Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tough Kid

                        She came into the world pink, sweet and vulnerable,
                        Full of light.
                        Her memories of the first years of life
                        Were largely those of a victim.
                        Disappointingly weak, easily put down.

                        When she was seven, she learned to ride a horse,
                        And was transformed.
                        The pink and white victim-child went into hiding.
                        A tough kid came out.
                        Thick armor hiding all weakness, taking on the world.

                        The Tough Kid willingly rode bucking calves,
                        All eyes on her,
                        At the neighborhood roping arena on Sunday afternoon,
                        Not minding the whip-lashed spine nor the
                        Grit in her mouth when she landed on her face in the sand.

                        Not only did she grow up tough, she had a mean streak,
                        And was proud of it.
                        The toughness, the pride and the thick armor
                        All grew up with her,
                        Protecting the vulnerable child within.

                        The child had enough of hiding.
                        She wanted her light to shine.
                        The protective armor smothered her.
                        She grew strong enough to come out.
                        Right through the Tough Kid’s heart, which broke.

                        A broken heart was nothing to the Tough Kid.
                        On those long-ago Sundays, she got up, spat out dirt,
                        Glared at the laughing men and boys around her,
                        And marched out of the arena.
                        This time her broken heart was in her hand.

                        I come to honor this dark part of myself,
                        My protector.
                        When I stand in awe of the difficulties I've endured,
                        And the strength with which I withstood them,
                        I am deeply grateful for the Divine gift of the Tough Kid.

Thus begins the final chapter of Passage: Illness as Initiation. Now to get it out into the world. That's even scarier than riding calves as a seven-year-old.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In the Flesh

                                                Nexus of infinity,
                                                My consciousness a galaxy,
                                                Each atom a solar system,
                                                I am an astronaut
                                                Exploring all that is.

                                                Elements that form my body
                                                Have ventured extravagantly,
                                                Have ranged for thirteen billion years,
                                                Coming to rest for a moment
                                                Within the boundary of my skin.

                                                Without moving, I am able to
                                                Trace that perfect pilgrimage,
                                                Project a future just as vast
                                                And return again to repose
                                                At home, embraced in flesh.

The story of my lymphoma and Fred's stroke, 1999-2000, is really a very small part of my 73 years and our 52 years together. It's absolutely miniscule compared to the journey described in the poem, taken with our Universe. Human life is precious beyond measure. Mystical imagination also.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Safe Harbor

I long to escape this reality,
Feeling trapped,
Being responsible.

To retreat to a safe harbor,
A hideaway,
A sanctuary,

To seclude and anchor myself
Away from here,
Away from care.

In my imagination I run away
To a guarded nook,
Any life but the one I have.

Yet I know before I set out,
 That my care-filled vigil
Is the only place for me.

And so I come home
To my heart,
My sacred place.

     Writing about my cancer experience and Fred's stroke has been  instructive. I can be more objective about my pain, but tears still come when I write of Fred's. Perhaps that's why we have partners, to reflect compassion back to ourselves.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Resisting inevitable change,
she clung to familiar discomfort
rather than enter the new unknown.

Her old skin, faded, dry and scarred
could constrict her growth
for only so long; it split.

Emerging into the new day, she flowed,
resplendent in tender, glistening, pliant color,
leaving the old behind.

Transformed, she rarely thinks
of her former self, content now with the new,
which seems each day to grow a little tighter.

Growing up in west Texas, where we encountered rattlesnakes on a regular basis,I had the common almost-phobic fear of snakes. Reading Starhawk's books on the history of goddess worship changed my attitude from fear to appreciation for the ancient awe of snakes as a symbol for resurrection. I love this poem. When I feel miserable, it's a signal for an AFGE* in my life.

*Another F'ing Growth Experience

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Letting Be

Thank you, East, and thank you, South.
Thank you, West, and thank you, North.
Thanks, Above, and thanks, Below.
And thank you, Sacred Self within.

I in Thou, and Thou in me,
Thou in all and all in Thee
Letting go and letting be,
I in Thou, and thou in me.

I use this song, to the tune of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," as part of a body prayer done in the warm pool in my back yard on a more-or-less regular basis. I love the feeling it gives me of being at the center of the Universe.

I also used it as part of the celebration of completing chemotherapy, to which I'd invited my spiritual community before Fred's stroke. He was still in ICU when we gathered, so the celebration doubled as a prayer session for his recovery. It worked well.

One of the important works of our time is reinventing meaningful ritual, both solitary and corporate. I'd love some comments on this. What are rituals you've invented?  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


                        This is a poem to you, Fred,
                        Whom I have tried to control a thousand ways.
                        You retreated into an unreachable place
                        To escape my manipulations,
                        Athlete’s body running away
                        From my need to be enmeshed.

                        A part of you needed that, too,
                        But a part of me always trusted
                        That you would not be controlled,
                        Could not be pinned down,
                        A mountain man, you left me to my plains-ness
                        And my freedom.

                        No one can control another:
                        That you have taught me well.
                        You have led me on many adventures,
                        Exploring the space of our glorious planet home.
                        Now I would be your partner on
                        Adventures of the spirit,
                        Exploring the inner world.

                        Let us continue our quest side by side
                        In every realm possible.
                        Let us go forth with courage
                        To finish the journey we began in love,
                        As children,
                        My husband, Fred.

I wrote this poem as a gift  to Fred after the Twelve Steps saved our lives and our marriage. I took a cautious approach to life, and depended on Fred for adventure. Life with him was never boring, on any level.

This poem introduces the chapter in my book that recounts the longest day of my life, beginning with my last chemotherapy treatment and ending after midnight in the Fresno Trauma Center where Fred was taken after he fell from a ladder and suffered a cerebral hemorhhage. One step at a time got me through the devastating day, grateful for Suzanne, who saved her dad's life, for friends, who went to the hospital with me, and for our sons, who showed up as soon as they could get there, allowing me to collapse.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Lost Child

Loving friends, advisors and teachers surrounded the child.
When they talked to her, she answered them aloud.
One day her mother heard, and asked,
“Who are you talking to?”
Blushing, she answered, “Them.”
At supper her mother told the family that she had imaginary friends.
They laughed. The child burned with shame.
She stopped talking to her friends aloud,
And could no longer hear their counsel and comfort.
She was left alone.

When she grew old, loving grandchildren surrounded her.
They taught her to play again.
They healed her blinding, deafening shame.
She and the children sang and painted pictures.
They banged on the piano, danced and ran outside in the rain.
She even wore suns and moons on her clothes.
Her invisible friends, advisors and teachers returned.
Surrounding her once again,
They counseled her and she answered them, aloud.
The child that was lost is found.

I experienced grandparenthood as a miraculous re-awakening of the child within. Then came all kinds of new possibilities. Chapter 12 of my book begins with this poem and tells of a guided imagery journey that served as a soul retrieval. A  hands-on-healing reveals how I had harbored patriarchy within myself while railing against it in the world.  It was the month of my 5th chemotherapy treatment. My mother, who was only 87 then, 11 years ago, came to take care of me. What an intense time that was.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The One

 All the lessons of my life are one:
 I control nothing outside myself,
Yet my decisions affect all.
All the power of my life flows from one Source
I exist in Love as a fish in water,
Wholly sustained.

All the decisions of my life are one:
To rest in Love and to forgive,
Accepting absolution.
All the time of my life is this one moment:
 I affirm the past and await
 The promise of the future.

I listened to a wonderful lecture last night by Ken Wilber. He said that issues of spirituality, faith and religion are more important than global warming (or any external problem, I assume.) He laid out developmental levels of states of consciousness. The above poem was written in a moment when I experienced, however fleeting, the integral level. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Inheritance Management

The young man who set up our family trust 14 years ago came by yesterday. We've both aged since we met. He has lost some hair. Mine is gray. He was so helpful to me when my husband Fred died, taking care of many legal details. Still, whenever I need a notary, he stops by, no charge.

With tears in his eyes, he said he was really busy because three of his clients had died in the last week. When he went into the inheritance management business, that aspect of it probably didn't occur to him. He recalled a Twilight Zone episode about a nursing home where someone had made it possible for the residents to become young again. Most of them were quite excited, but one man declined the offer, saying he didn't want to go through losing all his loved ones again.

Death seems so awful when we're young but it has become familiar to me. Not welcome, but not to be dreaded.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Taking off her roller skates,
The nine-year-old entered the small empty church in silence.
 She was a trespasser,
Overwhelmed by fear, drawn forth by fascination.
The candles glowed in the darkness, bidding her welcome.
The faces of the graven images invited her close.

She trespassed.
Yet it was her beliefs that were encroached upon.
Could the awe she felt truly be idolatry?
Could reverence for this sweet mother truly be evil?
This thought deepened the fear, filling her with apprehension.
She fled, retreating to the safety of familiar dogma.

Grown up, she learned to love
The upward rush of reverence, entering a cathedral.
The cordial hospitality of lavish imagery,
Warm brilliance of stained glass,
Fragrance of incense, all embraced her, body and spirit.
No longer held back by austere belief, no longer a trespasser.

  Still there was more to the story.
  In her older years,
 She loved even more the simple sweetness of the sweat lodge,
 Cool of earth beneath her, slap of steam upon her face,
 Back in the womb of Mother Earth,
Trespass now impossible.

This was a way to recount my spiritual development, from the fundamentalism of my youth  that taught me to fear Roman Catholicism especially, to appreciation of all Christian paths, to appreciation for the indiginous spirituality of America. The spiral outward to an ever larger context continues.

Chapter 10 of Passage, which begins with this poem, tells about the vision quest with which I celebrated my 60th birthday. That was two years before lymphoma appeared, but I included it as context for the spiritual practices that helped me cope with cancer.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What If ...

What if Heaven is
Exactly the same
As the life I’ve known,
Only in that state
I can fully appreciate
And see the beauty in Everything -
Each moment,
Each person,
Each flower.

And what if Hell is
Watching myself live
My one precious life
In some trancelike state,
Distracted from the blessing of
All the beauty in Everything -
Each moment,
Each person,
Each flower.

On CBS Sunday Morning this week, there was a review of play Our Town. When Emily dies and is granted the wish to see one day of her life, her 12th birthday, she is amazed that her family is there together once more and can't really see how precious those moments are. The reviewer said something like, "We can't really be that conscious every moment, because then we wouldn't be living the moment, we'd be ..." and the person he was speaking to said, "tweeting about it."

It is a beautiful day. May I be aware of the blessing of each moment.   

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fortieth Anniversary

Your presence was like yesterday’s bread,
Gone stale and unappreciated.
I needed to fast, to cleanse my senses of habitual indulgence.
I took pleasure in the severity of my fast,
My solitude, the space around my body.
The snugness of seclusion comforted me.
I learned, perhaps for the first time, of my Self,
And began to feel at home in my solitary form.

Now once more I savor your nearness, your warmth and wit.
Separation brought again the desire to draw close to you,
To treasure the freshness of each day’s bread with you.
There is newness in this hunger, this desire to be close,
Yet the Self I discovered still needs a solitary sphere.
As we journey into the forty-first year of our covenant, let us add a vow:
To love, honor and cherish the boundaries that separate us
As well as the ties that bind.

I promise to succor and surrender you,
To reinforce and relinquish you,
To enable and emancipate you,
To nurture and release you,
As long as we both shall live.
February, 1996

 In Chapter 8 of Passage, I wrote of a healing session with Sharry Lachman regarding my relationship with my husband, Fred. Going through chemotherapy treatment intensified and brought out many old issues and patterns. It became clear to me that these had health consequences and needed to be dealt with. I was so fortunate to have Sharry to help me do that. The above poem was written 3 years before my diagnosis. The promise it speaks of, the surrender and release, is still a struggle some days.

A funny thing happened on Friday after I posted my blog. I opened my new Time magazine to a Verizon ad with the caption, "Suddenly the only thing holding you back is nothing." Think I should sue?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What is Holding Me Back?

No thing.
Nothing is holding me back!
Not back. Nothing is holding me.
Holding me, as a mother holds her child.

This poem begins Chapter 7 in Passage: Illness as Initiation. A psychotherapy session with Sharry Lachman brings forward and heals childhood hurts. The second chemo session brings issues with the doctor and staff. An energy healing session with Bob Goings soothes. I sleep and dream of how my tumors are  dissolving.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friend's Transition

This morning I got word that Fred Lanphear, ( breathed his last difficult breath last night after 3 years of having A.L.S. Saying goodbye to friends has been a major feature of being in my 70's. Fred was husband of my dear friend Nancy. My love and thoughts are with her today

I used to make fun of 20th century Christians who still believed in the 3-story heaven-earth-hell universe. Now I find great comfort in the thought of Suzanne and her dad, "my" Fred, waiting for me "on the far-side banks of Jordan." when I get there. I now believe in infinite universes, coming into being as we imagine them.

About 15 years ago,  my Fred (d.2008) and I visited Joyce (d.1998) and David (d.2009) Reese in Chickasha, OK.They showed us the beautiful garden Fred L.(d.last night) had designed and helped them build. Fred L. had a Ph.D. in agronomy and did wonderful things with plants on many continents.

My fantasy this morning was of Joyce and David, Fred McGuire and daughter Suzanne greeting Fred Lanphear with great joy. A gospel song came to mind. "Won't it be wonderful there?"

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I find fascination at the center of fear,
A thrill in the knotted stomach, the sweaty palms.
I think, “Aha! I knew this was going to happen to me someday.”
And that strikes me as funny.

Laughter pulls my mind back from irrationality.
Blood pumps into my paralyzed limbs.
I draw upon what I know, what I can do to respond to the crisis,
And that strikes me as wonderful.

Thus begins Chapter 6 of Passage: Illness as Initiation. It's ready. I'm ready.
The quote in the poem is from a Gilda Radner movie, when she and Gene Wilder's character were flying over the Grand Canyon in a small plane and the pilot dies of a heart attack. First came adamant denial, "He's not dead." When G.W. said, "I knew this was going to happen to me someday," I laughed till I hurt. And the thing about humor: it is, like God, at the heart of everything.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Call, the Battle, the Retreat

Nestled near the Sierra's upward thrust,
Safe in our dream home,
Our four young ones were secure,
Our childhood fantasies fulfilled.

Each image on the news made a crack in our fortress:
Young ones bombed in Sunday school, fire hoses turned on innocents,
Our leader's riderless horse and fatherless children,
A little girl burned by our bombs, running naked, trying to escape her pain.
After the mule cart pulled a peaceful warrior to his resting place
And we saw Bobby dying on the kitchen floor,
Our dream ended.

When one dream ends, Life affords another to take its place
Called to action, we left without a backward glance.
Finding comrades-in-arms, we waged war on old images.
We labored for a future when all children, not just ours, would be safe and secure,
But an enemy lurked within.
Grandiosity feeds addiction; addictions defeated this dream.
We retreated to await another,
Once again near the Sierra's upward thrust.

Do you remember the 60's? This poem, with which Chapter 5 in my book begins, is an attempt to explain why my husband Fred and I pulled up stakes, moved to Brazil in 1968, then joined the staff of the Ecumenical Institute in 1970. We ran from the devastating tv images, hoping our response would make a difference in history. The addictions were both personal and in the culture of our community, as addictions always are. But that's another story. The community we found in the Ecumenical Institute, later also incorporated as the Institute of Cultural Affairs, has educated, nurtured and sustained me for 40 years in sickness and in health. What a gift. I also want to express gratitude for A.A. and AlAnon. The 12 Steps saved our family life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The Night-Sky-Horse comes for me
In broad daylight, barely visible.
I spread my arms, now wings,
And fly with him.

Alone, I could not do it,
But transported by this Vision,
Lifted in a spiral,
I circle high.

Exquisitely sensitive
To the sweet currents that carry me;
Sustained still by the One
Who upholds all.

Time is gone, past and future,
There is only now, this moment of
Release, of freedom from
Hours and history.

Each detail below is mine,
Broad valley and life-giving river,
Borne, not by my power,
But by my powerlessness.

Following an account of a hypnotherapy session that involved a past life healing in Chapter 3, I began Chapter 4 with this poem, based on a shamanic journey to the "upper world." aboard my white Pegasus.The poem can still put me in an altered state. What a lucky girl I am!

Monday, September 6, 2010


This is the way we must let go in life.
The terms of surrender are given
And we're obliged to accept them.
Night follows day. We let go of the light
And give thanks for the darkness.
The colors and softness of spring
Brighten into the heat of summer.
We let go of the flowers,
Accepting the radiant heat.
We pass from childhood,
Yielding gladly, embracing our youth.
When it is time to reliquish youth,
We are powerless once again.
Acknowledging the signs of age,
We let go.
It is no wonder we want to stop
This continual surrender,
This unceasing goodbye.

Thus begins Chapter 3 of Passage, Illness as Initiation. This poem makes me feel nostalgic, but I now I choose to welcome the future rather than linger on goodbyes. Perhaps writing the book made this change of perspective possible.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Narrow Path

Is there an end to this tunnel?
Is there a way out?
Which direction leads there?
Should I ascend or descend?
From what am I being birthed?
Into what new world?
Am I the mother or the child?
I perceive only the narrow passage.
Now I sense the path spirals: a labyrinth.
What a relief, to know the journey is both inward and outward!
That which draws me in also pushes me out:
Not to know.
Not to do.
Not to be.
But to become.

Thus begins Chapter 2 of Passage: Illness as Initiation, yet to be published. This chapter describes an energy healing session, prayer requests and responses, and biopsy surgery.