Guided by Greta

I am struggling to find inspiration in the dark.

Am I alone here?

Making art has always been an act of hope for me. But these days, I find little hope to draw on. I go into my studio and I just stare at the clay. I have ideas. But those ideas feel useless.

Dead. Done. Stillborn.

I used to take hope for granted. Although I didn’t think so at the time. But now I see, it is what made me want to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes jump out of bed. To get down to my studio. To release all of these ideas that were whirling around in my head.

Now, I just lie there.

Staring at the naked weed trees outside my window.

Willing a bird to land in their branches.

Recently, I moved into my brand new home art studio. It sits atop a brand new music studio. I should be in heaven. This is what I have waited two years for – a space of my own, with room enough, for all that I have created, and all that I am yet to create. I imagined it like a homecoming. A reunion. I would be so delighted to see all the work that had been locked away in storage, trapped behind dining room chairs and mattresses. A part of me would be restored.

But instead, with each piece of work I unpacked, I felt a growing sense of doom. Disappointment. Shame.

Nothing felt the same to me.

The last time I saw the work, Barack Obama was our president. I had hope. Endless hope. A hope so transparent that I saw right through it.

The last time I saw the work, I had purpose. I felt powerful. I thought that if I made work about race relations, endangered species, and plastics in our oceans that it meant something. I thought that it meant something to speak through my art. I didn’t recognize the luxury of that thinking. That even feeling hopeful can be a form of entitlement.

Today I walk into my studio and I feel ashamed. Ashamed of all the space that my work took up those two years it sat sleeping in boxes. On dark, dirty shelves. Ashamed of the space it takes up now.

Ashamed that it will never save the world.

Ashamed that I can’t save the world.

Ashamed at how defeated I feel.

How powerless.




So I turn to the young. And I hang on their every word. Emma Gonzalez. And my latest young hero, climate warrior Greta Thunberg. The words she spoke to a room full of billionaires make more sense to me than any I have heard so far. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

So I will try. To act. In the only way I know how. By swinging my legs out of bed and onto the floor. And walking toward the door.

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Hope, Restored

My sixteen year old was ready to walk out yesterday. He’s sixteen. Ready to rule the world. And I would gladly be his subject.

But my twelve year old wasn’t so sure. He’s a lover not a fighter.

So it’s my job to teach him how to fight lovingly.

Even though I knew there would be no fight. I have faith in their school. It is, after all, the Open School.

But my sixth grader is in his first year there and he wasn’t so sure. He had heard he needed permission. Parental supervision.

So I armed him with a letter. It read:

Today’s nationwide walk-out is a student-led initiative to take a stand against the lack of protections against gun violence in the United States. This is not a parent-led, a teacher-led, or an administration-led protest.

             Our children have our explicit support in participating in today’s protest, if they so choose. In recognition of the empowerment that this moment represents for our children, we have chosen not to sign them out or grant them “permission.”

            These children are our future. They do not need us to hold their hands or guide them in this. They need us to respect them, trust them and celebrate their strength and vision.

            These are the ideals that the Open School instills in our children. We hope you will stand by them and not impose any disciplinary action on them should they choose to exercise their right to peaceful protest.

He still wasn’t sure. So I told him that the worst that could happen was that he get suspended. I told him we would support him completely in that. That we’d have more time to focus on school work. As long as he was kind, respectful and non-violent. I told him that this was an act of civil disobedience. That he should smile respectfully and walk right past anyone who tried to stop him.

At 11:30 my sixteen year old sent me a text. “I walked out with bro.” My heart soared.

When they got home they told me the story.

At 10:55 his brother appeared at his classroom door. He told his teacher he was taking his brother out for the walk-out. She said, “Ok,” and out they went. A secretary ran after them, questioning them. So my sixteen year old handed her the letter he had never read. She was relieved and walked away.

My twelve year old had proudly shared the letter with his friends. He knew full well what it said.

So I made my sixteen year old read the letter.

He did.

And then he gave me a bro hug. My first bro hug.


My hope for our nation.


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I remember the day my hearing impairment was first diagnosed. First grade.

The hearing test. High-pitched tones.

Then silence. As absence. My internal metronome. Clicking out an intuition. That I was missing something. That something was missing in me.

I remember when the call came home. My mother on the phone. The feeling. As I listened from the other room. The dull excitement of having been discovered.

The heightened attentive quality to my mother’s voice. The slight urgency. Something a little bit scary. Slightly foreboding. Foreboding. As sounds, when I listened, always were. And always would be.

I remember having my hearing tested more thoroughly. New York City. The large room. Small me. Sitting in front of a machine. Oversized headphones. Adults behind glass. Watching me discreetly. Me. Obedient. Following their instructions. Tapping my response to sound. Sitting through the silence. All that I was missing.

I remember falling in love with the song of the cardinal. I young. Alone. In our small family room with the large picture window. My heart soared. And broke. From the beauty of it. It sang the color red. And light glistening through leaves.

I remember my guitar. Against my six-year old body. The resonance of wood. Air in my small lungs. My heart pulled with each string. No thing between it and me. Calm, joyful glow.

And when I grew older, I sent myself on journeys. Flung myself all around the world. First to France. Where sounds had no correlating meaning. And I would have to adapt. To the blurred sound of Parisian French. My mind’s desperate pursuit. Of the foreign sounds of my new home. The loneliness in failure.

And then to Japan. To the sharp inflexion of the language. The sweet surrender to each consonant-vowel combination. The relief. The exhilaration.

And years later. To Mexico. A house under construction. The unrelenting assault on my nervous system. The constant fight or flight response. The panic attacks. When the jackhammers powered up, pounding all around me. Stabbing at my skull.

The fight to halt the sounds. And then the flight. Running. On the beach. Into the jungle. To my secret enclave. Where birdsong. The surf. And wind-clattered palms. Sent sounds as emotion. From sources unseen. Soothing me. Shielding me. From the relentless attack. Of my own tattered well-meaning brain.

And then came the day. Christmas. When I got a glimpse. Of what it could mean. To just be. Without the low-frequency buzz. The chemical cocktail. The lone wolf in the woods.


Twelve of us were gathered around the kitchen table. For the noisy game of spoons. Adults. Teens. Kids. Screeching. Banging. Pushing.

I was in the middle.

My brother-in-law had told me earlier that he had just gotten a hearing aid. In his left ear. The same ear as my faulty one. My interest piqued. My vanity placated. It was nearly undetectable. He pulled the hearing aid out of his ear and handed it to me. Right in the middle of the game. “Try it.”

I hesitated. Then placed it in my ear. Looked at him. Startled.

Pure sunlight.

I looked around bewildered. Time suspended. Tears flowing freely. Half the room, suddenly lit. Where I had never noticed the dark. Where I had never known anything else. A bright glow.

After a moment, I took a deep breath, removed the hearing aid and handed it back to Greg. And as suddenly as it had lifted, the dark returned. And the low hum of anxiety. In the small flicker of absence, I suddenly saw its face. The silent buzzing. My lifelong companion.

Words flew. Jostling me.

My mother, overwhelmed with emotion. “Honey, we are going to get you one of those.”

My sister-in-law. “Isn’t it amazing?”

My brother-in-law. Nodding. Smiling. Knowing.

My son, “Mommy, why are you crying?”

I looked around for a place to hide. And there was my husband across the table. Quietly smiling. Pure love. And recognition.

And I understood that now my life would change.

And change. And Change.

In ways unimagined.

My boys laugh loudly. My dog suddenly barks. The wind slams the door shut. My husband walks into a room. No sharp hit of adrenaline. No sudden flash of anger. No cause for alarm.

My husband and I started playing music together. His drums no longer an assault. We added a bass player. A keyboardist. And finally, another guitar player. As we collaborated, I translated. The images that came to me. As I listened to the sounds. I could see what others could hear. The landscape of my aural brain overgrown by visual. I could see. What I could also now hear. As the wires became entwined. The neurons of sound. Growing into their rightful home. Like a parasitic vine. Sounds I’d never heard. Dropped by birds. Onto branches. Tendrils reaching for the light. Dewdrops glistening on leaves.

Today I listen to the rough cut of our band’s first album. And I hear. All the parts and pieces. Gifts I could not have received. Like sparrows in the branches. I’ve always heard but never seen. I watch as I listen. As the images appear. Filling in the spaces with colors I’ve never known. Each line a new design. Splashed colors on a canvas. Dancing to sounds I can only now see.

That was eighteen months ago. The land is overgrown. Now I have a friendly brain. A safe and happy home. Sounds abound. Like a thousand tiny dancers. Holding shiny boxes. For me. And for six-year old me. Happy as can be. Sitting quietly. Alone. With her tiny disability.

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Coyote Snow

Coyote snow.



Perils down.

To a softer ground. Of crocus petals.

And periwinkle vine.


With sorrow.

For all that we have been.

And all we have become.

 Heavy for hearts miniature.


Always forward.

Coyote snow.

A future unknown.

 Wind to sing ever warmer.

Sing ever warmer.





No longer.

Copy (2) of DSC03542

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Benevolent Dictator. My Muse.

This is not what I am supposed to be doing right now. Which is precisely the point. I am supposed to be working for another muse. Supposed to be. But, instead, my muse has taken the reigns again. And I am trying to make more of an effort to thank her, instead of a wee bit resenting her for steering me all over the place. (It really feels more like she has been pulling me by the hair).

Creativity is a gift. One for which I am deeply and fully grateful. But sometimes, (lately) the long process of unwrapping it, admiring it, writing the long handwritten thank you note, finding the stamp, remembering to put it in the mailbox and then finding the proper shelf for the thing itself. Well, that has been feeling a bit overwhelming to me, the chronically overwhelmed. 

I know I did it to her first, took her away from clay, asked her to make do with sand and construction debris. And for revenge, she smiled, sent me some of those happy happy joy joy feelings and said, “Okay, then, how about you lean down and pick up some of that trash that washed up on the beach.” So, I did. 

Then, she started sending me messages to scribe in the form of words. Here. “Go ahead, you’ll like it,” she urged.

So, I did. I am, if nothing else, dutiful. Okay, maybe not entirely, but a little. 


I was sad. Being away from that clay, where she sent me such clear beautiful images that filled mewith love and feelings of connection as I tried to recreate them. And I suspect she knew that.

So she compensated. Gave me birds. Trogans perched on low branches to stop me in my tracks once I learned their sound. Broad beautiful butterflies at the spot where the fig tree hugged the palm. She once even sent me a jungle fairy. A body like a dragonfly, with yellow petals on the tips of its wings that looked like falling loveglow in flight. 

And after a year without clay, I went to a singing class with a friend. And the teachers listened to a song I sang and said, “Three songs. We want you to write three songs.” So, I did. Because somewhere inside I imagined it was going to count toward my grade. 

And the teachers in that singing class were intense when they gave me the assignment. Like they saw something. And I walked away utterly confused and amazed. I wondered for a long time what it was they saw, because I felt quite sure they had seen something.

Now, I think I know. They saw my muse. Hovering somewhere in that room. Lighting it up. And they followed her light and told me to sing.

So, I have been. 

That was two and a half years ago. It has taken me that long. But now, finally, I have decided to surrender to the muse. With gratitude and joy. Arms spread wide, I thank her. Ask her to consider me wind, blow me in any direction she pleases. And so she is writing songs. She is singing. It seems, this is what she wants to do. What she wants me to do. She mothers me. And in return, I mother her. 

She has been asking this of me for a long time now. And I was so distracted by ideas of who I was that I turned her voice to a whisper. But, the moment I allowed her to speak at full volume, she sent me a song. Not just any song, but one that for years I had thought was going to somehow be a piece of prose or a sculpture. But when I sat down with my guitar and heard the first few notes, heard the first few words, I knew immediately. This is that thing I have been trying to work into a story for years. Jokes on me. It’s a song. 
I imagine she took a deep prana breath of relief then. 

I can’t guarantee that I will keep writing songs or singing for long. That will be up to her. But, right now, that is what she asks of me. And I obey.

It is my duty as an artist. To serve her. Loyally. Openly. And lovingly. Grade or no grade.

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I am half-sleeping when I hear my bedroom door open. From my perch in partial dreamspace, I suspect it is my youngest son, Gavin. He opens it more quietly than his father does. His brother, ever more quiet, is at a sleepover.

Then the door closes. And I hear nothing. I wait a moment. Then open my eyes. And there he is. Standing beside my bed. Looking at the things on my nightstand. Gently touching them. Quietly hoping that I will awaken. Knowing he shouldn’t wake me. Balancing himself. Delicately. Sensitively. Between desire and compassion.  He is six years old.

He pretends not to notice that my eyes are open.

“Well, hello there,” I say.

He smiles. His brown eyes brighten. Grow larger. He jumps up on the bed. Snuggles on top of me. Hugs and kisses me.

“Hi Mommy! Happy Mother’s Day!”

“Thanks, my beautiful.”

His father is downstairs. He has me all to himself. His face is full of love and anticipation.

“What’s Daddy doing?”


His mind wanders down to the kitchen. He hops off the bed, following it back down there.

I am alone. Awake. In my bed. In Mexico. On Mother’s Day.

Chachalacas are calling their brass-section gurgling call outside. I open the French doors and walk out onto the terrace to see them. I expect them to be in the mango tree. But, they are not. They are somewhere in the neighbor’s tree. Out of my sight.

I leave the doors open and climb back into my canopied bed built from palapa wood. The fabric gently sways in the breeze. I close my eyes again.

Moments later, Gavin returns.  I open my eyes. He is holding flowers in a small water glass. Flowers whose names I don’t know. In any language. One is pink, from the plant he and his brother chose at the nursery. And purple from one I chose. He offers the flowers to me. His hands smell of rosemary.

“I picked the purple one because I know you like purple.”

“Thank you, Sweetie Pie.”

I take another kiss.

“Your hands smell like rosemary,” I tell him.

He smiles. Seen. Witnessed.

“Rosemary and basil,” he says, smelling his hands. “We are using them in your breakfast.”

Suddenly remembering my breakfast, he leaves again.

I pick up my cell phone on the nightstand and call my husband in the kitchen. He answers, knowing it is me.

“Yes, hello. Happy Mother’s Day. Were you calling to order room service?”

“Yes, please,” I answer.

I hear Gavin in the background.

“I want to do it, Daddy!”

“Oh, right. Just a moment please Ma’am.”

He hands the phone to Gavin.

Gavin says, “Hello?”

“Yes, I’d like to order eggs.”

“Eggs,” he repeats.



“Cheese and coffee.”

“Okay,” he says.

I can hear the hesitation in his voice.

“Did you get all that?”

“Eggs. Bacon. Coffee…”

”And cheese,” I say gently.

“Oh, yeah. Eggs, bacon, coffee and cheese.”

Then I hear Robert in the background. “Ask her what room number.”

“What room number?” he giggles.

“One,” I say.

“Okay, okay,” he says.

Flustered by his new role as room service waiter, he hangs up.

A few minutes later, he walks into my room again. I see his smile. He holds a notebook. A page of inch-tall letters. Capitals mixed with lower-case. My order written out in his hand. Brown eyes sparkling.  I tell him, “It’s perfect.”

“I wrote it with this hand,” he says, holding up his left hand.

“No, wait, I think I used this one,” now holding up his right.

I notice that cheese is missing from his list. I know he’s looking for another task as my breakfast cooks. Another excuse to leave and return again. A way back to the adventure that is the journey from my room down to the kitchen.

As he walks out into the hallway, I notice, for the first time, that he is naked. Jaybird naked. I want to reach out into the hallway and cup my palms on those love handles of his.

Soon, he reappears with the notebook. Cheese written clearly at the top of the list. An e and a d written by my husband in the top right corner of the page.

“Daddy wrote those for me and I copied them.”

He is pleased with himself. Lingering for awhile. He dances at the foot of my bed. Then goes and gets his stuffed animals and blankets for me. I hear my husband calling from downstairs as he walks back into the room with more stuffed animals.

“Is Daddy calling for you?”

“I think he is saying ‘Peter,’” he says, on a momentary visit from his mind’s meanderings.

“Could he be saying, ‘waiter’?”

“Oh, waiter,” he giggles and walks out the door, still laughing.

I quickly grab the cell phone and call down to my husband again.

He answers. “Casa Coati. How can I help you?”

“Hi, I ordered room service.”

“Yes, Ma’am, it will up in just a moment.”

“Thank you. I was wondering if I could request to have that delivered by the naked waiter.”

He laughs, I have taken him by surprise. A real accomplishment, after all these years. I can hear in his response that by now the short naked waiter is standing next to him. He doesn’t want to break the spell.

“Yes, Miss Svendsen. I will be happy to send the same waiter up with your breakfast.”

Moments later, Gavin appears with a plate. Bacon. Cheese. Eggs. Green salsa. And a piece of basil, three petals centered perfectly on the eggs. The basil he picked from the garden.

He hands it to me and jumps up on the bed.

“Do you want a bite,” I ask.

“No, I’m going to have toast with butter.”

I suddenly remember the white bread his brother pirated into the house on an unattended trip to the tienda yesterday. He’s probably been thinking of that white bread all morning. He looks expectantly at me and, then, my eggs.

“Daddy’s cooking the toast for me.”

“Do you want me to wait?”

“Okay!” I have read his mind.

“Should I just take one bite before you go,” I ask.

“Yes! I’ll share some of my toast with you!“

‘Thanks, sweetie!” I say.

I smile. Pause. Then remind him that I can’t eat bread.

“Gluten,” he says.

I smile.

“What if I bring you a hamburger bun to make a sandwich with your eggs?”

“Gluten,” I smile.

“Is there something else you could use to make a sandwich?”

“I could use a tortilla.”


He runs out of the room. Returning a moment later with the large wooden tortilla container. I suspect it was his idea to put the tortillas in there.

He leaves again and I look into the container. It holds three warm tortillas in a paper towel.  I sneak a small bite of my cooling breakfast.

He returns quickly with his Dad holding a plate of buttered white toast. The butter, melting in pats in the center. His face is bright as he jumps up on the bed. His father hands him the plate. “Here you go, Peter.” Gavin giggles. He bites into his toast as he watches me eat my eggs.

No longer my naked waiter, he is my son again. Sharing our love through food. I sense a timeless ancestry. A forever of mothers and sons eating together.

The song that’s been there since Friday comes back into my head. I sing. “Mama, me quiero decir te amo.” It is the song my older son’s class sang at the Mother’s Day Celebration at school on Friday. He accompanied them on the guitar.

“I heard you singing that song when I was walking upstairs,” Gavin says. “It made me want to drop my plate.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Like when Angie draws a picture and it is so beautiful that I drop my crayon.”

“You mean the song sounded so beautiful you wanted to drop your plate?”


After awhile, Gavin and Robert return to the kitchen. I am alone in my room admiring the beautiful view of my neighbors’ palms and cobalt windows. The door suddenly opens and there he is. My long, wavy-haired almost eleven year old musician back from his sleepover.


He jumps up onto the bed as if he hasn’t seen me in days. Puts his head on my stomach and hugs me.

“Happy Mother’s Day!!!”

He turns his face up to me, shining those same beautiful brown eyes up at me. His birthday is next week. Born a week late, he was due on Mother’s Day eleven years ago. He lifts my shirt and kisses my belly and puts his face on it, kissing me some more.  I inhale. Trying my best to memorize this feeling.  The unselfconscious embrace of my fast-growing son.

After a minute or two, he stands up again. Walks out onto the terrace for a moment and returns. Last night was a sleepover where the mother was going to be out for an hour. Before he left, I had asked him if he would feel comfortable alone in the house at night. He had told me it would be fine because he had the number for the police on speed dial.

So, I asked. “How was your sleepover? Did you call the cops on speed dial?”

“Yes,” his face brightens mischievously. “This guy was banging on the door trying to break it down.”

“Really?!” We both know I am playing along.

“Yeah, and all the guy wanted,” he says, glancing at the flowers on my night stand, “was a flower to bring home to his wife.”

“Mama, me quiero decir te amo,” I sing, reminding him of how proud I am of him for his guitar performance on Friday. In front of the entire school, holding down the performance with his smooth chord changes, learned in a week’s time. And the beautiful poem he handed me before he began. By the third line, I was sobbing. It read,

When you are waking me up from school, you are my Mom.

When you are working on the house with Dad, you are my dad’s wife.

But when you are singing, you are something else…

I sing again.

“Mom, it’s ‘te quiero’ not ‘me quiero.’”

“Oh, it is?”

“Yeah.” Rolling out the vowels in that special way only a pre-teen can do.

“Me quiero decir te amo.” I sing.

He smiles. Rolls his eyes. Walks out of the room.

And there I am.

Alone again.

Sipping my room-service coffee.

Served by a short, naked waiter named Peter.

Appreciating my life.

My two boys. Their deep dark brown love-filled eyes from their father.

I am so grateful for this family of mine.

And this beautiful room I am viewing it all from.

I am full. Of love.

A mother. Embraced by blessings.

On Mother’s Day.

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I am standing on top of a cliff. A plateau. Stretching out above jungle, beach and sea. I come here often. But, no matter how often I am here. It never gets old. Each time I arrive at this spot, and I look out over the ocean, I feel my heart. Expand. With the horizon.

Sayulita to the south. San Pancho to the north.

From up here I can see form. Pattern. The lines of surf seeped dark in the sand. One line in this expansive earth. Ocean meets land. In its timeless ebb and flow. Relentless. But never the same. Elegance. Lines I can feel, but can’t comprehend. Lines I can fall into. Find peace in.

And today. In correspondence. A flock of frigate birds appears. Eye level. Just beyond the cliff. Usually, they form part of the distant skyscape. But now, they are almost within reach. Altering my sense of self. And space.

I turn off my music. Allow their dance of flight against sky to become my sound. Soaring on a current I can’t feel. In a pattern I can’t decipher. But, which enters me, nonetheless.

For a moment, I feel a silence.

And then, I turn. Take in the expanse of jungle behind me. An orange butterfly floats over a plant. The grasses sway sage and dusty magenta. I pivot. Watch the birds soar effortlessly above me. Their wings outstretched in a perfect show of aerodynamics. The path of a snake in the dirt reenters my mind.

My soundscape expands. Like a song played on repeat. The spaces filled in with each play. The clattering of palm leaves. One sound for green. One for brown. A woodpecker in the distance. I turn toward the sounds and see a few black vultures flying in their circular pattern. Over some unseen prey. An oriole calls. I feel love.

This is why I run. To find my way back to this feeling. I burn off all the cortisone and adrenaline my body has been working overtime producing. In its biofeedback loop of fight or flight. Akin to the animals whose presence soothe me. An overachieving nervous system responding to its assigned post.

These chemicals are like old friends. Crotchety. Complaining. Nagging. Old friends. The sensory information takes time to reintegrate into my brittle nervous system. Reds hit me like sound. Sound hits me like punches.

But here, on the hilltop, the sounds and sights enter me like the pattern of the souring frigate birds.  And I wonder. Will we someday come to understand the chemical mechanics of connection? Invent a machine to recognize flow. Of energy. Through our spinal chords. On invisible interconnected highways of being.

I have come to know myself as a circuitry of neural pathways and spinal chord – sometimes clogged, sometimes flowing. I feel the anxiety of an overdose of cortisone in my eyes. In my stomach.

But what of these chemicals? Will we someday come to think of them as something other than that which we ourselves create? Not simply manifestations of our own experience, but something more. Products of a symbiotic relationship with other beings, perhaps.

Might we come to understand chemicals and molecules of emotion not as microscopic life forms born of us, but living within us? Tiny messengers from the Other. Our bodies part of a larger ecosystem. Not a singular self, or a self intangibly connected to other selves, but instead hosts to a greater breath of being. Nothing singular. None alone. Never separate.

Is it any wonder that recorded birdsong and waves are used to calm the frightened neurons of the aurally sensitive?  Could it be that sounds in nature hold the subatomic molecular structure of flow? Interconnectedness. A sonic Fibonacci sequence.

Might sound-waves be the yarn that weaves together all life? Inside and outside of time.

Could it be that the molecules of car alarms, power tools and video games create anxiety because they have no corresponding shape in nature? No key to unlock being. A subatomic structure so foreign that it bumps into flow. Causing friction. A heightened state of fear. Maybe this is what causes the autistic anomie of modern life.

Or perhaps the inventors of the auditory piece of car alarms found an exact formal match for that produced in the body. A match capable of penetrating the more porous of people. The sudden invasion of these nefarious molecules causing a riotous overthrow of the more peaceful of atoms at home in some bodies.

Might we someday understand sensory information to not be something outside of ourselves, but something integral to our Selves. Will we someday understand our bodies to be porous and connected through our senses? Will we identify sound as the connective tissue of the universe? Sound-waves composed of infinite possibility. Like the subatomic particles within hydrogen and oxygen bouncing in the crest of a wave in the ocean.

I leave my perch on the hill. Make my descent. Listening for more now. The soles of my shoes hold the beat. Dirt rises. Small rocks roll. I run. Light. Back down the hill. Into the jungle again. Bathed in sonic avifauna. Familiar. Part of. Not separate.

Back onto the beach. A flock of cormorants are making their daily journey south above the water. Spring has begun its approach.

Soon the herons will start building their nests in the ficus tree at the edge of the beach. Fledglings will wobble out onto limbs.

Mounds will appear in the sand. And the land crabs will scurry along the jungle trail. Waving their upstretched claws in a show of chivalry. Or perhaps, sending me a sound-wave I cannot perceive. Signaling to me that my time here is coming to an end. And, that soon, I will move on. To a new sensory landscape. With sounds and shapes and feelings all its own.

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In the sand today. Lay three tiny vertebrae. Oxidized aquamarine. Small as pearls. Stacked neatly. Impossibly small. Impossibly large. In the palm of my hand.

I carried them along with me. To string on a necklace. As my relics of this day. This day of deliberation. Intentional presence.

Today, I run. To honor what is to come.

I know tomorrow is going to hurt. It has been howling in me all week. In the house of my haunted mind. Ghost neurons rattling the windowpanes. Bones clanking on rusty doorknobs.

It will be a day where we all remember. Collectively. Alone. Pierced in our own way. Through our own personal wounds. Bound together by memory.

I will be deliberate in my sorrow. Create an altar for my memories. And all the feeling that is flowing through me. Mine. And not mine. Ours.

Individual. And universal.

Just a few strides further, I see another altar to this day. Rounded bricks. Cinder blocks. Rocks. Placed upright in the sand. Tiny headstones. A pop-up cemetery. Composed of objects worn by the sea. Placed there by some sensitive soul. Another vertebrae.

I know where I am headed. To my sacred beach. To my communion. With the sand and the sea. And the birds. Where the whale washed up on shore. Where I learned the smell of death. And felt all that is. And has been. In one flash of forever. And never. And always. Where I saw all. And nothing.

I have known all kinds of loss. Pain. Grief. Sorrow. But, I have never seen, felt, smelled, heard grace so complete. The grace in tragedy. Laid large in undulating flesh like then. Washed by the sea. Moon. Sky. In and outside of time.

Last week, the corpse of a pelican was my altar. She lay strewn in the sand. There against the rocks that mark the northernmost edge of my sacred beach. My destination. Until the tide washed her away. Or below the sand. Today I placed a feather in the sand to mark her spot.

And then I turned to journey to my new altar. There in the hidden cove, on the other end of the beach. A relic so large. And beautiful. A whale bone. Washed ashore. Last week.

I happened upon it at the end of a meandering hike. Like an apparition. And a wish finally granted.

Impossibly large. Butterfly shaped. A round table that seats eight. Teetering on the edge of the sand. On the bank of the river. In the place where mountain meets sea.

It was there again today. I know it will be carried back out to sea soon. And that each day I see it is a day of grace. I lay alms. In my own way.

It’s not that I need a reminder. I. Like many. Already know. Through the journey that has been my life. That every day is a day of grace. That everything can change. That every moment flees. That all can. And will. Eventually. Wash back out to sea. Scrubbed clean. Made small. Held large. In the palm of memory.

I embrace this knowing. That I. Am only one of the vertebrae. One bone. In this massive body of Being. Through which feeling flows. Through me. And all around me. None of it. And all of it. Mine.

So I run back home. To my end of the beach. And I place a couple rocks on the cairns in the sand. Marking my place on this trail we all share. On the intimate journey through this thing called living.

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The Cymbal Monkey

Here we are. And here we are not.

And this is how it goes. When you pin your hopes to the unknown. State your intentions. And wait.

It is not natural to look to the future. We know this from a year in Mexico. We know this from just plain living.

The mind wants to stay put.

To be.

In the midst of becoming.

To take in the sensations of the here and now. Unencumbered by the hourglass.

Not to be knocked around by perplexing questions of where and when.

Of what. Next.

And the spirit knows not how to soar when the needle in the compass wobbles. And I know, the compass always wobbles. It’s just I am not always holding it in my hand. Intending on it. Wondering which way is north.

Yesterday I put a bird around my neck. In hope. In trust. And I asked that our future be determined. Not one specific future. Just a sign of what might be. And here I am. At odds with a toy poodle. Randomly intersecting factors affecting my future.

I don’t want to go – is the thing. I want to stay. To create. To improve. To learn sing. To perform. To show. To be. Me.

And I want to go – is the thing. I want to run. To watch the tide. And the birds. To expand. To learn to surf. To nurture. To be. A family.

Mostly, I want to be.

In the moment.

Not projected into the future.

Standing on a small square on my calendar. Or splayed across many small squares on my calendar.

I only have so many limbs for this game of temporal twister. And there is not enough room for all of us to place our hands and feet down at the same time.

Heidegger wrote about this. Or maybe it was Nietzsche. I can’t remember. I just remember that he didn’t think much of throwing oneself into the future. It does something to the time-space mind-body connection.

We are not meant to be projected into another time. Another space.

The brain doesn’t know the difference. And it hurts.

It exhausts the soul. To pluck it out of the everchanging now and project it onto the impossibly unknown.

And it causes neck pain. From a pivoting gaze. Behind. Ahead. Over and over.

It brings on a temporary mid-life crisis, regardless of one’s age. Wondering at what has been. What will be.

Most days I find solace in the idea that what WILL BE already IS.

But other days, the cymbal monkey marches across my temples clanging out the tinny beats of my future.

I want to slow down time.


I want to know.

Which way my future goes.

Even though I know, that even when we know.

We never really know.

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There is a very specific kind of loneliness felt when creativity goes unnourished for too long. Part longing. Part disconnection. Part disappointment. It is beautiful. Blessed. A burden carried in earnest. On behalf of the creative soul. Relieved only by creativity itself.

It is an amicable kind of loneliness- willing to coexist with all sorts of positive feelings. Deep happiness. Satisfaction. Abundance.

An activist for the soul, it never tires of speaking its truth. Despite all goodness, it never becomes completely silent until it is served.

It acts on behalf of creativity. Never tiring of pointing out injustice. Narcissistic and stubborn as hell, it loves the sound of its own voice. The repetition of its own words, “Feed me.”

I have a collection of birds that I have been making out of clay since I returned. Boat-tailed grackle. Heads turned upwards. In song. Singing hope.

I love them. They bring me to the tops of palm trees. To the sound of their song – like they are blowing into a wind instrument made of coconut shells.

And they are a start.

But although I am creating them, they don’t serve my creative longing. A longing for substance. Meaning.

Instead, they sing of my longing. For connection through art. They remind me that I am in breach of contract. That I am breaking a promise to my self.  One that I don’t remember ever having made. But one I am deeply aware of.

To create. To embrace the complexity. The depth. The beauty. To make art. With meaning. The kind that quiets the loneliness. And serves the soul.

I know this feeling well. I recognize its utility.

But, still. I would prefer to be rid of the feeling. Lacking the time and the space to give art my all. To serve it a well-rounded meal. I will continue to feed it breadcrumbs. Until the time comes that I can do otherwise.

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