Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

The mirror doesn’t work and this is why

The mirror doesn’t work and this is why:
Unless you catch an accidental glance as you pass by,
The image that you see is uninhabited.

I came up with the above in the car on my way to yoga a couple months ago. (I left it on Rapunzel’s voicemail so I wouldn’t forget it, which of course ensured that I remembered it just fine.)

I’m not going to unpack the whole cultural load of crap that is our conventional standard of beauty. You all know it already, and are probably sick of discussing it. I had thought to write a much longer poem, but I’ve grown kind of attached to its blunt simplicity. Plus there are urchins hanging off my arms and I have to teach in 14 minutes.


Farewell to Gemini

I was a touch melancholy today, and it took Rapunzel about 30 seconds (over the phone, while driving, even — she is good) to figure out why for me:

My sister Gemini headed back to China yesterday. And I miss her.

She has been teaching in Shanghai for the past school year, and is under contract for another year with an inclination toward staying longer than that.

It’s hard having her live so far away, in a time zone not conducive to skyping. Once I dismantled the emotional barricade of missing her, however, I was left with a swell of gratitude.

I am so lucky to have her for a sister. Despite being very different from me externally, in both personality and lifestyle (she is lively, extroverted, an incorrigible shopper, usually surrounded by heaps of friends, has neither spouse nor kids, etc. etc.), when we make the time to talk, we land on the same page with very little effort. She is a deep and unconventional thinker who asks the right sort of questions, and although she can chatter up a storm when she wants to, she listens well, too. The stories of our childhood, and the mother we lost, are alive in one another, and just being together recharges them, even when they are not actively being recalled.

It is a nice memory I have now, from the other night: me perched on the bed, her nestled into the chair, our eyes sparkling with laughter in the lamplight. Swapping stories from the past year, unraveling who we each have become, and are becoming.

Mom would be proud. I know I am.




The page is blank. It is my beloved friend’s birthday, and there is no way to do her justice. Trust me, I try frequently, filling our message threads with All Of The Words, failing each time to explain all that she means to me.

She looks at me with the kind of love that no one deserves. The kind of love that simply shines, the kind my mother used to pour into me. The really, truly unconditional kind.

Sometimes I am afraid I will drown in so much love.

We are eerily similar in a few key ways and polar opposites in others. A recipe for a durable friendship, one as refreshing as it is soothing.

I am constantly amazed by how much I have opened up and changed and deepened as a result of knowing this fantastic soul. There is not a facet of my life by this point that does not contain at least a few of her fingerprints.

Parenting, of course, for starters: it’s how we met. She was running the playgroup at our birth center when I arrived to check things out while pregnant with Owlet. Her children are six and four, and mine are four and two, with Owlet just six weeks younger than Samwise. Far enough apart to have the benefit of greater experience, close enough to still remember. Her gentle wisdom is woven throughout my parenting approach, despite and because of how different our children are. This is the person I trust most in all the world to raise my kids if anything should happen to both Thor and I, which is no small thing. Heck, she is already partially raising them as a crucial member of our family’s “village.”

Then there’s the more-than-just-moms side of things. We giggle absurdly together like preteens. We talk so long our husbands know to add at least an extra hour to any time estimates on our return home. And we provide one another with the kind of honest-but-compassionate advice every person should have.

And there’s also music, and teaching. Rapunzel’s voice knocks all socks off of all feet within earshot, and nothing is more inspiring to a composer — more delightful to any musician, really — than a voice of that caliber. Plus, I am teaching her to play the violin and learning at least as much in the process as she is (this really ought to be its own separate post one day).

Trickier to define but hugely important, she is a central character in the immense amount of growth this summer is bringing. Sometimes she leads the way, with her open heart and sunny extroversion. At other times she is sounding board and touchstone for my inner spelunking. And I know I am nourishing her, too, though it never seems like I can do enough. Overall we seem to find ourselves traveling adjacent paths, each strewn with our own individual joys and challenges, close enough to help one another navigate the tough spots and delight together in moments beautiful or hilarious or both, yet still able to see our own guiding stars.

I am comfortably, wholly myself with her, and that experience makes it easier to be myself everywhere. I carry her love with me like a well-worn stone in my pocket, and it helps keep my heart brave, my temper in check, my humor quick to ignite, my generosity flowing, my confidence high, my instinct accessible.

Rapunzel, may this birthday bring you all the fun, joy, and happiness you deserve! I love you immensely.


My dad took this photo ages ago. Gorgeous, huh?

Finding my thing

Someday, my children,
I will tell you about yesterday,
when the last big piece
slid into place
like a key twisting in a rusty lock
and my heart clicked open.
Someday, together, we will trace a great many things back to yesterday.


I wrote the above a few weeks ago, on July 14th.

July 13th, 2014, is the day in question, the day I began as a wandering, seeking, ever-curious, spiritually inclined atheist, the day I ended as, well, still all of the above, but one with a soul-nourishing practice to call home.

It is incredibly difficult to talk or write about, but I am compelled to try anyway.

(And this is the point in the post where I sat. A long time. On several separate occasions. And then gave up. For days.)

Here is where I have always felt at home: Nature. Analogy. Music. Silence.

I am incorporating all of the above on a nightly basis.

It is so grounding.

Each evening now finds me out in our garden, under the pear tree, in what I am coming to think of as a sort of yoga for the mind, an active, piercingly real meditation. In a simple, flexible ritual I am more or less making up as I go along, I pull strength from the natural world, often visualizing different contributions from the four elements which have bolstered so many before me. Usually by this point one of my cats has wandered over to “help.” Mostly I am silent, but I also sing a bit. I take time (often a long while) to sort through thoughts and feelings and find the subject most worthy of my focus.

Once I have my topic, I roll it around awhile longer, sensing its texture, looking for just the right angle. Then I form a statement of some kind. A hope, a request, an aspiration, a gift of love to friends or family or the world, a simple tendril of gratitude. Something that most earnestly expresses what I have gleaned from the day. After I have discovered and properly framed the thought that most deserved my attention, I meditate on it, often tugging lines of analogy again, but only briefly, and then I draw my circle of contemplation to a close. Cleansed by the crisp night air, I return to my house, light as anything.

I have always wanted a daily anchor point, and in several phases of my life have maintained one (yoga, music, walking, meditation), but always with some degree of force. Now I have formed a nightly habit with virtually no effort. This practice is so utterly suited to me that as soon as night falls I crave it more than chocolate.

I have struggled so much with words to describe it that when I head out, if Thor is around, all I usually say is, “I’m going out to do my thing.”

And then I do.


Mission Accomplished: No More Placental Procrastination

We have had a placenta in our freezer for over two years.

In that time, we have planted a startling number of little fruit trees, each time failing to remember to include said placenta.

It would turn up occasionally as we scoured the freezer for ground beef or veggies, almost cheekily… a popsicle of a punchline.

I took to scrawling “placenta” on ziplock bags of cooked, peeled, juicy red beets. Thor wrote “not placenta” on some meat destined for the freezer. For clarity.


It seemed likely we would be those crazy old people torturing our children by refusing to be parted from a fifty-seven year old freezer-burnt placenta. Which they finally would pry out of our feeble hands moments before dropping us off at the nearest nursing home.

Instead, despite several mundane mishaps we miraculously managed to do the deed this time; in thwumped the placenta, along with some hair from the kids’ first haircuts so both would have contributed to the tree’s growth, since we didn’t keep Owlet’s placenta.

The goods! No, Granny, we did not put all of the first haircut hair in, just a lock of each.


Action shot! And super cute siblingness.


No knowing how

I am afraid of choosing
And of not choosing
Of being wrong
And of being right

I am afraid of being drawn down the messiest path
And even more terrified of walking the easiest one

But I do not feel all that afraid
I feel alive
I feel awake
I feel the poignancy of this moment, the possibilities shifting,
the temporary balance of these scales
I feel the question mark of the future and know it is not my place

The work I do now will determine what replaces it, but there is no knowing how.




Thor dug an enormous hole as part of his backyard fish farming venture. Of course as soon as his back was turned there were two impish children in it.

My whole self

“I always felt that my speaking words was inadequate. When I was able to write words down, I could put them in order and make them say what I wanted to say better than when I spoke them. Saying words was the hardest thing, writing them down was better, but singing words I’d written down was the best thing. The words combine with the music and I felt I was able to express my whole self.”

– John Gorka

I have begun writing songs singer-songwriter style. It suits this place in which I’ve found myself. I wrote a handful of songs in college, none of them stellar, and two between then and now which I know I loved but cannot remember well enough to play, possibly because I was so lacking in confidence in my vocal abilities that I insisted Thor sing them instead of me. They are archived somewhere. I will dig them out eventually.

The new ones are just right. I don’t even care if anyone beyond my immediate circle ever hears them. The process of writing and playing and singing is enough.

I like the immediacy of it. The ease with which I can put it down and return, unlike composing a more complex piece or something for a larger ensemble. I like that I don’t need to obtain outside help; I even like the challenge of working with my own hands and voice, their quirks and limitations acting as my guide, though if the music demands that they be pushed then push them I do.

Just a moment ago I found myself full of doubt, fearing I was not truly growing. Sometimes growth feels dubious, enigmatic, impermanent. But as I sat down to play a song I’ve been wrestling with, it occurred to me — when looking for progress, it can help to feel the absences. The loss of negatives, sloughed off like dead skin.

I no longer feel stagnant. I no longer wish I had time and energy to pursue the things I love because I am now. I no longer languish on the couch every night watching tv and snacking endlessly (although I did both last night, and it was nice, but only like a place I enjoy visiting occasionally).

And most importantly, I no longer feel disconnected, like a piece of me is lost, or missing, or buried.

I feel whole.

I feel present.



Assuming the pop of distant fireworks provides sufficient cover,
The neighbors fuck loudly, then fight, then clatter mundanely in the kitchen
While I stand on the kids’ play table watching the moon and stars
And the uppermost slice of colorful explosions,
Craving the resonant sternum-throb
Which does not come. It’s too far
And the puny plunking and spray of sparks
Cannot compete with the moon and the stars and the neighbors
So I dip inward, slip under the sternum to a place increasingly familiar
And whisper: “boom.”


Video killed the radio star and then the internet frankensteined it back

In other words, I was on the radio today discussing teaching and learning with my student, who just so happens to channel a wise collection of entities known as Eloheim. Check it out!


And a gratuitous photo of Owlet.



Live bold

Show fear

Open up

Draw back in

Hold still

Never stop

Be just in here

See all out there

Enjoy mundane

Seek out unknown

Ponder this

Keep mind clear

Hold close

Let go





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