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.

Flailing Like a Woman

For four years

I flailed in the winds of life

Like a kite

I let grief take me

Twist me

Rip me

While I practiced

Yoga and gratitude

To remain grounded

Held by a string

I prayed to fly higher

Or stand still

To be as beautiful

As a butterfly,

As solid as a dog

But I’m none of these

I am a woman

With feelings and dreams

Living, leaning, loving

Organically

As authentic me

Flawed, but finding my way.

Today, I dance with wonder

Realizing, acknowledging,

Accepting just how much

It takes to recover when

The man you’ve been

Searching for

Your whole life

Dies.

Why I’m Still Dancing.

“Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments.” ~ Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Good morning, thoughts.  Let’s wrestle.

I wrote an article yesterday full of big truths I wanted the world to face, in the face of Coronavirus.

People are dying and more will die.

Somehow, I blamed it on positivity, rose-colored glasses, and some people’s belief in a buffoon of a president.

The piece landed with a thud—making me rethink my purpose and passion for truth, as if there’s one.

Yet, I keep insisting, in writing, and in public: juxtaposition demands maturity.

How about me?

The truth is I’m scared.

Sometimes it’s hard to sit with Fear, harder than Grief—and she’s a bitch.

Grief is yesterday. Fear is tomorrow.

Hope lives today on behalf of tomorrow, despite fear.

Because I believed, affirmed, and read The Secret and Awaken the Giant Within and still landed on my ass, I wanted to disavow all that.

But, last night, while distracting myself from myself with the TV, I caught Garth Brooks being honored with the Gershwin Prize on PBS.

He played “The Dance” and damn, I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would go.

That’s the truth I’m afraid of. Not knowing.

I didn’t know when I went to St. Louis for a Hall & Oates concert, I was going to fall in love, and for a moment, he would be my king.

I’m glad I didn’t know he’d die in his sleep.

I didn’t know when I came to Ohio to stay with my sis, I’d live with her, love it, and get to pursue my writing dream, for seven years! It’s been the best thing.

Life is juxtaposition. We must decide how we’ll face it.

“You plan and God laughs” doesn’t mean he’s laughing at us. There’s a bigger picture.

Sometimes I’ll go for a party and find sacred love, go for a summer and find a home.

Heck, I couldn’t even know when I opened the curtains this morning, a pink cotton-candy sky would drop into baby blue like a kiss from above, “This is for you.”

Sure, there are facts. Wash your hands!

There are fears. Hello, humanity.

But through it all, I’ve met the crazy, grand mystery.

Good within bad, bad within good, and only because I’ve called them so.

Today, I surrender to the not knowing how it all will go.

But believing in beauty, I’m still dancing.

How We Get to the Truth When We Don’t Want to go There.

The false dilemma fallacy is often a manipulative tool designed to polarize the audience, heroisizing one side and demonizing the other. It’s common in political discourse as a way of strong-arming the public into supporting controversion legislation or policies.” ~ David Ferrer, 15 Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting Into a Debate

Are we so set on pulling up our bootstraps we can’t recognize the sadness of a worldwide pandemic?

Many of us have lost and will lose. Jobs, homes, and 401ks. We don’t want to hear that or believe there’s a train barreling towards us. Not me is our first instinct.

Yes, denial is the first stage of grief. We’re grieving the falling away of many of our personal and societal foundations.

I know grief intimately. Not just from the deaths of my brother, mother, brother-in-law, and beloved.

By the way, when the police officer on the phone first told me he found my boyfriend dead in his bed, I screamed, “NO!!!”

That was after he tried to tell me the man I love more than anyone in the world was “unresponsive.” I wanted to know what hospital they were taking him to. My heart couldn’t hear the truth. For several years, I believed my dead man could come back to me. I kind of still do.

How deep does denial run in the face of losing who or what we love?

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,”Donald Trump said about the Coronavirus.

Sure, I myself have practiced delusional positivity.

When my mother was diagnosed with death, I fired the doctor, determined to take her somewhere to save her. I thought the doc not only cruel, but full of sh*t.

Apparently, that’s what Trump thought of journalist Peter Alexander of NBC asking the President of the United States what he’d say to “Americans who are watching you right now who are scared.”

The Commander in Chief snapped, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter!”

Yeah, that’s how I felt about the doctor who delivered the truth in a tone I didn’t like.

Maybe our leaders aren’t always able to guide us, but sometimes reflect who we are.

I’m nothing like that jerk might be what we insert, or worse.

Or, like my ultra-successful businessman friend—who once complained about having to pay $5 million in taxes—maybe you only see the good in a man who glares with disdain for truth.

Our delusional positivity is unbending when it suits our favor.

There’s a fine line between The Secret that swept our nation in 2006, just before the worst financial crisis in our history, and our ability to look at truth, facts, science, or unbecoming characteristics of our chosen ones.

The finger I point here is at the woman in the mirror.

When five years into my marriage I felt disconnected from my husband, I focused on his good qualities and how much I loved him. I refused to look at, let alone feel anything but my good feelings because that’s what got me there.

I kept saying, “I have a great life” and “He’s a good man.” Both were true.

We like to look at our favorite side of the coin, spiritual bypass with love and light, and pretend if we adhere to affirmations, we can keep the bad at a distance. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Some people live like this for a lifetime. I’m not just talking about the naïve and blind.

We always think it’s them—the Republicans or Democrats or the kind of woman who can’t get her act together, or see what seems obvious from the outside, from our oh-so-wise perspective.

It’s easy to be objective when your heart isn’t in it.

Check this. No one would call Camille Cosby clueless. She has a doctoral degree. She wrote the forward for Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women. By all accounts, she’s one of them. She even worked as her famous husband’s manager.

Camille Cosby was in Bill’s business and knew his business, or so she thought. They shared a home and a family and a history of his proven good character. She would know if he was drugging and sexually assaulting women.

Or so she insisted against irrefutable evidence—as we often do when presented with truth that doesn’t align with what we’ve decided to shine the light on.

We like to believe if one thing is truth, that’s proof another thing (the one we don’t like) is false.

That’s how the American story goes. Think positive and take action.

That’s how my ex-husband’s business went bust while he worked his butt off and assured me everything would be fine. He wasn’t lying. He drove himself to delusional positivity and I rode that ship until it sank.

Maturity is the ability to look at the juxtapositions of life, people, and situations.

Let’s be mature as we face this pandemic. We fear certain truths will destroy us.

Yet, the brave ones on the front lines have been forced to face the truth, no matter what they told themselves or believed in the beginning.

That’s what serious sickness does. It wakes us the f*ck up.

Still, I have friends claiming this is hype. They believe their president knows more than doctors and scientists who’ve been studying and preparing for this. Ok, Camille.

I’m sorry, but this is different. This is real.

If you’re on the front lines, thank you for bringing dignity, grace, and honor to all of humanity. We are forever in your debt.

To my niece, a nurse, nephew, a cop, and other nephew, a firefighter, I could not be prouder of you or more scared for you. Please stay safe, I say, knowing where you work is the least safe place in the world right now.

Truth sets us free once we embrace it. Denial can kill. Especially now.

How to Align.

Your hips don’t lie. Get on your mat and release them from their stories. Release them from their chains. Pull them back like arrows. They hold emotions denied. Your hips have carried your cries for so long. Release them.

Your heart chamber awaits with wisdom. Spread your arms like you’re going to fly. Lean your heart forward like breaking the tape and crossing into your authenticity.

Open your body. Quiet your mind. Stretch into the music of your soul.

Ah, my dear, this is alignment.

Who I Want to Be When This is Over.

When this is over, in time too far from our liking, we’ll give oxytocin hugs and look into the eyes of strangers, knowing they’ve endured something similar in the hunkering down.

They’ve worried and missed people, resisted touch, and changed habits.

In those eyes we’ll see sadness, compassion, and in many cases, resurrection of humanity’s soul.

We’ll know something akin to what people who’ve been to war or prison or watched loved ones taken by cancer: both our smallness and our essence.

If we’re brave, we’ll change more than habits and mindsets.

We’ve been given an opportunity to reset our priorities.

Some will continue to play the games online and work away their time.

In many ways, my life as a writer remains consistent, while I recognize the reshaping of the environment and outside noise.

The world grows both louder and quieter.

Shhh, can you hear your soul?

Can you feel the collective rearrangement of reality, the realignment of the divine, the righting of wrongs, as so often happens in the face of tragedy?

It’s the worst of times; it’s the best of times.

Welcome to the resetting of society. Baby, it starts with you and me.

When I come out on the other side of this, I want to stand witness to a better world.

How dare I call this potential good when it’s obviously bad?

The same way vitality rose in me when my brother died, and I was just 25.

Five years later, compassion became my companion after cancer took my mother.

Amid my divorce(s), I understood more about who I was, who I was not, and what kind of woman I intended to become.

When we succeed—in business, careers, and relationships, it’s a joy ride.

When we fail, lose, are forced to change habits, and foundations fall, we get to choose.

We get to question, resurrect our character, and redraw our boundaries.

When I walked, awake, into my second marriage, I knew full well what I wanted and what that man offered. Hell, I manifested it!

A decade later, during the worst financial crisis to hit the United States since the Great Depression, I called upon my courage and voiced my goodbye to a man I still loved, my husband. Because I knew for certain what I did not want.

Sometimes we only learn that by getting it.

In America, our actions and policies prove we wanted money to be the bottom line.

We wanted profit and power, if only for the next cycle.

We wanted to believe the bubble wouldn’t pop again.

Didn’t we all know, deep down, the emperor had no clothes?

When this is over, many of us will have looked in the mirror to find more than lines we don’t like. We’ll find the lies we’ve been telling ourselves.

Like, we’re in control and everything is good.

That’s it. That’s the one I had to learn repeatedly.

Every time, it’s helped me to surrender to something bigger—a bigger picture, a greater purpose, a larger love for myself and others.

Our cities and societies, even humanity, is experiencing her own dark night of the soul.

It’s just beginning. Like the day you finally admit I don’t want to live like this.

Or your partner speaks some truth you resist or deny.

The way I did when a friend of a friend kept talking about Coronavirus back in February. Enough already!

We shut him down, even made fun of the conversation, as if we could avoid its bigness.

We did, the way we tend to do at first when relationships, lifestyle changes, or abrupt bad news reveals what we don’t like.

At first, I thought Corona-virus a punchline to pair with Lime Disease. Funny!

It wasn’t until a conversation with my father that the enormity began to hit me.

As a career, my father worked in nuclear nonproliferation, and in his final years investigated and analyzed Iran’s weapons stockpiles. As a retiree, he researches cancer information, studies, and trials for friends contending with the disease.

Days before the intended Ohio elections, my father made a special call to tell me he didn’t think I should volunteer as a poll worker.

What? He was serious. “Any other time. It’s not worth your health,” he said. My dad does a lot of things, but drama doesn’t typically describe him.

At first, I thought maybe he’d been reading too much. Then, I reminded myself he’s trained on statistics, facts, and validating sources.

I started doing my own research, although soon I didn’t have to. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, began giving afternoon news briefings.

This woman deserves a medal for her exceptional work and the way she explains science with clarity, compassion and facts.

Then, the closings came. Day by day. Schools. Restaurants and bars. Barber shops and salons. Daycare centers. Life as we knew it fell away.

Panic, the low-level buzz brewing below the surface, came crashing like waves.

Now, I feel the need to confess my part in the mess. My sister and I went to the movies the last night they were open. Because we could, but wouldn’t be able to the next day.

Last week, when I already knew better, I hugged a friend. I don’t regret that one.

I’ve also hugged my sister. And two new friends in their home recently after we didn’t sit six feet apart.

I also bought extra toilet paper. That was an accident, I promise. (I thought the rolls in the garage were paper towels.)

My sister and I live together and typically hug each other every morning when she goes to work, every night when we go to bed, and whenever we say goodbye. She’s no longer going to work. We’re no longer hugging goodnight. When she left to go see her fiancé we said, “Virtual hug.” This sucks.

I’m not very good with rules, but I want to follow these because the last thing I want to do is accidently, or unknowingly, cause someone to be sick, hospitalized or die. That someone could be a stranger, a loved one, or me.

I choose to be educated, aware, and take right action in this critical time. So, I’m home, resisting trips to the grocery store or even around the corner for beer.

I’m here, trying to listen to my soul and let something better than the chatter rise. We’re going to get to the other side. When we come out, people will ask what we did.

I’m more interested in who we’ll become. Who will each of us, and all of us, those of us who live through this, become?

How Queen Corona Rules.

“A queen is wise. She has earned her serenity, not having had it bestowed on her but having passed her tests. She has suffered and grown more beautiful because of it. She has proved she can hold her kingdom together. She has become its vision. She cares deeply about something bigger than herself. She rules with authentic power.” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

Queen Corona has come to town, travelling with a thousand horses and an army of men. She is feminine power.

You cannot pay her off.

She’s not a princess you can seduce.

Or a child to be trifled with.

People step aside for the queen, yet peer behind for the king.

Where is he? The king got drunk on power, slept with all the pretties as if they were playthings, spent his fortune, and send his troops to wrong wars.

The king beheaded himself.

Queen Corona is feminine power.

We all bow before her.

First, in fear.

The closer she nears we see the parade is not for show.

She earned her crown. The queen rides with dignity.

She’s come to clear the field, to wake us up to our own greed and evil.

Queen Corona teaches us what matters by her royal presence.

She loves like a mother, after the father fled and the children grew wild.

Although she’s shrewd, Queen Corona doesn’t pretend everything is a business proposition.

She sends us to our rooms, lays down new rules, takes no backtalk, and reminds us what’s important now.

Take care of each other. We are family.

How to Show up During the Coronavirus.

“The ability to recognize these times of pressurized pain as opportunities to love and heal—along with an openness to accepting what is and facing it unflinchingly—become the wings of freedom.” ~ Jennifer Salima Holt, PhD, Sacred Gateway of Loss and Grief

It’s Sunday morning, the first in the Coronavirus shutdown. It’s surreal. It’s out there.

My friend’s 24-year-old son died Friday night. That’s close.

I can feel his pain, although he’s several states away. I ache for him.

I remember my mother, a warrior among women, weakening when she lost her only son, my brother, at age 27.

I held her hand as we drove from Oklahoma to Arizona to see his body for the last time.

I stayed with my mom when my then-husband told me to come home. I was 25. I didn’t know anything about grief, except my mom needed me.

Now, I’ve endured several seasons of grief, losing my mother and others.

I’d like to think I know something, like when my friend’s mom died recently. I wanted to have the right words.

There are no right words, except maybe what my friend Lisa said when my beloved died: “I’m so f*cking sorry this happened.”

I’m 55. More deaths will come.

My friend who lost his son has a pain as deep as the core of the earth.

I won’t pretend I have any power to take it away or that words mean anything when grief hits like Ali.

I stand in my friend’s corner. I stand witness to the blows. No matter how hard it gets, I’m here.

I cheer him on, even as he bleeds tears. His pain is as strong as his love. He’s a fighter, but he never wanted to be in this ring.

May he feel the crowd chanting on his behalf. May his children who still live be his Adrian, his reason. May he endure the pain like Rocky.

This is the hardest fight of my friend’s life. In the face of this, Coronavirus is tiddlywinks.

Just getting up from the bed, holding morning coffee while grief grabs everything, is round one.

From the sidelines of those we love who’ve lost their mother, sister, brother, lover, spouse or child, presence is our only power.

Let us step into their corner, wipe their wounds, offer them water, witness their pain, knowing it’s their fight, but we sit in the ring of grief with them.

We stay present while they fight. We love them as their bones of reality crack and break with every blow. We wince while they take the hits.

We are here because worse than grief is having no one in your corner while you face it.

Even though we’re all practicing the new normal of Coronavirus, let’s still be there for one another, even from afar.

Be in someone’s corner today.

How Sister Ships Sail.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Like ships passing, I realize I’m on one and my sister stands on the other—after we’ve ridden side by side for a while now.

Our ships never completely paralleled.

I like my ship. Even while I view the vivacious parties and glorious sunsets over there, on hers.

She might not get the same view of the sunrise or meet the peeps I will on my ship.

We have different destinations.

Either of us could be rerouted or sail into inclement weather.

We bought our tickets and said where we want to go.

Now, we enjoy the adventure, greet the people, choose events and excursions, relax and relish.

Knowing we’re not actually driving the ship, we must trust.

I’m certain my big sister read the safety rules and learned her ship’s map.

When I holler across from mine to hers, “Hey, where are you going?!” she screams back, laughing like an 11-year-old girl on vacation with her mom and best friend, “I don’t know! Where are you going?”

It dawns on me that maybe I don’t know either. As I try to formulate an answer and speak it into the wind between us, I see her man come up behind her and wrap his arms around her.

She turns to look at him the way Rose looked at Jack on The Titanic.

There goes a love story.

My sister turns and waves, joy dripping from her face.

“Have fun!” she screams.

“I will!” I shout back, like a promise. “You too!”

How My Parents Taught Me to Walk at Age 47.

In 2012, I spent the summer with my parents in their home in Santa Fe, NM.

Most mornings and evenings, they headed out for walks. They had to get their little coyote-looking dog Ginger out, but the walks saved them from life’s daily stresses.

Most times, I was invited. Often, I joined them on the streets winding around adobe homes, dirt paths, and arroyos. I learned “a little walk,” unless it was dark, typically took an hour. So, sometimes I declined in honor of time and solitude.

Often, I heard my stepmom say, “I’m a little tired. I’m going for a walk” or I could see her emotional edge (we all have one) sharpening. Those moments called for solo walks with Ginger.

They both returned brighter and kinder. The desert air, the smell of dirt and pine, and the expansive skies covering the Land of Enchantment can clear the blues. 

Back in junior high, my stepmom introduced me to running by entering a ten-mile race through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado on the day she married my father.

At 14, my skinny legs and thick willpower carried me through the course.

Mary Jo was a runner. So, I became one. Not a jogger. Certainly, not a walker. In my mind, walking was what old people did in malls.

I ran through my teens, 20s and 30, but by my forties, my body wasn’t as forgiving. Yet, my mind couldn’t imagine the power of walking, except for wimps. I’m not a wimp!

Neither are my parents. Now in their 80s, they’re big time drinkers—of water. They’ve travelled the world, and ridden bicycles across the country on serious trips: across the Great Divide, from New Mexico to my dad’s high school reunion in South Dakota, and one summer they rode 4,000 miles from Virginia to Oregon, covering over 50 miles on most days.

So, it shouldn’t have surprised me when, the summer of 2012, my dad met my offer to join him on a bike ride with, “I need to get a real workout in.” Ouch. Hey, old man!

He was right, though. I couldn’t keep up with him mountain biking on the trails, and though I intended to, I never made it up the vertical-as-a-wall killer hill he took like a 12-year-old.

Between bicycle rides, walking served as my parents’ constant. Like water, it’s the simple, almost unnoticeable key to health and longevity.

As Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron states, “You might walk out with a problem, but as you walk, you come into a solution.” She added walking as a third tool for writers, after morning pages and artist dates.

Between Ms. Cameron and my parents, walking became my secret weapon.

Even if walking doesn’t bring me to a solution or resolution, it transforms me. When I’m angry, I must run, but when agitated, irritated, or tired, walking offers revival. It can be medicine, but it’s best taken daily like vitamins.

After that summer in Santa Fe, I returned home to Minnesota, but not to my husband. Yeah, I’d learned to walk in several ways.

Anyhow, in my next chapter, I took up walking with my new neighbor Michael and his German Shepard Jessie. As Michael and I walked among the Victorian homes of Cathedral Hill, St. Paul, we discussed men and women and relationships.

Each step dropped our defenses and forged a friendship I doubt would’ve happened over coffee or meals. Walking made talking easy.

I also walked alone, slowing into the pace of poetry.

Later, when I moved to Worthington, OH with my sister Jayne, our evening walks tamed workday stresses and unraveled the threads of grief, relationships, and childhood memories matched with our adult perspectives.

During winter, my sister and I long for and lean into spring so we can get back to our synchronized steps.

Up until a year ago, my Labrador Phoenix joined us. There’s nothing like a dog to get us out for walks. She’s gone now and it’s more of a chore to drag myself outdoors during the cold days.

Still, every time I go, especially stepping into the woods and letting nature return me to mine, I’m better for it.

On my most recent visit with my parents in their new small Santa Fe apartment, I said, “I need to get out for a walk. Would either of you like to join me?” They both declined the cold. The wind of their aging blew through me.

Of course, we shared many walks that week: down Canyon Road by art galleries, along the downtown arroyo surrounded by glistening yellow Aspen trees, and a drive out close to my folks’ old neighborhood where Ginger could run free as Mary Jo and I plunged up and down hills and through sandy arroyos where she lost her hat and we had to go back.

Walking carries us back and forward, to reflection and perspective of beauty that a drive, or even a bicycle miss.

Ginger is slowing. My parents are growing into what, despite their health, is old age. My companion Phoenix aged out.

I try to pick up the habit of running again, but I’m thankful my parents passed onto me a new constant to carry me through life’s daily joys and challenges.

So, when you’re feeling lost or blue, I encourage you to get out and experience the magnificence, simplicity and magic of walking.