The Mine Field

So much news – fake and true – is swirling about. So much to respond to, react, beware, act on. So many petitions to sign, money sought and I want to give. I want to give my heart and mind to the mysteries of this immediate life. I don’t know what will happen next. Some, more prescient than I, have noted the coming of these times and predicted them. I didn’t notice. Where was I? I was basking in my liberal world, so many gains I thought unassailable. I didn’t see it coming. My eyes were filled with tears of joy for me, for my “other identified” friends and loved ones. Where was I? I was in Washington D.C. which finally felt safe. I was in the corners of this Rebublic where I finally felt safe.

Will I be able to sift through all this information? Will I be able to know what is true from what isn’t?

Luckily for me I subscribe to a Buddhist newsletter – unluckily for me, even after way over three decades of adherence to this philosophy, I find it nearly impossible to implement – easily.

OK, so nothing’s easy. I get that. I really get that now! Here, for instance, is advice under the heading, “There Is No Blame.”

OK, right there I’m behind, not up to speed on this one. All I’ve been looking for is who and what to blame! “There are no human enemies,” says Sylvia Boorstein, “only confused people needing help.”

I couldn’t agree more – about the needing help bit. And the confused, ignorant people. Exactly how I see it, yes.

I listened to Van Jones express his fear of the people who voted for the president-elect. He said he was afraid of his supporters, not those who voted for him – he might agree with me that they are the confused needing help. No, he said, it is the people who support him in his daily tweets/life, the ones who give him policy ideas and recommendations for cabinet members.

It’s hard to think about the powerful having more power and easy for me to fall into the well of complicity in thinking I have no power to help the earth hold us all better. I have as much power as I ever did, it is there for me to take when I get through my distractions.

Blame, anger and despair are my chief distractions now and I look at them as resistance to action, excuses, if you will. The seduction of finding and assigning fault feeds the Ouroboros of my anger. Taking Sylvia’s lead – reading her article to the end – I leave you with a quote.

—“the familiar image of an infant left in a basket on a doorstep with a note pinned to its blanket: “Please take care of me.” The natural impulse, for all of us, would be to pick the baby up, to care for it. I try to think about the world as an abandoned baby, left in dire straits by parents who could not care for it well. Could we be the benevolent agents who pick it up and, without blaming, take care of it?”



When what is in focus is clear and when what is not in focus is clearly not visible there is a kind of justice and peace available. We can’t always see everything clearly, can’t always know what is ahead. Just as well most of the time. The moment is the most important and informative thing we have. When we reach from the present moment, any given present moment, we are more likely to achieve what we want. Takes vision of a goal, for sure, that’s where the looking ahead comes into play.

When I was growing up I would walk around with my father. Most every Saturday and Sunday he would walk his fields, his property. We would go out on the river, see how everything was doing. Check the valves of the pumps in the caves where we got our water. Check the height of the river upstream, see the sandbars and pilings. (the great bundled trees the Army Corps of Engineers pounded into the river’s banks to keep the channel open for barges)

We would count the turkeys, chickens and geese, the sheep against predators. It was a moment of clarity in our relationship. There was a yes and a no. A warning or an all clear. That was about the only time life was like that, his or mine. Though he never started drinking until five – his rule and the measure he and everyone took of his mind – the rest of the day was preparation for that drink.

When I feel tuned by something outside of me instead of in tune with who I am, my environment, the love of the day, the light, I know that’s a nudge to get right again. Like a sailboat needing a new tack to catch the wind, change direction. My father helped me with that, he was so clearly wrong. No subtlety, no wishyness, he was a wise man or not.

As thanksgiving comes I think of him and thank him for his clear message. “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” He got that right.

I’m on the left, the hottie on the right is my best friend. She and I were born a few months apart and she’ll cry and laugh when she reads this! We had the time of our lives together.

Walk Don’t Run

Walk, don’t run to the nearest exit

Put on your oxygen mask first, then help others

Don’t take anything personally

You can’t hurt anyone if you are authentic

So do you think all these are true? Some of the time? All of the time? For me, I think only the second one is true all of the time. I think you really can’t help anyone if you’re not ok, if you’re not breathing or eating or caring for yourself. That’s why martyrdom doesn’t have much going for it in this life, once it’s in place it’s like bottomless quicksand.

I’d say for the most part the rest of them are awesome attributes and goals. They just can be out of place sometimes. Like I wouldn’t walk to the exit if my Red Bull were pursuing me. I once had a bull walrus chase me. I had flippers on and I thought I was doomed. I had been told not to make noise or create a disturbance around them. So when this mammoth hunk of anger came at me – I was too near a female, not that I had noticed – I flapped and fluttered and skipped and flounced and finally swam away. Safety was just across his invisible and very personal space.

In the end it didn’t matter what I did or said, what mattered was I made it out of there as fast as I could. No time to take my perfectly fitting flippers off. No time to take on the mantle of walrus deportment. I did what I had to do so I could write about it now, though that was not part of my thought process.

Not much is when we are in a panic. Which is why it’s so important to have made a few plans, a few habits that don’t have to be thought about. I help several people with panic attacks. They don’t have planned attacks, more like the walrus, the panic comes out of the blue, although in hindsight often a line has been crossed.

ARKive photo - Young Atlantic walrus bull


The working title for all my paintings using Missouri River mud is, “my father’s mud, my mother’s river.” It’s not entirely true, of course, what is? But the mud was collected by Paula at the headwaters of the Missouri where we went the summer of my mother’s spring death. We took her ashes to the baby of the river so she could float down the river she had adopted and loved as her own.

It has taken me a long time to feel free to use the mud – collected and gifted to me with a happy smile from Paula in 1993. So I’m not swift here by any means. I think it’s taken so long because I was afraid to use it up. I was afraid to dip into the muddy, loving and scarce waters of my mother’s river.

She was a rarity. Swooping in and out of my young life like an exotic, endangered long-feathered bird. Sometimes a great thought, perhaps a smile, but just as usual was the withering look, the, “I thought you’d have  …. by now.” Mostly she wanted not to have to deal with any growings in or out of really anything, she wanted a done deal and one to her specifications.

So we weren’t always on the same page. She was in Vogue and I was in some do-it-yourself magazine that wouldn’t come out until the 70’s. But from time to time we were in the same place at the same time and there was a connection that formed, opinions grew and changed. We learned about what it takes to be around someone so different, we learned some respect, some willingness and we learned that love is complicated but malleable. And that it can take on a lot of colors.

Now and Then


Current flowers, 40’s vase, painting of my young horse who is 15 now and my great grandmother’s art nouveau lamp.

All are so familiar, so me, so lived with. All part of my continued existence and current pleasure.

Each night the cats and I and Liam curl around. There’s a trust issue here.  Liam stretches and bares his stomach, the cats purr and shift. I push softly as I can stretching to the end of the bed, making myself a cat plank. Pachi moves me where she wants me and we all shift around. There’s room. There’s enough room. We can relax . We lie like babies, trusting and fully resonant.

Mirror Mirror

When I was a teenager in my parent’s house my shower – the room had been made for my sister – had mirrors on three sides. We don’t talk so I don’t ask her what it was like for her to take a shower, but for me it was me coming and going, again and again and again. My relationship to my body and the way my mind works were honed in that shower. They were not begun there, that had happened, but I learned to look at and look away from myself in a kind of daily continuum that is a habit to this day.

The photograph I took above helps me reflect on that. The cycle of the wheel of life, the deer who the Buddha said were the only creatures who would listen to him remind me to have patience. We all have our wheel, let us look for the deer.

My expectation is that I will rise to the challenge, whatever it is. When I don’t I feel less than. But less than what? It’s all made up. It’s a game. The real relationship is in my heart, less than is in my mind.

Praise the next step!

Where We Meet

Look at your thin brown fingers against my willing ear, nose to nose and lips lightly swept into the moment. I remember the outfit I was wearing, one of my favorites. You can see the straps, they were so light, very fine cotton lightly ironed, I remember its being so smooth and just a little crisp. Like you. I would put you up to so many adventures – we celebrate them now – so many rises and falls of our breaths. You’d look to me at the end of The Lone Ranger – was it Him? I could always tell. And I would say yes – or, no, a fake this time. I knew, just like you knew to take me in that moment and a mother, yours, I think, knew to ready her camera so we can thank her forever for this shot.

And for this one I can thank my daughter Bimala. Gordie and I looking like the tame West, sunstruck on the beach, sharing a glance, a moment in the sunlight, the years still kind, Gordie the ten year old Galgo when we met. I promised her freedom of expression for the years left to her and for seven years she larruped and gallumphed in our lives. On the Rail Trail in the wet spring of Conneticut, Gordie unleashed, promised to stay on the trail, just an old dog. In an instant of my looking away she flies into the nearby pond, home to frogs now wildly dashing and flopping and splashing off lily pads so happy to connect to her old self, her power. She meets the tame with the wild. She is Queen of the pond.


The Queen. Whenever I am, wherever I am it is an opportunity for a nap, a pet, a lot of sliced turkey. I have sanctioned this. Invited and upheld the now institution of the Queen of Cats. In bed I am plucked at and turned for comfort, cold, hot, food, or an upset stomach. There is no reason to complain; I have invited this guest of my heart. She is a miracle of clarity, of focus, of warmth and creatureness. She is the Isle of my heart, the root of my response to faith. She has taught me to leap into faith, to trust my own instincts and that I can get sliced turkey when she needs it.



Fences Make Good Neighbors

Notice the fence. Do you know where they would go if it wasn’t there? I don’t either.

it’s funny thinking about THAT fence. When we put it up – as soon as we moved in – the town got all twisted about it. Made us move it. Newspaper articles were written about it. Invariably about the wrong section of the fence, not the one the town wanted moved. That was because,looking at the fence, it wasn’t really obvious why it should be moved.We received letters telling us of other fences in town that were closer to the road than ours. A friend asked his friend who was the town’s road foreman at the time, had it been his (our friend’s) house, would he have made him move it? No.

So boundaries can be contentious and ambiguous. But the quote of the title usually means that if you know who you are, tell people it isn’t a good good time to call or whatever your boundary situation is then you become reliable and trustworthy.

When my sister – who can talk a lot – used to call my mother, my mother would complain afterward that she had missed an appointment or something and blamed my sister for talking. That’s nuts, right?

I love my fence, all of it, and if you call I’ll tell you if it’s a good time and if you ask that’s great. Then we’ll be easy and not trying to get tangled in what we don’t know.

And let there be room to run free!


Today’s Poem

When I’m reminded of being alive,
Like taking a big breath,
It can be scary.

It can be so strong.
This morning it was a letter
From a man I don’t know.

He’s my “friend” on Facebook
And I know him well.
In the letter he said he was writing

Because in all his internet writing before
He said he didn’t express himself.
He said he told us what

He didn’t tell himself.
He left stuff out like
How he felt about what he

Does. He said all this good stuff but,
Left out his divorce and meeting a
Wonderful woman

Now she’s here – there
Moving in. Sharing a life.
And he wants us to know.

Is it just men who can do that?
I have another (man) friend,
His story is similar.

A woman turned their insides
What can a woman do?

Pam White
August 5th 2011