How to Hike the Grand Canyon of Grief.

“The canyon is so large that it’s size can be misleading without a frame of reference.” ~ Mike Knetemann

There will come a day, a shift, a change, a decision, a reckoning with your grief.

Although you’ll never stop missing your special person, the loss that carved your heart into the Grand Canyon will shift like sand and dirt and rocks.

You’ll climb, step by brutal step, even while for days you’ll hide from the storm in your tiny pop-up, one-man tent with only the small sterno can of memories to warm you.

You may not know your tears from the rain or a flood in the belly of the canyon.

Your person, tethered to your soul as they are, left the earth. Left you. Unbelievable. Unfathomable.

You may notice all the wrongs in the world now. Or feel as though your loss is the worst. It is. When it’s yours. When you’re in the canyon, cold, hungry, alone, without a map or a backpack.

A common, “How are you?” can pierce like a sword.

Be alone, if you need. Nobody knows this pain, the wretchedness. No, not yours. Yours is personal, brutiful, and deep with layers.

Yet, many have walked the Grand Canyon of Grief.

While I lived within its walls, I walked cemeteries to impress upon me the truth that people have been dying for a long damn time. The headstones sing their songs. Baby. Husband. Father. Daughter. Beloved.

I let the dead, and the angels I called on, witness my pain, in the canyon, in the cemetery, in the woods.

Nature kept changing her colors. My beloved departed in spring. Summer grew under my feet. Autumn painted beauty in my face, forcing me to see honeysuckle gold, granny-apple green, and red rich as Elvis velvet. Winter white seemed appropriate, although nothing was. Not anymore. Not in the canyon where I received the news.

When my beloved died, life threw me in the hole.

Survival. Even that instinct threatened to leave me. Maybe you question, too.

Please stay.

I offer no magical promises. No ridiculous predictions, like when my friend said, “It will take a year.” It took a year to get to one year of grieving. Then, I heard, “The second year is the hardest.”

Grief tells jokes, like the ones about getting married. Only experience teaches.

And, you don’t have to learn a damn thing if you don’t want to.

You can just do your time and come out on the other side like an ex-con returning to the game.

You can let grief take you down. Yes, people do die in the canyon. Please, my dear friend, don’t let it be you.

Think of one person you don’t want to have to walk the canyon on your behalf, because you can’t. For me, it was my sister. After my beloved died, I didn’t want to live.

I walked in circles in the canyon. I sipped water, and sometimes guzzled beer.

I communed with animals and howled like one. I curled up in fetal position and hid in small alcoves. I walked in my grief like in boots with blistered feet and a backpack full of canned goods—with no opener.

I abandoned much on my journey. You will, too.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find the waterfall, shower in it naked, and let it pummel feeling into your body. See, it’s easy to go numb in the canyon, or become disoriented.

Drink water. Keep walking. Rest when you need to.

If a man offers you a sip of whiskey, take it. If you want to. Even wanting that is desire for something other than the one thing you can’t have—your person back.

Some days, you’ll walk for miles. Others, you’ll be immovable.

Grief isn’t a race. Take your time.

The youth run ahead, desperate to escape the canyon. That was me when my brother died. And five years later, when my mother joined him. Then, I was 28.

I’ve both met and played the denier, too, drunk on illusion. I was not in the canyon—because I said so!

Wise women and men smiled.

Now, I speak to you, my grieving friend, not as one with answers, but one who’s walked much of the canyon and found no shortcuts to the switchbacks.

Grief never ends. But, the canyon? You can climb her walls.

How long will it take? I can’t say. I don’t know how deep in you are, how heavy your pack, what kind of boots you walk in, or if you have clean socks. I don’t know what kind of shape you’re in, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Grief tests them all.

I don’t know how many miles you’ll trek in a day, if you’ll enter that meditative state where you just keep moving.

I don’t know if when you become most motivated, you’ll find a side canyon and a little shack where they sell the best damn green chile cheeseburgers you ever tasted and Coca-Cola you swear is the original. You may fall in love with that tiny Indian village and convince yourself you want to live there, with them, in the canyon, forever, as an act of resolution.

Trust me, they don’t want you to stay. They’ll point you on your path.

I don’t know how long you might resist before you begin the ascent. You may stay, watch the seasons change, see how the sun rises and sets even down there, even for you, even after the death snatch.

Learn the value of water. Listen to your body. Quiet your mind.

Within despair, a golden butterfly may flitter your heart awake. An electric-blue dragonfly may perform magic.

Breathe deep, my friend. There will come a day, a reckoning, a rising.

Before this day, there may be hundreds of declarations, “This is it!” only to realize how far you have to go. Not a race. No points for arriving first. Some have to go back down.

Do what you’re there to do: grieve.

She’s yours. Born of love and loss. Grief’s your companion in the canyon. She is the canyon.

You’re human. You’ll learn the brutality of this and wish you were the golden butterfly.

Walk. Sip water. Rest. Listen to nature and your own instincts, which sharpen in the canyon like night vision.

One day, more than seeing, insisting, determining, you’ll know. The reckoning realization of how far you’ve climbed from the canyon floor will strike you like a clock strikes the hour.

You no longer belong to the canyon. You will, at an unexpected hour, and after you’ve run out of water and eaten your last apple, glimpse the rim. It’s the rim a new possibility.

How I Let My Mind Go Blank.

“We’ve been conditioned to turn away, to not feel.” ~ Sarah Entrup

My kundalini yoga practice consists of a nervous system overhaul set, which requires lying on my back, raising my legs to 90 degrees, and crisscrossing while doing breath of fire (equal breaths in and out through the nose). Then, more sets with leg lifts, crisscrossing, and sit-ups with legs still in the 90-degree position.

At the end of the set, my instructor Sarah tells me, via video, to lie flat on my back and completely relax. I do.

Until my throat tightens.

The neckline of my shirt pulled down my back makes me claustrophobic. In my mind, I see George Floyd and imagine a knee on my neck, although I’m face up.

Halfway through this resting pose, called corpse pose in some yoga, Sarah says, “Let it all go. Let it be a reset. A death. A completion.”

I remember in the now-embedded-in-my-mind video, Mr. Floyd said, “I’m through.”

In my practice, on my mat, I let go. My mind goes blank for this one moment each day.

Later, I think of how he said mama. I choose to believe she was there with him in his final moments, that he said it to the sight of her and a gang of angels greeting him.

I don’t think about that during my practice. I let the moment be a letting go of all thought.

Then, as instructed, I do what George Floyd could not. I move my wrists and ankles, bring my own knees into my chest, and roll up into easy pose to begin my next set.

It’s called subagh kriya and I’m told it helps me align with my destiny.

I like to believe in the big picture, and that maybe George Floyd, the knee on his neck, his tragic death, meant something along the lines of his soul’s destiny.

Not that the man George Floyd would choose that, but Jesus… May George Floyd’s destiny serve our great awakening.

The Spirit These Times Require.

Same thought, different reasons.

Alice in Authorland

So, my dear,
you’ve learned to cry.

Not just reactionary tears,
earnest ones born of
your brave heart.

You see the darkness and refuse
to disrespect yourself
into denial.
Bravo.

Welcome to the juxtaposition:
No one asked you
to lay down
your joy.

Claim it again.
Be a warrior, enlightened.

To fight for light,
enter the darkness
dancing.

Let them hear your laughter.

Flash your smile
like a peace sign
as you pledge to do your part.

In one bucket, carry the problems.
In the other, the spirit with
which to transform them.

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How to Transform a Heart.

“After all, most people see no reason to question their own beliefs, much less solicit yours.” ~ David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

Fire, Water, Mother Earth, God, Angels, transform me.

Rebirth me. Pull me from the ashes. I welcome the metamorphosis.

I do not resist. I do not go numb or deaf or die. I awaken.

I’m a seedling under the cement—screaming to bloom.

I’m parched for water and sunshine. I seek the light with my every cell.

In this black night, I see the stars. I’m enchanted.

I feel angels hovering over us, making way for breakthrough.

Everything is different now: my brain, health, vision, belief, expectation…

The sky sings lavender tanzanite. Clouds dance the purest white.

Our voice, tears, and physical presence shift. We stand hearty.

Present for the party of the people, hangover and all.

Learning to be. Remembering to listen.

Seeing anew.

Walls fall. Boundaries clarify.

Scars expose themselves without apology.

Dreams arise, not from the mind, but the heart.

Time ticks precious. Moment by moment. Intention for joy: everyone’s.

Acceptance of pain. Connected. Alive. In all the messiness.

All that it means. What no longer matters.

Beauty to behold. Unafraid. Unattached.

Free to embrace what comes next.

My White Privilege Told Me I Was a Princess.

 “I blame the White House for encouraging white supremacy. Yes. That is correct.” ~ Glennon Doyle

Dear God,

I sign up for the Army of Light. Send me into the Darkness.

Hold me accountable for my whiteness, for being a blind witness and an unknowing accomplice. Because white privilege told me I was a princess.

I didn’t have to look hard at hard things. I could cut racism out of my life, set it safely on the sidelines, see it on TV, and bitch about it as if that made me more than part of the problem.

I held my head high because I dated, loved, and developed friendships with black people.

Like a man thinks he understands women’s plight because he slept with them, even loved and lived with the special ones.

A man cannot know what it means to walk as a woman. Let me not forget I walk as a privileged, protected, white woman. Because we played into the hands of white patriarchy throughout history.

Played victim to blackness so white men would rescue us. Not me! Alright. All white.

Amy Cooper connected us to George Floyd in ways we don’t want to see.

Not me! Using emotions for power.

Emmet Till. Emmet Till. Emmet Till. STILL.

Amy revealed us. Despicable.

Of course, I judged her for doing something I’d never do. You’d never.

Place blame. Play victim. Avoid responsibility.

Fragile. Damsel in distress. White woman. White witness.

White lies we tell ourselves and pretend we’ve helped bridge the gap of racism, simply because we don’t exercise it ourselves.

I would never make the call Amy Cooper made. My privilege lies in the fact that I could.

With freedom comes responsibility. Can we see others don’t share our freedoms? Not in this country.

Could Christian Cooper have called the police on a belligerent white bitch? It’s laughable.

Who is the victim? Who gets blamed? Who gets killed? Does it make it better when we say, “African American,” Karen?

We’re all Karens, even if we’re not abusing our power like Amy. Let’s stop pretending the color of our skin doesn’t offer us protection. Just because we’d never make that racist, life-threatening call doesn’t make us reliable allies.

Until we do something, our anti-racist values are as good as dollar bills kept in a shoebox under the bed.

When will we do our white work? When will I do my white work? What does that mean? I vow to learn.

Is what’s happening in our country enough to wake us up? Now what?

Can I and all the other Karens watch the entire video of George Floyd without whining, “It’s just too hard for me to watch”?

Our privilege allows us not to. We haven’t really been looking for a long-damned time.

We don’t want to watch George Floyd be murdered by a white man with all the power, granted by much more than a badge, but a society—that’s us—who repeatedly insists the black men killed somehow deserve it.

We tell ourselves, because our white privilege allows us to, that the police are just doing their job, that most cops are good.

Most cops are good. My nephew is a good cop.

None of this negates systematic racism in multiple departments throughout our country and history. It’s not like that now, we tell ourselves.

White women, we’ve always had the privilege of looking away. Let’s not.

What’s possible if we look at our privilege? What’s possible if we stop pretending everything is ok?

It’s uncomfortable. We might feel guilt or shame. Good. Now we’re getting somewhere.

In order to be part of the solution, we must stop being part of the problem. We’re part of the problem when we refuse to see it.

Like the boss who refuses to see his employee act as a bully or engage in sexual harassment, right under his nose.

We were blind. Now, will we see?

Look. Watch the entire video—not the short version—of George Floyd being sacrificed for us to wake up.

Why do people riot? Why do they turn violent?

Partly because over and over and over and over for the entire history of our country we, the Karens, played along, sitting in our comfortable positions holding up white patriarchy by refusing to look.

I sign up. I don’t know anything, yet. I’m willing to learn to act on the values I profess.

Use me, God. Let me look and see. Let me listen and hear. Let me use my whiteness for something good.

How Coronavirus is Helping Us Wake Up.

“The path of fearlessness begins with the discovery of fear.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

We’re dancing between the COVID-19 reality and a world of re-awakening intuition, grace, and spirituality.

I’m a news and fact-finding addict, but also a writer, seeker, and yoga and meditation practitioner.

As we face this pandemic, I’ve done double nickels on earth. If you’ve been around for a while, you knew the curtain call on the wizard was coming.

We’ve repeated too many patterns of our ancestors.

No more slaves, but young black men are game for white hunters. Women sit in board rooms, but the movie Bombshell tells tales of what we too often endure.

Covid-19 is new, yet what it reveals about our lack-of-healthcare system isn’t. Bernie told us for decades. Hillary tried. Obama barely got it through.

As a country, we act as if how we treat our most vulnerable belongs in bipartisan boxes.

Oh, the boxes we created. Boxes for politics. Boxes to drive in, work in, shop in. The boxes bulged until they broke.

We want to blame it on one thing—COVID-19, or one person—Donald Trump.

What if instead of looking at him as the Liar-in-Chief, we see him as the truth-teller about our society and our weakening values?

He’s showing us who we are and what we’re willing to put up with.

Protesters claim themselves peaceful as they carry rocket launchers into a Subway sandwich shop. Governors get death threats for trying to protect.

We are NOT the greatest generation.

Our immaturity bangs like a toddler playing drums on pots and pans.

The world is laughing at us and crying for us. People are dying, not just in America, but everywhere. Why aren’t we uniting?

When the virus hits children, we respond as well as we have to school shootings.

We fight for our freedom like 16-year-olds resisting curfew, somehow forgetting that with freedom comes responsibility.

Yet, humanity is rising.

Courses on authenticity, resilience, intuition, and open heartedness abound, many for free. Women and men gather together while apart, connected by higher purposes and other-than-this world tools.

We’re tapping into our hearts and souls, the juicy parts of ourselves we were told to set aside so we could thrive, succeed, get more, be more, and make more money, money, money.

We’re learning we’re enough and helping those who don’t have enough.

We’re sitting with our sisters and brothers, singing our souls’ songs. We’re quieting our egos and honoring our unspoken non-compete clauses with each other.

We’re not striving to get back into the box.

It’s taken time and will require more to let go of the old paradigms of patriarchy, still throwing parades and acting as paparazzi to the Donald, their daddy.

Oh, yeah. Daddy issues are on the kitchen table of our society.

But, mama’s cooking more than dinner. She’s caring for more than the kids. Resourcefulness, creativity, and kindness are rebirthing themselves.

People pushed to the sidelines stand witness to the violent, greedy games.

Someone (Barr) said history is written by the winners. He’s as cute as the cheating husband clueless to his wife hiring an attorney and a private investigator.

Deceit is rampant. People are livid.

Sh*t gets real when someone you know or love dies. Until then, it’s surreal. You’re immune. You’re invincible.

Everything changes when death dines at your family’s table.

Those at the top preach predetermine outcome, as if. They can’t see we’ve opted out and moved to a higher understanding, surrendering to the unknowing, believing in something better, like the nurses, doctors, and grocery store workers showing up and risking their lives for what some claim is hyped.

Right. And teenagers don’t get pregnant. Ha, right now they don’t!

This is big. Nothing and no one gets a pass. No business, school, sport, or family. For some, gravity hasn’t hit yet.

But, light shines in darkness. May we be willing to open our eyes and ask, what would you have us see? Who will we become?

Should I Get My Hair Done?

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite.” ~ William Blake

Our amazing hair stylist, the one my sister’s seen for 19 years and I’ve gone to for seven, opens shop May 15th, as allowed by Ohio.

My sis immediately sets the first available appointment. I panic.

When a person gets Coronavirus, they’re asked where they’ve been. Would I say I risked my life to be pretty?

My sister doesn’t hesitate. She’s in job-seeking mode and Zoom welcomes like the new boardroom.

Not to mention she has a fiancé. Don’t we all like to look our best for ourselves and our mates?

For me, the salon feels like a date with fate. I can’t shake the fear of being intimately close to someone, even a woman I know and trust. The asymptomatic aspect of Coronavirus scares me. Someone can look and sound healthy and still be a carrier.

Heck, I avoid people with the flu! When I first heard of Corona, I didn’t even want to speak of it for fear my magnetic mind might attract it.

This isn’t the flu. Currently, 286,371 people in the world, 80,423 in the United States, and 1,357 in Ohio have died. Our desire to resist statistics, science, and history seems as contagious as the pandemic.

I pride myself in my ability to seek, understand, and accept truth so I can deal with it.

The truth is I love going to the salon, being pampered and beautified. Isn’t our emotional health connected to our physical?  

If I feel pretty, am I protected?

My sister clearly chooses this trip to the salon. Yet, she refuses to enter a grocery store.

I take that risk if I miss ordering online in time. Or I need spinach (beer). The other day, I said, “I’m never going in the store again!” People in every aisle. I freaked behind my mask. It felt like running an obstacle course.

Upon checkout, a young brat, I mean lady, didn’t stay in her place on the red X. Mask free, she came forward, passed so close behind me I could feel her breath, just to put her Little Red Riding Hood sized basket back on the rack. Then, she stood youthfully convinced of her invincibility less than six feet from me.

We each get to decide how we’ll act and react within this new reality. The way I make peace with people like Miss I Do What I Want is A) remember I, too believed myself invincible in my 20s, and B) practice compassion and recognition surrounding the stages of grief.

We’re collectively grieving life as we knew it, even as many of us bask in more comfort and ease than some citizens will experience in their lifetimes. Still, whatever we did and how we did it before stay-at-home orders paved the path is gone.

We’re in a new normal. The old lifestyle died. Enter denial. Denial in a worldwide pandemic is almost comical. This isn’t happening. It’s made up.

Will we dare to face the truth in this worldwide crisis? Or will we stick to these early stages of grief—denial and anger?

We tend to cling to old ways even when they’re not working, like in failing relationships or unfulfilling jobs. We hold tight to what’s threatened for fear of loss.

Then, we bargain for balance amid our resistance as we teeter into the new unknown.

In seasons of grief and loss, I try to stop, turn off the voices of the world, and the louder ones in my head, the ones chattering in the night.

Shhh. I need to get quiet and move into my heart. What do I feel? What do I know to be true in the depths of my being (far below my ego)? What’s right for me and how do I weight that with what’s good for others?

As the doors of salons and restaurants welcome us again, we each have the freedom to choose. Freedom comes with responsibility.

On May 7th, reporters asked Dr. Amy Acton, Governor DeWine, and Lt. Governor Jon Husted if they’d be eating at the restaurants when they open. Governor DeWine said he and his wife Fran would continue supporting restaurants and ordering takeout. He went on to name a few of his favorites. Well fielded, Governor.

Dr. Acton said her life is so busy that’s not what she’s craving. When she gets time, she’s hoping for a walk in the woods. And sure, of course, down the line, she’ll dine out, but it’s not on her radar now. Way to walk the line, doctor.

Lt. Governor Husted said yes, indeed, he’d take his wife out for Mother’s Day, although dining in restaurants didn’t present as an option then.

I said to my sister, “I bet Amy Acton isn’t going to get her hair done.” Jayne said she didn’t think Dr. Acton would support opening if she didn’t believe it’s safe.

I agree in theory, based on Acton’s exemplary character and expertise. However, as DeWine says, opening isn’t without risk. None of the medical experts insist this phase is completely safe. In fact, a spike is likely.

We’re making the transitions as safe as possible, as a worldwide pandemic touches close to even the most protected, tested, and powerful.

Vice President Pence’s press secretary Kate Miller tested positive for coronavirus, as did a personal valet of the president’s, along with Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant.

Back to the important question: my hair. At our salon, temperatures will be taken before we can enter, and then only individually. Taking care of clients presents a risk for the stylists. too. They weigh this with the prospect of being out of work. We all have bills to pay.

Yes, we can do two things. Can we acknowledge business profits and people processes can be both contradictory and complimentary? We don’t like juxtapositions. We stomp our feet for concrete answers.

Maturity means facing the multiple aspects of decisions to navigate wisely.

I don’t want all this work just to decide if it’s safe to get my hair done! I want my yesterday!

So, my sister and I call our research-minded father for his take. He says he’s just realizing this coronavirus season may go on for another 18 months. Gulp. In that case, he says, we can’t keep in our homes.

Jayne tells about the temperature taking, and she and the stylist wearing masks. I trust our stylist, but it’s not a matter of trust. She has a husband who works as safely as he can. My concern revolves around the expansion of our so-far safe circle.

You know how if you have sex with someone, you’re sleeping with all the people they’ve slept with? Now, when you’re in someone’s breathing space, you’re sharing it with all those they’ve been in contact with. Cooties!

My dad says the risk is minimized by the precautions. Yet, you’re very close. The man with all the answers can’t say for certain, the way he did when I intended to work the voting polls. “That,” he said, “is not a good idea.” It turned out DeWine agreed. Thank goodness for the simple answer of vote by mail.

As far as getting my hair done, I’m chicken. For years, I fought an undiagnosed illness which affected the quality of my life. I found some answers and steadied, but I haven’t forgotten the feeling of not being able to breathe normally or being in pain consistently. Now, I cherish my health. I’m not ready to take extra bets on my immune system.

My ego hates this decision! My rebellious heart resists rules. Self-regulation isn’t my strong suit. And yet, this time, I say no.

My sister will return home from the salon looking fabulous. Besides, if she’s going and we live together, I’m going to get whatever she gets, so why not go? Hello, bargaining.

Shhh, quiet. Right now, for me, my gut says no. B*tch. I’ll keep practicing safe distancing. My sister will support our stylist, come home looking fly, and land a job she likes, if she likes, because we each get to choose.

May we all choose wisely, for ourselves and for each other.

I Have Three Mothers

Guest post by  Heather Darby

I have three mothers.

One mother carried me in her body and birthed me into this world. She fed me (most of the time), clothed me (when she could), sang me sweet bedtime songs, and taught me to survive (the hard way).

I met my second Mother at an early age. She gave me sweet air to suck in deep and whistle out. She bathed me in hot, blinding light that warmed my cold, lonely bones. Mother gave me a creek to play in – endless exploration of leaches, stones, crayfish—turning over stone after stone in the fresh frigid waters—a game that taught me to watch and think and move. She gave me all of the Earth to roam. Trees for companions, birds as backing vocalist in my grandest performances, dirt to discharge my filthy soul muck into. Her grace was in the cover of night, inviting me to dance until I found myself howling with moonlight and racing under Her stars.

It was much later that I remembered my third mother. She showed up when I was so lost, at the exact moment I needed to be rescued, like a knight in an old story. In my new story, the hero mother rescuer is me.

I tore at my clothes in grief and hid from my knowing long enough. My mother would no longer let me hide. She found me every single time and brought me home – home to a warm bed, hot bath, delicious meal, laughing with friends. Home to safety and unconditional love and music. Home to no apologies. At home in my mother, I have become. Safe at home, I have found what it is to loved.

A mother’s love is in me and not found outside. I do not long for One mother or another, but long for more time with myself, nurturing what is alive for me, in me, and of me. I mimic the Earth Mother as a creatrix, planting seeds, and painting with Her palates. I gather with like-minded women and call the Earth Mother to hold us and we dance again under Her lights, in Her air, with Her grace.

And after we dance and say goodnight, I sit in my knowing vibrating with all the mother and sister energies, hugging my knees into my chest and hum myself to sleep.

How We Face Vulnerability, even in Coronavirus Season.

“Our strength is often composed as weakness we’re damned if we’re going to show.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I’m a woman walking in the woods.

It’s Coronavirus season, which means more people than usual. Families. Kids. Two women. A man on a bicycle with two kids in a wagon trailing behind, doing the parade wave each time they pass.

I meander to the edge of the woods, where I return to the cemetery before winding back into my neighborhood.

I see a lone man, tall, with jet-black hair. Air catches in my throat, a physical reaction. I try to relax when I see he has a big black dog. Maybe I’ve spoken to this man before.

I attempt assuring myself, but my body doesn’t know this. My eyes scan for people. My heart beats faster, as I realize there are none within earshot.

I am a woman alone. My body tenses as the man stops ahead of me. A wave of hesitation to push my feelings down rolls through me, as subtle as the wind.

Instinctively, I take off running, not fast, more like it’s what I’d been doing.

My body knows vulnerability because I’m a woman.

My heart pounds louder in my chest, even as my mind suggests foolishness.

The man smiles and says, “Thank you,” for making space on behalf of Coronavirus. I yell back, “You’re welcome!”

This. This thing happens for women. Often. We rarely mention it, even to ourselves. We smile and wave.

How to Be a Tree.

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to us to merit the face you have at fifty.” ~ Coco Chanel

This tree, she is a woman. I’ve walked beside her and put my hands on her, exchanging energies for seven years. I never tire of her, through all the seasons, atmospherically and metaphorically.

I’ve brought special people to meet her. Kindred spirits recognize her before I introduce them. “That tree is a woman,” said one boyfriend walking with me in my grief, trying damn hard to make me love him. In that moment, looking at her, he forgot. We loved her together.

She greets me and calls to me whichever way I walk on trails through the woods. The other day, I noticed, from a certain angle, she appears pregnant. When I face her from the other side, where the bark is bare and my handprints lay, she’s a woman’s legs reaching upwards, her head buried beneath the ground. She holds her center between those long legs reaching to the everything, her privates so clear and public.

My sister and I once spotted baby racoons peaking out and hiding there, from their tree mama’s womb. They ran back down into her for safety, solid and wide, a condominium complex to creatures, in her body.

Today, I merged with her. I felt the rings of history traced and expanding within me. Bark like skin has endured and grown through a thousand seasons, rainstorms, and children’s laughter on the path beside her.

She adjusted her stance and deepened her roots years ago when people came close and carried electronics into her vibrational field. Most recently, she startled with so many human voices released into her arena. She’s come to welcome them as kindly as the deer and little masked thieves. She holds a sense of humor about humans bearing masks, only matched by her compassion.

This tree is a queen. No one tries to overthrow her. Little ones bend before her. Grass gathers at her feet in spring. A white blanket snuggles close in winter. She’s in love with the river running at her back. Like her, he’s ever-changing and always remaining. Her strength is indisputable. If she were a poem, she’d be titled Phenomenal Woman.

She sways and radiates her vibrant lime-green leaves with the wind in celebration for life. Yes, on blue sky days, but also under gray clouds, starry nights, and times when she finds herself naked again.

This tree stands at a crossroads of several paths which intertwine and encircle her, along the river, through the field, across to the cemetery where old trees salute, and home to neighborhoods where visitors live.

Today, I embody her. When I asked, she said, “I’ve been waiting.” She’s as sexy as any wide-open woman. She houses many and cares for all. All are welcome, like the Lady Liberty of our united nature. She hears and feels it when other trees fall in her forest. She nourishes the collective air and peers at the fish performing. She’s regal, standing at grace with everything. She sings with the all the birds and lets owls perch on her arms.

Nothing deters her from her purpose. To be a tree.