Beyond Catfish: holding it together

[This blog, like some other recent ones, should probably be put in the category of “insomnia musings” except I don’t want to give the insomnia that credence in the hopes it will crawl back into its agitated corner.]

On the cusp of turning six years old my grandson asked me what holds atoms, as in one single atom, together. “Why don’t the electrons, protons, and neutrons all fly away? Is it gravity? Or, . . . or maybe magnetism?”

I muttered something about the weak force or the strong strong.

Ben: “Yes, but is the force gravity or magnetism?”

Me: No, it’s different.

A couple minutes later, Ben: “Okay. Well, what holds atoms together, like atoms that are alike? Like why doesn’t that truck fly apart?” (We were at a stop light next to a furniture delivery truck. Many of our best conversations are in the car.)

Ben was not asking about nuts, bolts, and axles. He was asking how are we held together “. . . or a leaf, or a tree, or a house. Why don’t they all fly apart?” I have often asked myself the same question. I contend that the difference between humans and other species is that we are aware that only something unexplainable stands between us and oblivion.

By the time he was eight, my older brother would fish, sometimes with me, in the teeny creek through the north meadow where the cows pastured. Catfish. Ugly critters that ruined my taste for fish for decades.

Fishing is a silent endeavor, even putting the live earthworms on the hooks. He taught me how to do this, the curve and threading of it, and I tried not to show how squeamish I was. The memory of wet fat “night crawlers” with the grit of dirt on them is sealed into my sight and touch.

He had a red and white plastic bobbin that fulfilled its job description by bobbing in the muddy water until a fish on a hook pulled it under. Mainly you stared at the bobbin and kept your silence.

photo 2Les took me fishing again when I was in my mid-50s. We took his boat out on the Saylorville Lake north of Des Moines and used radar to sight the fish deep below. I don’t remember what kind of fish we caught that day, but they were larger and prettier by far than the fingerlings of our childhood.

My brother, who died too young, attended church, but he also believed in the religion of fishing during the summer and the winter. He and my sister-in-law took early retirement from teaching and moved to a small town in Minnesota where their home was a couple blocks up from the Mississippi River. He was a serious ice fisherman.

We try to hold ourselves together through systems of belief: morals, ethics, religion, cultural rituals.

We try to hold ourselves together through personal identity: conservative, liberal, entrepreneur, nerd, millennial, elder, sports fanatic, freedom fighter, intellectual, poor, rich, traveler, professional, artist, parent, lover, teacher, fisherman, blogger.

We try to hold ourselves together through rules: legal codes, constitutions, oaths, grammar, proper attire, contracts, marriages, manners.

That is, we try to moor ourselves to tangible things – and self-concepts – so we don’t fly apart. We try to hold ourselves together by saying we are our particulars: we are musicians rather than music, we are poets rather than poetry, we are eyes rather than sight, we are fishermen rather than the taste of fish.

It doesn’t work, and it is not accurate because we are the music and the poetry and the seen and seeing, the fisherman and the taste of fish. The experience of music and poetry and sight and taste do not exist without us – and they are nothing but experience.

There can be no words for the Thing of us – the force if you will – that holds us together because the Thing of us is the whole of us, while words are inherently separating and dividing. A word cannot define something without excluding everything else.

So we line up series of words in the attempt to comprehend who we are, but it is like describing cake as flour, sugar, eggs, and water that have been mixed together and baked.

Yet if we have not words – rules, beliefs, self-identity, rites – we get scared and can fly apart. We rely on descriptions of ourselves to keep us manageable to ourselves, to keep our minds from being blown. And it is okay. We need time, we need safety of belief, we need science for progress, we need to fish, we need to ask about atoms and be satisfied that the words “strong force, weak force, gravity, and magnetism” have meaning and bring order.

The red and white plastic bobbin tells us when there is a fish on our line. With time we bravely move to larger and larger lakes where we employ radar, attempting to penetrate the muck.

Sometimes we even land a fish. Sometimes we even catch a glimpse of why trucks don’t fly apart. On rarest occasion, if we are silent enough, we catch a glimpse of who we are beyond words.


3:15 am, and counting

Insomnia is the realm of questions, not answers. Sleep brings answers, solved in the deep peace of timelessness free from bits of this and bits of that. Insomnia is a noisy carnival without the joy. It is a place that at its best echoes back to your many questions that humans are unfathomable. In insomnia we are not glorious, we are skin, bone, muscle, sinew, and digestive and pumping and cleansing organs that house the determination to live. Insomnia keeps us awake for the dark night of the soul, which to my mind is partially caused by lack of sleep.

Unfathomable, that’s what we are. It could be a song, a waltz. A waltz over the troubling facts of the portfolio of humans on earth. We love, and we kill. We desire, and we plunder. We create beauty, and poison ourselves with hate. We set up national, cultural, familial borders and defend them to our detriment. We are savage beings who want to adore each other but are afraid.

Our rages and our fears lead us to pipelines that will – you know they will – leak; to recycled genocides; to trampling on the weakest of us as the “natural order”; to overuse of satire and condemnation; to confusing work with progress. We are small things with large hearts. We are blind things homesick for beauty, especially our own. We are deaf creatures who hear unsung music in our fibers.

Insomnia is a place of anxiety where scale is not recognized. That large black dogs are the last to be rescued from shelters feels almost as sad as that killing has resumed in the South Sudan, and the fact that I know by name large black dogs who have not been rescued through their photos on FB but know not the name of a single Sudanese is profoundly sad, but not proportionately so.

It’s where unanswered emails are suddenly remembered and are disturbing, but no more so than that the protagonist in the book I’m reading is losing his lover.

It’s where the question of getting up for yogurt with some fig jam has the gravitas of the future of the Ukraine. (The yogurt question looms large.) Things are not to scale and the “here now” and the “there now” – even the “there then” – vie for your attention as equals: “Me, me, look at me.”

One’s cells tingle in mild panic: “Hey, we have to work tomorrow, will you just turn off the switch?” The ringing that is in all our ears if we listen to it is louder between 1 am and 5 am, juvenile locusts, still sopranos.

We are unfathomable. The best thing, perhaps the only good thing, about insomnia is that sometimes you remember those you have recently lost (like your mother), those you love and who love you even through the dark and unstated, those who need you and you must remember to tend when morning comes, and that in the churning over of humans – that toothed conveyer belt of time – there is a goodness, quite aside from the startling gifts of genius and art and science.

There is a goodness that, as yeast rises daily bread, will help us rise again, not only at the light but towards common good. It is packed in there with the bones, muscle, sinews and the rest. How that works, who knows? Insomnia brings no answers, only tenacity.

Girls v. Boys: who’s manipulating whom?

I know little girls can manipulate with those innocent smiles and conspiratorial whispers that tickle your ear. I’m fully aware. But a couple days ago my six-year-old grandson did a classic male manipulation of my four-year-old granddaughter that I have not been able to get out of my head, not because I wasn’t familiar with it but because I am too familiar with it. I just didn’t know it started so young. It means the job of nurture to smooth out nature is harder than I ever imagined.


This blog may not pertain to, or even make sense, to some of you. If so, think of it as a missive from an alien planet, and consider yourself lucky.

Anyone who know me knows I am smitten by my grandson. I call him “my super nova.” I adore his dreamy math-obsessed mind. He is wry, sensitive, and sometimes completely out of it. Even so . . .

The situation was: both children were in my care, we had arrived to NYC late the night before, it was mid-morning and they were eager to get out into the city. As I hurried to do some unpacking and breakfast clean up, their physical push-and-shove (with age-appropriate giggling) was edging towards getting out of hand. I told them to take it into their bedroom.

The laughter turned to ominous shuffling sounds. Josie started to cry and came out, incoherent with sobs. Ben rushed by without looking back. I heard a door slam.

Me: Where are you hurt?

Josie couldn’t talk.

Me: Point to where it hurts.

Josie shook her head “no.”

Me: What happened?

Sobs and hiccups.

Me: Were you scared?

Josie: He. . . he. . . Ben . . . (incoherent) . . . I couldn’t get up, . . .

Me: Were you under the covers and he held you down and you got scared? (No gramma intuition here, this is classic kid stuff.)

Josie, shaking her head “yes”: But I’m not hurt. Ben didn’t hurt me, I’m not hurt.

Me: You were only scared.

Josie: Ben didn’t hurt me.

Me: I understand. Maybe we should tell him that. . . I look around . . . Where is he?

Josie: He’s in your bedroom. That’s what he does. He walks away and goes into another room and shuts the door.

Me: Really?

J: Un-huh . . .

After a few more hiccups, we went to my bedroom door. It was locked.

Me: Ben, you cannot lock me out of my own bedroom.

Josie: I’m okay, Ben, you didn’t hurt me.

There was silence on the other side of the door. Josie repeated herself. I was aghast and annoyed. She was petitioning him at a door he locked against her after he frightened her to tears. That happens when you think you are suffocating.

Ben, clearly realizing locking my bedroom was beyond the limits of acceptability, opened the door and rushed by us to their room, muttering. He took a stance with his back to us and continued to mutter.

Josie and I stood at the doorway. She whispered to me: He’s saying ‘Josie doesn’t like me, nobody likes me. I’m always to blame.’

Me: He is?

Josie: That’s what he always says.

She was perfectly composed, relating a fact. She knows the routine. My six-year-old beloved grandson knows how to turn wounding his little sister into his being wounded. And she accepts that she is to tend and reassure him. She really wants to know he is okay and happy.

imageKnow what? She wins. Her advanced emotional IQ allows her to wrap her head around her feelings and his feelings. It might not change this common male-female dynamic as she grows up but it gives her more knowledge from which to make decisions that care not only for his welfare but for her own.

I don’t imagine for a second that Ben didn’t fully experience his version of events as real, honest, and true. I’m sure he did, and that he felt like he was abandoned and cast to the bottom of a dark well while Josie, the little darling, got all the sympathy.

I accept he was in misery. I just don’t accept that his emotions were based on facts – or that stomping into another room, locking the door, and being silent for an extended period while his sister was petitioning him was necessary or helpful.

imageBut he was successful. He deflected the possibility of being blamed into that he was the wounded party.


And I was suckered in alongside Josie, thinking “Poor Ben. How can we make it better?” My grandson snookered us both.

Okay, many of you reading this will say, it’s only an older and younger child thing – or maybe Josie was a wimp. The girl is not a wimp, she is rock solid. Furthermore, she knows not only where her socks are, she knows where his are. She knows where everything is in my kitchen, bathroom, and closet. She dresses herself in mesh tutus, tights with holes at the knees, and dirty tennis shoes. She knows who she is, and that includes being her brother’s keeper. She adores him.

imageBen also adores her. They are emotionally intertwined. Pick on one or the other and you’ll have to contend with both of them.

But, hey, why couldn’t he have come to her, asked if she was okay, and said he was sorry and meant it, maybe even dried her tears? And we could have talked about how to keep rough-housing under control in the future. Why couldn’t he? Why not?

Okay, I have seen him saying “It was an accident, Josie” before leaving the scene. I’m not 100% fair here. I ‘fess up.

And I’ve known of women who are manipulative and take advantage. I’m especially acquainted, secondhand, with mothers who emotionally terrorized their sons from childhood on. These crazy-banana women make it hard for the rest of us.

But to the point, while I’m sure women also do this to men, it is a common male-female dynamic as Ben did it to Josie, and as Josie accepted it. After witnessing this dynamic as an on-site play between little people, I dreamt for the first time that I verbally decimated my third ex-husband. I always could have but even in the worst of it, I chose not too. Finally, after five and a half years I was willing to reduce him to ash. It was a little scary. In real life you cannot reconstructed people who are ash left on the floor. Good thing it was a dream.

The central question is, knowing your skills of coping and forgiveness are larger than those of a beloved person who wounded you, what choices do you make when they blame you? We each find our own answers to that.

Josie is already finding them. Brava, little girl. Keep exploring and embracing, and protecting yourself. Gramma’s got your back.

Easter in NYC: costumes

imageEaster Sunday, frivolity in front of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. A flowered cross, and two tired grandchildren. Oh well, I had fun. Adults at play. I’ve been thinking about camouflage and masks and this Easter in NYC fit right in.

Masks are presumed to hid identities but don’t they also give the opportunity to reveal our inner essence or a wannabe self? A fox? A devil? A swanlike beauty? A pirate? A lone ranger?



We wear the daily masks and costumes of the entrepreneur, intellectual, nice person, young Turk, teacher, artist, elder states-person, sexy grandmother. We cover ourselves with the masks of our preferred persona. We do it for protection and for advancement and even subterfuge. And as denial against hard times.



If costumes and hats are masks, fanciful or daily mundane, aren’t make up and plastic surgery also? They deflect the viewers’ perceptions from the naked you in the direction you prefer: I am a person of style, I am a person with money, I am superior, I am gifted, I am eccentric, I am open and loving, I am clergy, I’m cool, I’m hot.

Or instead of deflecting, do they reveal the true you? The beautiful you?  What if we all gave full bent to dressing as the creature we feel we are? A daily mardi gras? Could we wear rabbit ears daily? Tiaras?


Only the truly poor are deprived of the ability to mislead through what they wear and how they wear it. The man in front of the church was already dressed as a character, the homeless man. What would he have chosen to wear if given a choice to be not poor? What clothes would be his inner essence? A philosopher? A traveler? A visionary?

Yet, it was a lovely day. So many people smiling as though we were on the inside of a communal joke. A day when clothing is meant consciously as play, as celebration of rebirth and resurrection – resurrection of self, which seems to depend upon a time of dormancy and returning to the ground, of gathering strength to rise in full bloom, the miracle of being human and sacred.imageimage

Spoiler Alert: Israeli and Palestinian Denials Exposed

[At the end of this blog is an exclusive interview with Dr. Mohammed Dajani that came in while I was writing. This is your incentive to read the entire blog.]

Two things have converged to overcome my resistance, as a social activist in recovery, to writing a political blog. Both relate to Palestine and Israel, the only conflict in which I am still informed by more than normal daily media. I receive five to ten FB videos, articles, and commentary each day in addition to “keeping up” through friends. It is enough to be thoroughly depressed.

I do not know, as I start, if what I will write will be measured or intemperate, if it will be calm or fed up. I learned early that Palestinians are occupied, unprotected, herded, and blamed. I learned this in a dozen plus trips to the area and as the editor-photographer-interviewer for the book “Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women,” available on Amazon.

Earlier, as the founder and head of the international non-profit organization Peace X Peace, I could not say my truth directly. We will discover together what I will say now.

Note: While this blog focuses on Big Lies and Denials of Israelis and Palestinians, the reader needs to remember that every culture has its lies, denials, and convenient rewriting of history. It is just that the conflicts in this region are alive and kicking – and if they can be overcome, they could be a model of immense value for getting beyond the misconceptions, unexamined stereotypes, and just plain slander the rest of us indulge in.

Thing One: having to do with the Holocaust

Dr. Mohammed Dajani, professor at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, recently took 27 Palestinian students to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland. He returned home to what the media calls “sharp criticism.” The university issued a statement clarifying they had nothing to do with the trip, and friends advised him to take a leave of absence.

n-DAJANI-large570Point is: Some Palestinians do not want to fully acknowledge the Holocaust. It is not emotionally or politically expedient, and they believe it is at least partial fabrication. They say Dr. Dajani is participating in brainwashing Palestinian students.

Dr. Dajani is my friend. He is a gentle bear of a man, studious, a bit shy, has a collection of posters from classic American movies, and founded a moderate political movement called “Wasatia” to provide a voice for moderate Muslims. Wasatia provides a model for the majority of Palestinians who want an option other than an extremist Muslim political party on the one hand and secular political party on the other.

He once made a video named “Big Dream/Small Hope.” It started with the big dreams of both sides. A drawing showed the Palestinian dream of all Israelis leaving Israel on EL AL airlines. The next drawing showed the Israeli dream of all Palestinians leaving the West Bank across the desert on camels. He explained, when the laughter died down, that the big dreams weren’t going to come true for either side so we needed to look at realistic small hopes. Taking the students to Auschwitz was a realistic small, and amazingly big, act of courage. It was looking at truth.

Deeply criticized upon their return, Dr. Dajani said:

My response to all this tirade is that my duty as a teacher is to teach, to have my students explore the unexplored, to open new horizons for my students, to guide my students out of the cave of perceptions and misperceptions to see the facts and the reality on the ground, to break the walls of silence, to demolish the fences of taboos, to swim against the tide in search of truth…  I do not regret for one second what I did.  I will do it again if given the opportunity. I will not hide, I will not deny. I will not be silent. I will not remain a bystander even if the victims of the suffering I show empathy for are my perpetrators and my occupiers. The aim is not to get any one’s approval but to do the right thing.

How’s that for a statement against lies and convenient denials?

For me, this event has the added dimension that the trip was co-organized by a peace program of Friedrich Schiller University (FSU) in Jenin, Germany. My first connection with FSU was in 1991 when my then husband William Melton and I chose it to be the German university in the Melton International Education Foundation, the first social network to connect university students. It grew to include a university each in India, China, and Chile plus Dillard University in New Orleans. To experience this connection between Muhammed Dajani and FSU has a surreal quality about it as a circle uniting parts of my past.

Thing Two: having to do with Israeli massacres in 1948

Forget “A land without people for people without land.” It never was the truth. The state of Israel was created in 1948 on land where Palestinians had lived for thousands of years, generation after generation. It was the land of their ancestors, and their olive and lemon grove were family. (Other cultural groups had lived there also over the thousands of years but that is not key to this discussion. Also a minority of Jews had lived there, welcomed and peaceful neighbors, for hundreds of years, which could have been key to this discussion in a parallel universe where people found peaceful means to make changes.)

The first major massacre of Arab Palestinians by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was at Deir Yassin where 250 Arab villagers were slaughtered. It doesn’t take as much killing after something like that to have families flee mid-meal when they heard the IDF was only a mile or two from their village. It was a tactic for clearing the territory, and it worked.

Yet there was more killing. I have met old men, refugees, who were children when they saw it. This truth is denied by people – Jewish or not, Israeli or not – who are unable to accept it as something that came out of the Jewish culture. I experience it as a pattern of selective denial that continues with the occupation and enclosure of the West Bank, the ongoing building of illegal settlements, and the siege of Gaza. It is ugly to look at and examine – but how can it be changed if it cannot be acknowledged?

admission3So when Theater J in Washington DC decided, under the directorship of Ari Roth, to perform “The Admission,” a play that examines a probable 1948 massacre of Palestinians in a small village, an ad hoc group set up to protect the image of Israel in arts launched a campaign to have funds withheld to the Jewish Community Center, which owns the building where Theater J is housed. Their argument was that the play was a lie written and propagated by self-hating Jews. The theater, playwright, and ultimately the JCC stood on the side of art having a right to examine and question.

The production appeared close to being cancelled entirely. Some funds were withheld, but a decision was made to “downgrade” the production to a “workshop” with no sets, no costumes, and a shorter run. What happened was, the funds were more than made up by supporters of Ari and Theater J, and the play was sold out every night, received extensive media coverage – and has been given an extended run in a space in another DC theater. I was involved as a supporter from the beginning.

SO WHAT WE HAVE IS: many Israelis and many Palestinians want to deny the essential truths of the other’s unspeakable injuries – and Israelis are fractured today between those who as least suspect what their government (and extremist settlers) are doing on the other side of the wall, and those who don’t know and don’t want to know. Denial is the name of the game in Israel.

JUST A COUPLE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES: I have been told by Israelis that Gazans should all be nuked because they were so violent (try that one on for size!). And I was once confronted as the key speaker in a public forum of women leaders in Jordan with “Excuse me but I need to do an intervention. Mrs. Melton, you are ignoring the fact that the Jews were behind the attack on the Twin Towers.” “What?” “Everyone knows that. And the Jews were warned not to show up for work there that day.” “It’s a lie.”


Would you make this trip again to Auschwitz?

Certainly I would do this again and for different sectors of society such as women, religious leaders, teachers, journalists, secondary school kids, etc. in order to disseminate the message to the different sectors of the Palestinian community that the Holocaust did take place, it was most evil, and showing respect for the memory of its victims and empathy with those who were the target is the right and moral thing to do.

Is the truth necessary?

The truth is necessary because it is an important part of life. There is an urge in each of us to search for truth and to seek truth. Maybe the search is elusive but it is necessary for our self esteem and self dignity. To know the truth is better than to remain ignorant. I am not for the quote, “Ignorance is bliss.” God in the Quran urges: {And say, O my Lord advance me in knowledge}. God also differentiates between people with knowledge and those who don’t have knowledge: {“God will exalt those who believe among you, and those who have been granted knowledge, to high ranks.”}

If Palestinians know about the Holocaust and if Israelis know and understand the facts of the occupation, including the 1948 Nakba, I believe that this knowledge would generate empathy, and in turn, empathy would advance the reconciliation process.

What is your standing at Al-Quds University now? What is your future?

I am Director of Libraries and Founding Director of the American Studies Center. As for my future, it is in the hands of God.

Are there people who are personally angry with you?  

There are those who are full of anger and frustration among the Palestinians as a result of past and present sufferings and they are directing all their anger and frustration against me. How does it make me feel? It is making me feel like a psychiatrist and not a teacher. It hurts me but it does not matter to me since I know I am doing the right thing.

. . .

Dr. Dajani signed off with wishes for “Happy Holidays.” I extend those wishes and join you, surely, in wishing that all people lived by the best tenets of their religions. And that all of us had less fear of the ugly truths of our historic and current actions and more celebration of the search for truth, as shown by Theater J, Ari Roth, and Mohammed Dajani.


Tornadoes (redux) and Tulips

photo 3 photo 5

On this exquisite first real day of spring when my tulips are blooming brazenly, scandalously, lacking all shame in front of my house, I want to make sure that no one is concerned about my inner or outer welfare. (Some of you have written.) The last thing I want to do is use my blog as a cri de coeur, especially when I’m not feeling any need to cri.


Excuse the silly little dip into French, it’s the flowers everywhere. That is, my heart is not crying. (Well, yes, it does for the  injured and dispossessed in our world.)

So, while I may feel unmoored and whirling from a voluntary process of stripping down to the essential me under decades of doing and being this, that, and most everything in-between, it is a process and goal that I have chosen. NOTE: the blog tag line “my fierce freedom.”

photo 2


To those of you who have written to me, concerned, I say “I am happy, amazed, welcoming. Life is beyond our comprehension, and isn’t that the way it should be?” Living within one’s essential self of full feeling, of touching and being touched, whether at age 7 or 70, or 80, or more, that is the cry of our hearts.

May I suggest enlarging the photos and looking at them close up and personal?



Naked in a Tornado

In striving to return to some essential self, to blank sheets of the “Book of Me,” pre disasters, pre more than a decade of peace work through women, pre marriages and divorces, and rich and poor, and social and anti-social, pre entrepreneurship and playwriting and photography, pre vanity, pre personas, pre successes and failures . . .

In striving to come to baseline Me, I have held close to the memory-feeling of myself as a seven-year-old in summer cotton dresses or shorts and little tops with midriffs when I stood on the Midwest front lawn challenging the vast and troubling sky to send a tornado my way. Seven, when I found secret places for wild whirling when the first warm breezes came after winter, when I knew what every adult was thinking, and knew I was utterly alone and it was okay. Seven, when I entered an abandoned house and looked a white owl in the eye and saw mystery.

In striving to return to that knowing, before the cleverness of learning . . .

. . . because I have shifted from irrational invulnerability to rational knowing that I will die because it is the trend around me . . .

. . . because I want my last decades to be tasted with a cleansed palate . . .

. . . I have found it is impossible to be seven again.

Simplifying my life, leaving daily peace work, having time for lunches, processing and discarding crap, sleeping in some mornings, daring to love and meld, even gardening, have taken down the walls between myself and the Vastness of Everything – from the stock market to species of blooming trees, from kinds of wine to how my grandchildren’s minds work, from the cosmos to sewer systems, from artists and poets to cooking. Life cannot be simplified, it is overwhelming. I have simply cleared the way to experience the infinite order and chaos a teeny bit more. It is the tornado.

I chose to simplify, thinking it would return me to the clarity I had as a child. Instead it has left me as a child in babbling overlapping realms of emotions, memories, data, relationships, coincidence, and systems that make, theoretically, for progress. Without the protection of persona to filter, judge, weigh, censor, select, and measure, I have been broadsided, sucker punched, unmoored.

I have become a pilgrim whose life and manner seem calm, even serene, as I stand inside infinite options, interpretations, perspectives, realities – and wonderment. It is as beguiling as it is disorienting, and was more or less my secret until now.

Over the months I have found three walking sticks through the sometimes howling storm: curiosity, humor, and attempting to be honest. When I feel yet another certainty slip away, I hold to these three, and try to do it with a tad of grace. Curiosity and humor are easy. Honesty is more problematic when your sense of self – necessarily including your emotions, beliefs, and perceptions – shifts daily.

Life is so complex that to experience a microscopic fraction of it is to see how ignorant we are. As we take off the barriers of our beliefs of who we are, what we do, what we believe in, what we have done, what we like, we are naked in the enormity of life.

To simplify one’s life by striping away one’s accumulated sense of self is careful work. When I was eight, my mother stripped decades of darkened shellac off the hardwood floors of my childhood. I remember her on her knees with chemicals and scrapers and rags. It took time and the chemicals burnt, even through rubber gloves.

Few of us have been given the gift of time and safety to strip ourselves rather than add more layers of shellac. I kneel in gratitude, gently scraping.

Blog Bouquet: ode to spring

It has been a week of not completing blogs and worrying about not completing them, and then worrying that I wasn’t adequately worried about not completing them – then wondering if this is a sign of inability to focus or an unwillingness to focus.

One blog was about synchronicity in NYC. Three paragraphs from that below:

This pulchritude and chaos of talent lets the Goddess of Synchronicity amuse Herself by arranging “chance” encounters. The ultimate good hostess, she places this person next to that for good conversation and inspiration. Ours and hers, I suspect.

storefrontTwo nights ago I was eating dinner solo at a favorite restaurant when a younger man was seated at the next table. I had pegged him the moment he walked in as a musician from out of town, probably Nashville. It was the worn jeans, jacket, and long hair, but also his bodily ease.



I was right, and I was wrong. He does usually live in Nashville and is a musician, but is classically trained in opera and is composing two musicals and one opera. His singing voice is sublime, he has been one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men of the Year,” and a couple years ago he tried to rescue a large dog from a hot-wired fountain. The dog died, he only barely survived. He also trains dogs, and goes barefoot half the year.

Okay, so that was that unfinished blog, and don’t you wonder what happened next? We had lunch the next day. He may train my dog.

Another blog was about being cool. Two paragraphs below:

My love-hate relationship to cool is not because I can’t do cool. I can do cool. I have the cheekbones and lack of innocence. What I don’t have is the necessary willingness to congeal. I don’t want to observe life while leaning against a wall, hands in my pockets and disdain in my eyes. I don’t want to be so involved with a stance and persona that I miss all the fun – the messiness of being human, the splat and awkwardness of it, the insecurity of it, the raw unhoned gifts of it, the confusion and heartache and love of it. I want to live within the mistakes.

Giving up being cool means you can be silly, inconsistent, madly in love, disrespectful of your own age and others, honest, and wear plaid. 

That blog ended because I didn’t know where it was going.

Which brings us to today:

photo 3We’ve waited long for spring this year, haven’t we? And now the many trees around my home that bloom in the spring have just started doing so. It will be a relay from one to the other for the next month or more, white, light pink, dark pink.

I planted a rosebud tree in front last fall, and it survived the winter. I can see small buds that will come out soon. I showed them to my granddaughter, and told her that when I lived in Tennessee the hills were filled with wild rosebuds and that is why I planted mine in my tame cultivated DC neighborhood, for that bit of wildness and memory.


Today it is raining, which delays the spring a little more. The warmth is still inside. (See photo.)

But spring will come. We know that is true, and when it does my dog, trained or not, and I can bask in the irises and tulips that will come up. I planted the bulbs last fall with great care.

We will bask in the warmth after winter. How cool is that?

Yahweh Needed a Wife

[If I speak, thus, with multitudes of certainty, know it is the influence of the movie “Noah.” Forgive me.]

So, out of the Vast Incomprehensibility Yahweh appeared, and He created light and He saw that it was good. Then water, land, and mountains He created, followed by creatures of many kinds. On the sixth day of this Mighty Work He created humankind, first a man. Then out of man’s lowliest spare rib, a woman, for man’s companionship.

On the seventh day, He rested. A little too soon.

Yahweh should have created a wife for Himself, someone to teach the kids manners and how to live in relationships and manage anger and greed. By Himself, He was just a Ten Commandments sort of guy.

Perhaps He thought Eve was only there to clean up apple cores.

His social management plan was an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and “dominion over the earth.” And when we, His unmothered creations, were bad, i.e. we didn’t praise Him enough, we were smited (smote?) with divine retribution: fire and brimstone (bye, bye, Sodom and Gomorrah), plagues, famines, locusts, slavery, and 40 days and 40 nights of water.

And when, after the flood all the new people were working well together and building a really high tower, He looked down, got worried they were getting too close, and waved His hands or something to change their one language into many and started the whole “you’re different than I am” thing. This is a man who needed a woman.

He routinely abandoned his children to silence for hundreds of years and then would come back and ask them to sacrifice their first born to Him. Alternatively, He would cover them in boils or have them swallowed by a whale to test their allegiance. How petulant is this?

The movie “Noah,” viewed in NYC’s largest IMAX theater (water, water everywhere!), showed an Old Testament god sorely lacking humor. His way or no way, the irony being that the humans, excepting Noah and family, mimicked Him, the truest form of flattery. Vengeful. Wanting tribute and complete obedience. Willing to murder.

With a wife, Yahweh might have had teenagers and learned that you love despite being ridiculed. You give a little, you take away the car keys, you gives curfews, but you don’t wipe out. You would have thought He could have had an ounce of humanity in Him.

But then haven’t we always made God in our own image? Confession time. Yes, it is.

Didn’t we start the whole hate and anger business, the favored status and bigotry calamity (“chosen people” and all that)? Isn’t Yahweh in any religion our largest projection?

Ever notice how humor is never projected onto the Old Testament God as a quality? Onto the Goddess, yes. One of my favorite mystics always asked, “Isn’t the Goddess a hoot?” All the synchronicity stuff, and the wry results of getting what you want.

Goddesses are, by and large, credited with being nimble, smart, subtle, and compassionate. But we took our worse qualities and projected them to create an Old Testament-like God and then we use “His” decrees and actions as excuses for us to behave badly in the world. Being judgmental for starters. Followed by being rigid, inflexible, and lacking nuance.

We absolutely needed the Son of God. I personally believe there was an amazing human being (or two, or a man and woman) who lived a couple thousand years ago, and I believe He/They shook up the status quo and probably got themselves murdered for it. (Talk about the father killing the upstart son!)

We need the Son of God because we need a focus of worship for our good qualities. (Yes, you can read that sentence twice if you wish.).

We also need the embracing mother of the Son of God. She has had a softening influence, even as her status is still not equal to that of the men.

We need the New Testament of forgiveness and tending the poor, and turning the other cheek, because those qualities are in us too. And if I had to guess, I would say this “savior” had at least one mighty mystical experience that transformed his daily mundanity into enlightenment beyond the physical, time and space, and that made everything clear and manageable, even death. And he saw It was love. Vengeance had no place in it.

I believe He, and others including Buddha & Co., grasped that Yahweh of the Old Testament was a straw man made out of humans’ craving to know where we come from, where we are going, and what we are to do in-between – an Uber being that transformed our fears into all-mighty power, our insecurities into commandments, and our confusion into management skills. No matter how bad they are, we like to think someone is in charge.

Even now we make movies based on myths, and “Noah” does nothing if not deal in myths, complete with lava-covered angels fighting, as huge Transformers, the evil people trying to get on the ark before the deluge. Murder and mayhem.

We make such movies because we are afraid of what’s happening in our world and we want to picture ourselves as God’s favored children, the ones who will survive.

How strange that we want lives of beauty and joy but still worship at the alters of war, violence, and fear. Because Yahweh needed a wife, Noah needed an ark, and we need to be very careful about our actions. Are we acting in line with our inner Old Testament God or our core being of New Testament love? Are we vengeance or truth and light?