the garden of this Eden and utilized it for our own ends – without any reciprocation or even conversation with that which is beyond. I think it shows clear as concrete what the ramifications of that relationship has produced.

As we drive past the tall green grass I sense in myself an awareness many millennia old. I realize that THIS humbling in the face of nature, the dropping to the knees during a drought this is the place where Spirit can enter, where we are One. Where an awareness of an organizing principle beyond what we can control comes into existence. Tears come to my eyes at the sight of this grass. In my experience every blade is a manifestation of an answered prayer. Come water, come. Isn’t it obvious? Because of the love we feel for Mother Earth, because of the requests we make for her, we tread lighter upon her. I love her deeply, so I treat her accordingly. The desecration of the Earth and the resulting tempestuousness of her wrath and intensity (hurricane, mudslide, fire, drought, flood) are directly linked. What we do to her, her living being, we do to ourselves. How can anyone deny that a relationship of appreciation, love, connection, conversation, offering and peacefulness upon the Earth produces anything but these very same things in return from Her?

My head bows in reverence to this flooding rain. My hands meet in prayer for the harmony to return here. For harmony to return to us. I honor the soul that is the Earth and so I feel she honors me. She gives back to me in immeasurable amounts. My every step is an offering. My every action a prostration at the altar of Her, our home. I have to admit it’s funny to feel this awakening of deep spirituality inside me, couched in my ancestry, no less. Last year I discovered that my great-great-grandfather was a Freemason in London. At the Theosophical library a week ago I read about Masonry and learn that the admission requirements to this brotherhood were simply for the man to be free (exercising his free will) following his own path, and most importantly, thirsty for the truth, and pure of heart. I don’t know much about this man but I feel a strong connection with him, as well as his son who left London for Australia, working as a purser on a ship and stopping on the way in Madagascar. No one knows how he got from that exotic island to Western Australia, but once he did get there, he enjoyed a vivid creative life performing with his banjo and making prize-winning pickles and jams.

One of his sons, my grandfather Arthur, I know little about, only that he was a Methodist. He married my grandmother Marjorie Bell, a midwife, the woman who gave my mother the legendary book Spiritual Midwifery in the late seventies and who traveled to India to work with Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Her house always smelled of incense. The stories I know of my grandfather are told by my father, who naturally resisted his Methodist ideology of abstaining from alcohol, drugs, rock and roll and sex. My parents, horrified by this structural religiosity, removed all of us children from religious education classes (I thought Jesus was a mythical figure, not a real man, until my mid-teens) and encouraged a reliance on science and reason as the best navigational tool.

I remember the night when my father declared himself an Atheist. His eldest daughter (myself) studied dutifully the scientific methods, human biology, law, astronomy, quantum mechanics. But he also introduced me to poetry. The stirrings of spirituality were awakened in my meetings with Mary Oliver, e.e. cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke by lamplight in my bedroom. He had us gaze at the stars on scratchy blankets in the dunes of a beach island off the coast of Western Australia. He had us contemplate the edge of the universe, the index of possibilities and the vastness of space. Back at home, my mother taught me how to cook with a kind of modern foraging from the pantry and would send me outside when things got heated with my little sister. Wise woman. My emotions would return to equilibrium as soon as I climbed a tree or stared into the grass.

And so through all of this, I found my own way to the Great Creator. My own relationship with the divine. My own experience of the sacred. I am so grateful for this journey and how each of my ancestors, many I still do not know, have woven their magic and their dreams into my own life. The Freemason, the Midwife, the Immigrant, the Creative, the Methodist, the Atheist, the Mother. Because of them, I am able to continue evolving and build on what they provided for me. Because of them, I am able to return to the ancient ways, because I am free of them and yet they are part of the road back. Somewhere there is an ancestor of mine, man, woman, human, who spoke directly to the sacred wild, however it manifested for them, who humbled themselves in the face of Nature with their stone tools and buffalo-hide clothing. Somewhere back there, we are the same. We remember. We are One.

When we make it to Farmer and the Cook we race tiptoeing under heavy rain drops to the swinging doors. My son lingers with his umbrella, savoring the novelty of the large black lily pad over his head. Gusts lift the awnings a little higher as I hurry him inside. Fresh bread still warm from the oven steams up the case. Loaves of sourdough filled with soft air pockets give way to my touch inside brown paper bags. This modern life. Somehow it still carries the ancient hymn. Somewhere, we remember. Today, we are older than ever. Women, we are waking up. We are bringing this place back to life. I trust. I love. I know.

SOUL MAP

The sky is shedding rain today here in the valley of the moon. The buckets of water flowing across the earth are our embodied prayers. So many tears have fallen to this charred and parched earth, cracked with drought and heat and greed. Now there are millions of tears and they are her waters washing us free. While this sacred washing falls we remain inside, weaving a beautiful web of comfort across the walls, along every surface. Soups and teas and broths and medicinal tonics. For joy, for balance, for deepening. A Spanish guitar serenades to the steady rush of rain. Julius is growing bigger, and the puppy too. My son notes that he can “talk easier,” and it seems to make him happy to be able to express himself clearly. I know this feeling.

For many years I lived a glittering shadow, unable to find the medium through which to express the incandescence within. Like a mute animal, I stayed mostly silent and introverted. But my pen wailed. Oh how it soared and dove, and wept, and loved. Young and unsure of myself I had submitted myself to the vast beauty industry where my voice was not valued. In catharsis, I wrote down my memories – of home, of the sister I knew as a child, the one who was always there, picking up coins off the corner store floor with us, leaping from the roof. I wrote about the now, too. I wrote about the strange things I would see in my travels and my daily experience. I wrote about tomorrow – lists and dreams and visions. Then I went deeper: I began charting my inner landscape.

My words during that time were the lines of a map only my soul knew how to draw. With my bare hands scratching at the walls of the dirt tunnel, I moved through life on instinct. Each word, each page, was another inch. And then a mile. And then a continent. I was in new territory. No longer myself. No longer restrained by my past. When I moved to New York, the shadows of time had grown longer and I felt the need to fire up in giant lights, to do something bold, to be myself without reservation. I loved it. I felt the tangible cracking of the limestone around me as I emerged a mollusc on the other side. Completely new,  remade in my own gilded image. The lioness combing her mane. I was fierce, I was bold, I was full of desire for my life.

Looking back, I realize how different I am now. I feel I am remaking myself yet again. The woman I was in my twenties has been fully realized. But now – in my early thirties – with a small boy and a small puppy, a busy and hard-working partner, and the earth calling me to my aching knees, I know I am a new woman. In this time, especially this time, there is a pressing question arriving at the doorstep of all awakened souls. Who is it that you want to BE? And how can you do it sustainably, with joy, with pleasure, with delight? The old constructs are truly crumbling, and they touch all of us. The limestone is now a planet wide. With the tender green shoots of our life-force we are breaking through it.

As we walk along the mountain ridge my parents offer advice they said they never received as young people. Essentially: set yourself up to live well, and do not chain yourself to the hamster wheel. After my year of shamanic study, a year during which our joyful guide passed away, a year when Trump became President, when Prince, Bowie, Leonard Cohen and many more passed over – I see how critically important it is to ask ourselves these questions. Who is it you want to be in this one precious life, in this one precious time? We are the ones who are left standing strong in the face of the hardened faces. Awake! Alert! Ready to go! I must add that it’s clear this time is not about doing. Don’t ask yourself what you want to be doing, but who you want to be being. We are moving away from productivity, the cubicled worker-bee era. It is so much more valuable, healing, in fact, revolutionary to be simply who you really are, to be embodied in balance, tapped into the truth of our experience and our earth walks. Here and now. Tapped into our soul maps.

In honor of this new assignment in being, I am feeling the call away from the habitual experience of social media that we all share. I long to collect herbs and write letters in ink, to hold my friends hands and see the water of their tears fill their pupils. This is real life. This is the place where spirit meets soul, where heaven meets earth, where the rubber hits the road, where we we grow and go. We must continue to balance and re-balance. I long to let my long fingers explore the piano keys again, the keys I once knew as a young girl, playing Lennon and New Orlean’s Blues, and to strum the strings of a guitar, a ukelele, a banjo. I long to live fully – fully here, embodied in the bliss of every sacred moment. Showing up. Planning. Practicing what I have come here for. Service. Joy. Beauty. Music. Plants. Women. Love. I believe in these realities. In the tangible today. We may be in another dirt tunnel yet again, but together as one united front, a tangle of vines, we will together feel our way through to the other side. Imagine what our collective intuition can do when we bring our soul maps together! It is happening. The time is now. The current political climate is illuminating all that was heretofore hidden. But the light of our soul jungle is massive and we will break open the concrete that is being laid, crack apart the unstable foundations with the courage of our every spirited seed.

I love you, I cherish you. Write that soul map. Tune in. Ground yourself. Remember what is eternal. I believe in you and your soul of  gold.

NEW BEGINNINGS

Beloved friends and readers,

I hope you are all well and enjoying your new year and the magic of any new beginnings taking shape in your life.

I want to share with you that a few weeks ago I took a big leap of faith on my creative path and launched a special page for my work on a platform called Patreon. With this platform, it’s possible for creatives to do what they love and receive the support they need for doing so. If you feel inspired to be part of this exchange, it would totally rock my brave heart! My page is here when you have a moment to explore:

www.patreon.com/sophieward

In exchange for your patronage, I will be offering little gifts to support you in your creative journey – poems, inspirational artist quotes, writing prompts, advance copies of my book Heart of Bold, recipes to enliven and support the creative process, an online writing group, monthly videos and lots more.

It makes my heart sing to be able to share myself in this way, and in so doing, touch the lives of others with the light of my soul.

I am so grateful for my community of readers, you have all altered the course of my life in some way – infinitely for the better. Thank you deeply for your love and support.

With a heart of bold,
Sophie