Bliss, Panic and Love

Taking a departure from my usual work-from-home routine, I packed a small backpack, filled two water bottles and let the overjoyed hound dog jump into the car.  One quick stop to pick up a sandwich and we were headed east. Two and a half hours later, on the other side of the Ochoco Divide, I pulled up to the Blue Basin trailhead in the Sheep Rock section of Fossil Beds National Monument.  It was a little before 4pm.

As a precaution, I’d let my life partner, John, and my son know where I was headed and that I’d be back that evening.

The thick mud was nearly as slippery as ice, caking so thick it felt at times as though I was wearing concrete boots (not that I’ve ever really worn concrete boots, but it’s what came to mind).  A mile and a half of fairly steep climb and good cardio, and then, amazement.  Canyon walls that were in fact blue, interspersed with varying shades of red, mauve and green.  The tops of the tall, flat mesas beyond were snow dusted, a band of white matching the leisurely clouds rolling past through deep blue sky.

That late in the day, the low sun reached some of the walls, while others had already slipped to shade adding yet another layer of magnificent stratification and contrast.

Just as I reached the highest point, a voice said, “You have arrived!”  I jumped and damn near lost my footing in the slick mud.  Then I laughed, pulled the phone out of my backpack and turned off the GPS I’d forgotten about.   The only voice I want to hear out in Nature is Mother Earth and Spirit.  I sat down on a lichen covered rock to bathe in the beauty before me, and listen to the stillness.  Freya nosed me, tail wagging, and then set about exploring the hillside.

After a time, I fished out the phone and snapped a couple of pictures, noticing that my battery was nearly dead.  I pledged, as I’d done many times before, to get a real camera and return to that very spot.

On the descent, the canyon wall coloring become even more spectacular and the mud even thicker and slicker.  Halfway down, the trail bent left and I stepped into a warm ray of sun just setting on the ridge before us.  I opened to it like a solar panel or a worshipper.

Back at the car, left knee aching, hound dog fed and watered, I realized I’d forgotten that the phone charger in my car had stopped working.  With the tiny last bit of battery, I shot my son a text to let him know I was safe and headed home.

Three hours later, safely home after a lovely, peaceful drive, and freshly showered, feeling blissful, the plugged-in cell phone starts exploding, somebody’s banging on my front door and Freya goes ballistic with her gigantic bark in response.  Good grief!

It turns out the text I’d sent to my son hadn’t gone through and when they hadn’t heard from me, both John and he had panicked.  John was half a state away so he called my neighbor to check on me.  That’s who was at my front door.  I assured him I was fine and dialed up John.  Just as he answered with a huge exclamation of relief, “bang, bang” on the front door again, and Freya goes nuts again.  The police!  What?!

By the time it was all said and done, John had called the police in the county where I’d been hiking.  They had gone by to see that my car was at the trailhead and then later to see that it wasn’t.  They had sent me several texts but of course my phone was dead.  My son had called the local police.  They’d both gotten the neighbors involved.  John had packed up gear and was heading over toward the trailhead to try to find me.  Good heavens!

I spent the next half hour checking in with everyone, apologizing to the various police and neighbors.  My embarrassed was greatly outweighed by the feeling of being loved and cared about.  I was deeply grateful for the whole, crazy day.

I think it’s kind of funny that I was cruising along, all blissed out, feeling great, having no idea the ruckus I was causing back at home.

The miracles of Mother Earth and the human heart.  The gift of being cared about, looked after and loved.  And, like so many of our human mishaps and misunderstandings, a lesson learned, memories made and a story to bring a laugh.  The next day I bought a functional phone charger.       

Much Love,



Grief — The Art of Being Fully Alive

I wanted to share this picture of my best friend. She passed last summer. I’ve had these photos printed, waiting in a folder, for months. A week ago, a friend of mine lost her beloved souldog very suddenly – she was gutted. Supporting her in her grief resurfaced my grief and my love and moved me to finally frame these pictures of my beloved Tessa. I had these four printed photos of her. The store had exactly four of these “Best Dog Ever” frames – they were on some sort of crazy super sale marked down to a dollar a piece!   Meant to be.

Even looking at this now brings tears to my eyes.  The first pic is on the day we found each other.  Pic two is her in her prime teasing me with her impish “sock game”.  The third is her with her frosty face on one of our last slow hikes together and the fourth is the day before she passed.

My bond with this amazing creature was beyond description. Our love and friendship is a thread running all through my book, When Life Blows Up: A Guide to Peace, Power and Reinvention.

Here is a passage that led, eventually, to these photos:

“Three weeks after the legal and media challenges ended, my beloved, beloved Tessa passed very quickly after an unexpected discovery of abdominal cancer. I was able to be with her twenty-four hours a day the last several days and keep her comfortable and pampered. She passed in our front room with her head in my lap. For many our stickiest people don’t necessarily come in human form and Tessa and John were my most steadfast and important. The pain of her passing was terrible, the deepest and most profound grief of my life, and yet, every bit worth it for the experience of her and our lives together.

Was there a purpose in the timing of her transition? I don’t know. I do know had it come two years earlier I might not have survived it. When it did come, once the gutting, cutting grief lost its edge, the rawness of missing her put me in a softer, slower more reflective space that helped me finish this book.”

Grief is a part of life. Our broken hearts are evidence that we have dared to love boldly, to let our hearts stretch beyond ourselves. Feeling the pain, then stretching again, risking again, is how we honor those we’ve lost, and ourselves. It is how we fully live.



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Love is Never Wrong

In three days I will be halfway across the country picking up my nephew as he is released from prison. I say nephew, but we’re actually more like mom and son at this point. We’ve been through a lot together. Twice before I tried to offer him a stable base, once when he was a little boy and once as a very damaged teenager but at those times neither of us had the maturity or depth to make it work. This time is different; he and I both have been through a good deal of refining fire and love has grown much stronger than fear or frustration.

At the beginning of 2018, knowing I had about a year to get ready to bring him into my home and help him launch the rest of his life, I set a goal to have the resources in place to do the very best for him. Last year didn’t go quite as planned on the financial front as the legal battle with the Oregonian dragged on and on and extra, unexpected expenses popped up and yet, I leave in three days with the resources I need.

It doesn’t look like I’d envisioned, with me making a ton of money, having a chunk in savings for my nephew and having the drain of legal battles being behind me, etc., but I have what I need to offer love and huge opportunity to this young man. My life partner has been unbelievably supportive, with his time, big-hearted acceptance and a sense of humor about the complication this is no doubt going to add to our lives. He even purchased our airline tickets. Bless you Beloved — truly, I am such a lucky woman. Friends have stepped up out of the blue with financial help, enthusiasm and offers of mentorship. My mom has been saving money for my nephew to purchase clothes. My spiritual community has held this journey and transition in prayer every single day for several weeks now.

It’s just amazing and more than any other experience in my life proves that we really are all in this life together. Whether we notice it or not we are all supported by a vast matrix of people who touch our lives in a million ways big and small. Everywhere I look in this situation I see where other people, even strangers, have supported us. Not just the obvious examples, but also the teacher who delivered the GED program at the prison and the voc-tech director and trainers who helped my nephew navigate through his electrician’s apprenticeship and even other inmates who were rooting for him and helping protect him as he neared his release date. Beauty sometimes shows up even in the darkest of places.

So many times these past few weeks I’d have a little stab of nervousness about the disruption of bringing this big guy into my little home and all the changes that will come with it. But each time that little flicker of fear would slither in, it was instantly replaced with the words, “Love is never wrong.” Over and over again those words ran through my mind. I don’t believe I’ve ever more genuinely just expressed and embodied love for another human being. The ripples go beyond our direct relationship and even beyond those still living.

A few years ago, as I was going through an extraordinarily challenging, traumatic time I was working with a therapist and was surprised to be having a lot of difficult, regretful memories and emotions around my late sister (my nephew’s mother). I found myself wishing I had been mature enough to be there for her when she slipped further and further into drugs, depression and despair and our family pulled away.   The therapist suggested I write a love letter to my sister and as I worked on that I realized the best love letter I could offer her was helping her son make it through the horrific ordeal of prison and launch a healthy life on the other side. “Sis, if you’re listening, and I believe you are, your boy is in good shape and he’s about to be safe and in a stable place with a really good job.  He is full of  hope, gratitude and promise.  I hope you are smiling.  I love and miss you. Thank you for all the kindness you showed me.”

I guess it’s fitting that I keep thinking of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, and especially the scene near the very end where Red has finally gotten out of prison and is in a bus headed to Mexico to join his friend Andy. Red says, “I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.” Red felt that way from finally realizing freedom. I’m feeling that way in anticipation of witnessing a loved one leave a horrible situation and finally land in a safe place where he can spread his wings and soar.

I didn’t consciously choose it, and I couldn’t see the full pattern of it until very recently, but my nephew and I are on a sacred journey together and if you’re reading this I guess in some small way you’ve joined the adventure.  I share this in part just to express my excitement but also, hopefully, to provide a little inspiration to those of you who may be having a hard time, struggling, and who may feel like the circumstances swirling through your life are keeping you imprisoned. I know how hard that is and I also know no storm lasts forever.   We are always swimming in a matrix of support, new opportunities are endless and freedom really is a choice. And, maybe most importantly, genuine love is never wrong.

We really are all in this together. Thanks for being part of this journey. Stay tuned and YIKES!!