VOLCANO, CANDLE, BONFIRE.

It’s 11pm and I should be asleep, but as I lay there listening to the sounds of an electric guitar coming through the night window, many thoughts come to my mind. I should be pushing these thoughts to the back of my head and getting some good rest, you are a mother! my conscience shouts. You have much to do on your feet tomorrow! But somehow now I am not tired and I find myself drawn to the familiar green velvet couch to dance in this fabric awhile. A flame burns in my mind and becomes a bonfire. Ah yes, this is how it starts. I remember. The lyrics to the song from so long ago return to my memory and it all feels familiar again. Not so very far far away. This writing business. This telling the story of my life as it is, and as it was.

I think to myself, with this new moon and total solar eclipse approaching, I want to remember. I want to pull fragments of the past back into my present and weave the future onto this weft. I think about how I’d like to get up early, before my son wakes, and meditate in the luxuriously dark closet I decorated for myself. How I’d like to use the yurt halfway up our hill for yoga in the mornings. How I might start up morning pages and, gosh, artist dates again, because I really need an excuse to try out acroyoga and exotic dance classes at the neighbourhood studio. I witness a fear living like a rug across the shiny washed floor of these new ideas and get a sudden urge to rip it up. All this thinking about freedom and delight gets me remembering how I would paint vivid watercolors of my dreams in a moleskin journal every morning that summer I turned 23. I think about my friend in New Orleans who inspired me to do this after we came across a gargantuan book of Fellini’s dreams, each furiously etched out in Italian, all bosom and curve.

All of these ideas of how my days could be more, my own… they give me life. I know I will be tired tomorrow. But it’s somehow only taken me 7 minutes to write this, and we have an espresso machine, so everything is going to be okay after all. The drums have kicked in to back up the guitar down the road and my heart is beating fast. It’s true I hardly recognize myself anymore. Which is why I must keep writing. I must write in order to know myself. I must. I must. I must not forget who I am, I must not let these years pass by with no trace of their existence but for some filaments of social media. I must create something of meaning and depth to chart this precious world of mine that I swim in. I must. Who am I? I write to find out.

I must also try not to shout at my three year old anymore. Today was a doozy, and a miracle, all wrapped up in those 90 minutes before a toddler sized dinner is lain on the crumb strewn table. I’m kinda beginning to get the hang of this parenting thing, but I’m sure, as they say, a new challenge will pour over my head in a few weeks. I figure that the most interesting terrains feature various kinds of flame: volcano, bonfire, candle – so maybe it’s okay that things get a little heated once in a while. Wasn’t I a tempestuous artist at some point in time? I am still sewing her back into this life with its forever capless washable markers and light-up Star Wars toothbrush. My husband fell asleep peacefully before I got up to write this – it’s the only time I have to pour these little shards of my light into some kind of container. We will all drink from it later.

Meanwhile, time is a wicked ghost. In my retreat from mass media I’ve reconnected with many of yesteryears relics. On our recent trip back to Australia I came across a fascinating cassette tape in the bottom of a bin of toy trains. Today whilst reading a book I am desperately devouring (‘How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen’) I read a passage about a little boy choosing to play his Sesame Street tape in the bathroom while his mum takes a shower. Fantastic! Why do we not use these anymore! I’d much rather my child have his own cassette player and vintage tape collection then an iPad or an iPhone beaming white light and marketing for plastic egg toys at his synapses. I’ve made up my mind. Give a child the freedom to put his own book tapes and vintage music cassettes on, and I think we will all be so happy.

But even in this glee over lugging the old gems from yesterday into tomorrow, I feel a familiar stirring. An ambition. Is it that? A sense of purpose. A sense of a mission. I know I have not come here simply to tend to a beautiful house with a beautiful family. I wanted them with all my heart, and I created them, in the flower of my heart, I blossomed all of this. And now it is here, and we are swimming deeply in the nectar of this heaven and earthliness: a family life of repetitive physical labor and the sweetest nuzzling cuddles and the smell of a child’s neck. A world of beauty. A bonfire at dusk on a freshly stained deck. The amber of sunlight fading behind the cool of protective mountains. In some sense I could stay here forever enjoying this nectar, and live quite happily my days on this mountain, producing child after child and meal after meal.

However. There is much disquiet in the world, even in the world just down the hill beyond our home. A world where people put bananas in plastic bags at the supermarket. Where single use cases of water bottles are normal purchases. Where sick whales and birds are discovered with their bodies full of plastic. Where white-supremacists march in Berkeley and Washington Square Park on a Saturday in August. Where unarmed young black people, or Native American people, or women, march for freedom and their voices before being shot down by a brutal militant police force in full SWAT uniform. A world full of conflict. A civilization trying to work out how to live without violence. Heck, I am wading through this problem on a daily basis in my own home. How do I stop the small boy from biting the puppy? AGAIN. How do I prevent the boy from using his fists whenever I say no thanks? I am remembering that anger is the next emotional evolution after sadness. Being sick for days after a 15 hour plane journey that started at 9AM in Australia? Not exactly conducive to happiness. Cabin fever because we can’t go to the library/museum/playground/creek/beach etc etc? Ugh! He just wants to be happy. He told me himself. We really need to remember to address the root cause (unhappiness) not just the symptoms (violence.)

So. There is a list. Things That Make Jules Happy: Mummy and Daddy. The playground. Being outside. The museum. The library. Reading books. Fire. Toasted marshmallows. The Sky. Quite simple really. Now when he feels the urge to hit, we are going to hit the giant PAUSE button in the sky and go to that list on the fridge. We will pick something to do that makes him feel happy and thus avert the problematic behaviour with other more benevolent options. Honestly, I feel like this is a major win for the future of mankind on the planet. If I can parent a small man this way and prepare him to deal with his strong emotions responsibly, I will be so grateful for my patience within this intense work. There will be a boy who will grow into a man who will be peaceful and loving and self-reliant. And I will be able to give myself a break about not writing a million books already, and let myself paint those watercolors, and take that dance class, and live my dream life because dammit, I’m doing a great job, and I deserve my own self-respect in this season that I’m in. Volcano, candle, bonfire – this flower has still got some bloom left.

THE TENDER EDGE OF DREAMS

I have just returned from five days in the southern Oregon woods with six hundred women, learning how to make fire without a flame, how to weave, how to let go. As I integrate back into my daily life, I am struck by how much clearer I am with my inner compass. And how honest I must become if I am to carry on with my life peacefully, gracefully, happily.

After sleeping in a tent on the earth all those days, returning to a house with square rooms and a ceiling felt strange. After reveling in the company of so many hundreds of singing women, returning to my usual daily flow of cooking, cleaning, mothering felt natural and ancient, though typing my thoughts into a computer screen and driving in a car to get places feels jarring and distracting.

I love the way these five days had me be. Present to the steady energy that flowed within me upon return, I was so grateful. I felt a buoyancy I hadn’t in years. I feel at peace with who I am and I feel the integration of my many selves finally landing in my physical space. After years of rebelling against my obligations, both self-created and circumstantial, I recognize the ancient flow and direct my canoe to return there each minute that I am conscious of it.

While I write this, my son is crying for me from his darkened bed while my beloved puts him to sleep. While I attempt to fulfill on creative promises to myself and others, he calls to me from the driveway, from the garden. His innocence and desire to connect fill my focus in the now of the present. In the past, I would have felt painfully frustrated. Today, I cannot turn away from these moments. I know that these are the glimmers I will miss when I am old, when he lives far away or just lives his everyday separate life from us. His helpful offerings, picking wild flowers with me, shredding cabbage with me, carrying library books with me, nestling his sleepy body into mine on my side of the bed in the morning.

My son is the most joyful part of my life these days when I speak from my heart, and yet when I speak from my mind, he is the distraction that keeps me from writing as I did before. Two things immediately bother me with this statement, the concept of distraction (I could easily name writing as a distraction from the present moment, though as Anais Nin says, I like the idea that writers want to taste life twice) and the focus on ‘before.’ I am starting to track these inauthentic aspects of myself, as well as the part of my psyche that habitually gives me a hard time when I think I’m not doing as ‘well’ as I ‘should.’

The truth is complex and contradictory: I know I will be so glad for these words when I am looking back, searching for memories and tastes of this mothering time, and yet I know that by hammering out these feelings I am sometimes keeping myself from the joyful flow of my current work: raising a beautiful living boy. I write this as a kind of public service announcement. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to live this jam packed life without creating imbalance. I sneak away to write down fragments of my thoughts while my husband puts my son to sleep, while I’m at the side of the pool with family, while I have any free moment.

I once thought it was possible to have it all and live every dream under the sun, but I’m seeing now that perhaps there are dreams that don’t overlap, dreams that need our full presence, and sometimes we have to let go of old dreams in order to stand guard at the birth of the next. I treasure these everyday moments with my son deeply, savor them with profundity when they arrive, and yet for some reason I cannot now write about them. Like a tiny bird, I know I need to remain fully present to his growth. I cannot yet tell anyone about what we share. He is perhaps the greatest creation of my life.

People tell me to write about motherhood, to write about the sacred mundane in my everyday world, and I can do that, though sitting in front of a computer in my spare time (what spare time?!) feels uncomfortable when I want to be cooking, or picking flowers. As always, I squirm and twist inside when I know some great change has happened to me and I have not been writing about it. This is, after all, my subject matter – the inner life. I recently realized the fact that as a mother, my time is condensed while my growth is accelerated, making it somewhat more urgent and yet somewhat less meaningful to write about these mountainous landscapes. I don’t know where I stand yet. I compare myself to the prolific writer I once was, but I cannot bear to beat myself up any longer for not writing.

So I weep in the seeking of peace.

How do I do this life thing again? I try to see my challenges as blessings. My complaint is that the experiences of my life are so difficult for me to describe, not to mention to find the time to describe. The blessing is that perhaps this is helping me to become a better writer. More economical. More direct. As always, I rebel and reel against the awkwardness of it all. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t even know if I can make poetry of it all anymore. I damn the feeling and curse my work. This all feels so disjointed as I write it over many moments across many days.

Then a voice says. Perhaps it’s all okay. Perhaps I am exactly where I need to be.

I admit I question the idea of having a second child, but only because I have some part of me that echoes with the words of my mentors and guides on this writing path: “You are one of the best two writers I have ever come across in my 29 years teaching university.” A publisher likening my words to T.S. Eliot, “like garlic and sapphires in the mud.” Another referring to my work affectionately like “a bizarre form of music.” As a very young woman, these words were intoxicating. I thought I could be a brilliant and prize winning author and write best-selling but critically acclaimed novels and find my place on the mantlepiece of Australian literary achievement. How am I to do this balancing two babies on my hips? In California?

I suppose that in this last ten years of leaping into New York City from Australia, starting my own publishing imprint, and publishing two of my own books, I was driven by some external expectation to “be a great writer” or at the very least, attempt to be. The truth I’m waking up to, however, is that maybe I didn’t really want that. Maybe I didn’t really want to be the sought-after novelist or even the most talked about. Maybe I’ve never wanted to be famous. Money doesn’t drive me either. I can create luxury with one candle and some olive oil.

I don’t know what kind of writer I ‘should’ be, but I do know that I am the woman I want to be. I am the best writer I can be, an accomplished author, and a joyful mother. I do know that I am living my innermost dreams. What do I really want to do with my one precious life? Stay present, that’s for sure. Enjoy. Revel. Surrender (gosh, the terrifying and tantalizing idea of surrender. To let go and let the stream take me – to where?!) To write when I can, as best I can. To make things with my hands and heart. To create more than I consume. To make things better. To serve. To grow. To learn. To trust that my path is perfect for me. To remember that whatever my ego can cook up in this illusory game of ‘success’ pales in comparison to the streets of gold in my heart.

In all honesty, I’ve never felt so gratefully full of abundance than I do today in my life. I can hardly write about it because I can’t tear my eyes away from the moments unfolding before me. My son is making me imaginary coffee from a trumpet lamp as I write this. Ripping up the couch and throwing himself onto cushions on the floor. “Do you love me?” he smiles. Yes I love you, my dear son. I love you more than anyone can express. Least of all, me. The tears roll down my face and he tells me not to be sad. I’m not sad my sweet, I am happy. I once had a thousand words a minute flow out of me. Now, I have a thousand moments of bliss surround me. Yes, I think a second child would be lovely. Vine upon vine, bone upon bone growing within me. The ancient music singing within. Concentric circles. Yes. These are the days that I dreamed of. These are my days of heaven. This is exactly what I came for. All of this – the struggling, the chipping away, the tears and bliss and sweet, sweet surrender.

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.