Standing Inside Myself

"Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry" Muriel Rukeyser “For an impenetrable shield,stand inside yourself” Henry David Thoreau

Category: Meditation Inspired Writing


gray and black rock formation

Photo by Michael Judkins on

Although the shore is rocky, the bottom of Wilson Bay is sandy, which makes it a nice body of water to set anchor and go for a swim. It’s normally an easy trip around Dablon Point–a ten minute ride. The wind was already picking up by the time we decided to take the boat out. When my father makes a schedule, he likes to stick to it.

As soon as we hit the lake proper, I knew I was in trouble. The chop was rough, and I suffer from intense motion sickness. Even the assisted pull-up machine at the gym makes me queasy. The wind was pushing the waves from the West, so the bay was just as rough as the lake. Before the anchor was set, I dove into the water and swam for terra firma. I contemplated walking the five miles home in my bathing suit, without shoes, so as not to have to get on the lurching vessel ever again.

Wilson beach is covered in various sizes of smooth surf-weathered stones. There are also larger flat sedimentary rocks, with fossil imprints that used to fascinate me as a  child, and huge boulders. I scrambled to the closest flat rock and sat to absorb some of its heat. The water was chilly and the wind was brisk. I was nauseous and freezing.

Both of my daughters are certified lifeguards, but this fact didn’t stop me from panicking every time they swam below the turbulent surface. I reasoned to calm myself: the water was only five feet deep, they were strong swimmers, I was overprotective, everything would be fine. But I knew if the unthinkable happened, if they got swept under, I  would not be able to save them. I was nauseous and freezing and uncomfortably nervous.

My father is seventy-six years old. Despite being in very good physical shape, he has been having trouble with his Achilles tendons, so when he dove into the water and started to make his way toward shore I started to panic in earnest. He swam a little and then walked the remainder of the distance slowly and surely with his mouth set in a firm line. He concentrated on staying upright and on not swallowing any water, while I imagined my entire family drowning in front of my eyes.

Safely on shore, the uneven rocky terrain proved daunting. He stumbled to find his footing and crumpled into a sitting position about three feet in front of me. I watched him from my stony perch. He sat with his legs apart in front of him, knees bent the way men often sit. His shoulders were slumped a little. If I were sitting closer I might have reached out and put my hand on his back, a small sign of solidarity. An acknowledgement that to age is no simple matter. When one of the girls was under the water for what seemed like too long, he turned to me and asked, “Where’s Frances?”  I come by my anxieties naturally.

My father is my America. He is a man who always tries to do what’s right. He is organized, steadfast, reliable, fair. This does not mean he doesn’t make mistakes, but he is coachable, a team player, a good sport. He is honest and kind. He will always extend a hand. When I was younger, his rules and limits seemed oppressive, suffocating, and simplistic, but I have come to realize that his solidity is what allowed me to explore beyond my perceived boundaries. It was knowing, albeit unconsciously, that he was always there firmly rooted and consistent that allowed me to become me, despite my fears.

My daughters are also my America. They are young and fresh. They are trying to find their creative paths, learning to be responsible, discovering the nuances of love in the age of contradiction and lunacy. They are bright lights with sweet hearts. They are pure potential for all things good. This doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes, but they are coachable, team players, good sports. They are honest and kind. They will always extend a hand.

In the current political climate I find myself sitting daily on those flat warm rocks, chilled and sick to my stomach with dread, and trying to meditate away my fears that my America might drown.  One thing is certain in this time of uncertainty, I am a strong swimmer. Had any of my family members struggled, I would have instantly been in the water. I would have attempted a rescue or gone down trying. Your father is my father. Your daughters are my daughters. Your America is my America, and I am a strong swimmer.

The waves were bigger and the wind was stronger on the way home. I sat in the front of the boat willing myself not to puke. Each time the bow slammed down on the rough water it felt like my internal organs were being crushed together. At one point, I looked back at my dad. He glanced at me and chuckled mischievously acknowledging in his own way that the lake was really too rough. The lake was really too rough, but we made it home and nobody drowned.

Constitution Eclipse

There is an essay coagulating in my bloodstream as I fold the laundry. There is language sprouting from my gut as I wash the dishes. Words like privilege and paradox and humanity are hovering on a frequency just beyond cohesion. The more I reach out and try to grab them the more they unravel into space. I decide to swat the impulse away. I need to get my house in order. I don’t have time to write this love letter. Yet, it means to be written. It whispers to me: slow down and clear your heart. Come back to the page to expose your truth. It refuses to be eclipsed. The floor will have to be washed later.


At the beginning of the summer I was prompted to explore the meaning of constitution beyond symbolism. My investigation followed a specific tributary: one that desired to see self as it really is. My self. My truest self. No different from the self of other. In short, my exploration led to an epiphany. I am built in ways I have ignored. I am not the person I have convinced my self exists. And to eclipse the full totality of who I am, the all of it, the full spectrum of humanity expressed, is to allow the less savory aspects of self to flourish secretly in the dark.


Left untended these parts of self grow restless. I have come to suspect that while these darker characteristics of human nature are not meant to be wantonly unleashed, they need to be acknowledged: nurtured even. These shadow tendencies of self know their place.They simply want self to re-recognize their existence and then re-recognize their existence in others. The hypothesis formed. If you can recognize the shadow self within, you will be able to identify this for what it is in others: a reflection of humanity eclipsed. Therefore, all constitutions must acknowledge silhouette.


The problem with my experiment becomes self evident almost immediately. If shared in totality, my proofs are incriminating. They do not fit neatly in the general narrative of the who I believe I am. They do not fit neatly in the general narrative of social acceptability or moral equivalent. Others, most likely, will fail to see themselves reflected in my shadows. But at least for now, I can see them reflected in mine. And this is a beginning.


As the moon passed in front of the sun, I made a silent commitment to my shadowy contour. I promised my grayer selves that in  the moments when I choose not to look up for fear of being blinded, I will at the very least attempt to remove my own blinders. And when  searching for the light within, I will name the darkness as well. In this way to re- remember not only when I tend to shine but also how the light necessitates darkness, without which there could be no reflection.


To look closely at my own shadows.To pay attention to them. To be honest with myself. These were my promises, and I have been shocked at what I have uncovered. Still, it has been worth it if when I turn my gaze again to others, I see them through vigilant eyes of one who understands and sees her own limitations reflected in those she previously judged as lacking.


My constitution is paradoxical. My constitution is in flux. My constitution inhabits every possibility. It will not be eclipsed.





Coyote appears again and again

Runs along-side my bike near the arroyo

Crosses in front of my car in the mountains

Howls in the orange groves

Less a warning, more an invitation.

“Come join me coyote girl,” he whispers

And despite the ancestral push and pull

Our history of seduction and betrayal

A growl bubbles in the pit of my stomach;

The fur stands up on the back of my neck

Imagine a Cup

I wrote this little book. Or rather it wrote itself through me. With the help of guides. And friends. And then I sat on it. For two years. Because I was afraid.

This work is a departure. And an arrival. For me. A shift. It happened. So be it. But…

In Tarot, Cups hold emotions, creativity, and relationships. Imagine a cup filled with happily ever after. There will still be loss. Highs and lows. I think this is what scared me/scares me. Others’ expectations of awakening. What this means. My own expectations. Too.

I wrote this little book. Or rather it wrote itself through me. Imagine a Cup filled with love, made of love, and enveloped by love. A gift.

If you decide to buy it…thank you. I am grateful for the opportunity to share, and I appreciate your attention to this project. I hope it resonates with pure intention: yours and mine.



Memorial Day

This morning passion:

tiniest woodpecker
ever seen. He hops
in the branches above
while I drink coffee
his still bald head
and the way it looks
like he is rehearsing
for when he is grown
as he pecks at only
the smallest branches
cracks my heart wide

I maneuver through the world, for the most part, heart cracked wide.

Except when I don’t.

Except when I tighten my heart like a fist ready to lash out, or to hold close, too close, when I feel like to walk around wide open for another second will cost too much; be the undoing of me. This me.

But this feeling is just this: a feeling based on thinking, on thinking based in fear, and it will pass. Everything does. Always.

I have learned, for the most part, that wide open is never too much; that a clenched heart costs much more, despite what others tend to argue. That cliché about it being better to have loved and lost as opposed to never loving is only partially true. Having loved (or love) you can never really lose. Really. Better to love always. Always love better. Unless that is, you attach yourself to all the specifics. This. Just this. So temporary. All of it.

The Tarot card I pulled yesterday said “Let Go”. Of course it did. This of all lessons I am always struggling with.

Impermanence is my stone to cast, and yet I would rather hold tight and let it drag me to the bottom of the sea.

For this there can be no surprise: that I have landed in a classroom in a smallish school with children to love. No surprise that I have landed in a classroom in a smallish school with children to love that will flow in and out of my life at a constant rate. To remind me to enjoy the moments. To teach me to allow love. To help me let go of those that pass.

This is my practice: To be present in love, allowing of love, and un-attached to love.

The tide comes in: I hold you in love. The tide flows out: I let you go in love. As my heart cracks wider creating more and more space.



I am not much of a writer lately. I am reminded of a conversation I had with Junior Burke about writers and writing. He said to be a writer, you have to write. I chuffed at this idea. Then. But maybe he was right. I don’t know. Maybe my objection was all in the semantics. I think so. I think when he said “writing” I heard “poet-ing.” Yes. This feels better. Because while  writing may require the  act of putting words on a page, an act that requires time teaching and mommy-ing and wife-ing steal from me, poet-ing only requires sight. To be a poet is a way of seeing, with or without the action of actually placing words on a page.  Truett said this week: “Miss, I love how you see poetry in everything.”He was more or less laughing at me. And that’s okay. It’s true. I do. I remember Richard Froude predicted that few of us would remain “writers.” Life intercedes. My guess is; regardless, we are all still poets.

For what it’s worth here is a poem I wrote from the prompt I gave my students this week. It is the first I’ve been able to compose in some time. While they struggled to understand how disparate parts can bump into each other and become something unexpected-something altogether lovelier, there were some beautiful accidents, a slight  refocusing, and some poet-ing happened. And while they worked, I managed to “write” some words on a page; to be a “writer” for a moment.

Thank you Cho for the “scratching” and Ben for “the washed up bottle” and Mike for “chuffed” and Jim for the prompt.

Current Research on Patterns of Ocean Currents

 The breeze presses the low hum of morning traffic from Highway 27 against my skin. Like brown fingers cupping my face ocean tastes all fresh brewed and smells like waking up in crumpled linens. I imagine Marilyn Monroe hanging her bed-sheets on a clothes line in Uzbekistan. Marilyn Monroe would not be caught dead in Uzbekistan.

 He tells me you can’t eat or drink for an entire day before getting scratched. Only then do scars manifest—(the opposite of) shadow, an absence of pigment, lines his arm. Still, blood rarely if ever has your best interest at heart; measures nothing of badness and forget about saturation. Patience was something the mountain taught me: kill two stones with one bird.

 An April bottle from 1906 washed up on the island of Amrum. It was quite a stir when we opened that envelope. His wife stopped struggling. After all, if you don’t like it, you can always go back. Baby is getting tired, determined to fulfill the vow.  When the sky is blue winter is coming. Para bens filha. The moon listens to your every wish, forget about the bruised plate glass and grandmother’s lost tongue. Bed-sheets swirl into ocean currents.







Thank You

It’s my birthday.

Last year on my birthday I ran five miles. This year, not so far, but still, I ran, at least.

While running, I did what I do, which is write, in my head.

I wrote about a student who self- sabotaged all her hard earned progress.

I wrote about naming and the futility of naming.

I wrote about the dream I had last night that kept me awake all day.

I wrote about compartmentalization and focus and silence.

I wrote a college recommendation.

I wrote a love note to all my beautiful friends who took the time to reach out today and cyber kiss my face.

I wrote about allowing, and judging, and listening.

I wrote about effort and self-loathing.

And I considered that I too am familiar with the coping mechanism that is “self-sabotage.”

And I considered that nothing in the universe is what it is named.

And I considered that sometimes a dream is just a dream.

And I considered that I might try to stay centered in silence without response.

And I considered the beauty of my student who will soon be leaving me.

And I considered what it means to be grateful for all the love I receive from the people I love.

And I considered just letting thoughts drift.

And I considered the benefits of non-effort.

And I decided everything I need is here.

And if you haven’t read Hafiz, start now. My birthday gift to you:

Just sit there right now

Don’t do a thing

Just rest.

For your separation from God,

From love

Is the hardest work

In this



An orange tree in my yard was recently uprooted. It is not the first time.

During the hurricanes of 2004, it succumbed, but my husband dragged it upright and strapped it to another sturdier tree. He covered the exposed roots with more dirt and fertilizer, and it settled back into living as we settled back into fixing damaged roofs and windows and porches.

Wind is not the only menace to the trees, and like much citrus in Florida this relic could not withstand the spread of disease.

It is hard to prevent diffusion of infection once it sets its course. All we can do is look away as the leaves mottle and the fruit scar and drop and the roots slowly relinquish their hold.

When I first lived on this piece of property the tree was gorgeous and lush; my children used to pick the fruit, peel away a spot to suck; return to me with faces and fingers all sticky and sandy, ready for a bath.

This fruit grown on our own lot and all the sweeter for it.

The tree is located on the south side of our barn, and for a variety of reasons this time we didn’t notice it had fallen until a couple of days after the wind subsided. My youngest daughter saw it first. I am only surprised that it wasn’t me who noticed when my sister fell.

And there she rests: leafless now with upturned gnarled mangled greying roots. Waiting.


There are these nouns: hope and futility. And this other noun: edge. As in the edge, which suggests a separation from hope— from futility. A suggestion is exactly what it sounds like. No, this is ridiculous. I only assume that I know how suggesting sounds. The same way I assume that ornery sounds like its meaning. The same way I assume I can accurately describe a tree. As if the word tree and all the words used to describe tree that drip from my lips are more important than what it, the word, represents. As if what tree represents doesn’t exist on the other side of language. Of course it does. But so does the word. A separate entity. I know that I know because someone once told me. And then they told me again and again until the symbol became the thing that I couldn’t relinquish. How hope is pretty, and futility is decrepit.

Decrepit was one of my students’ vocabulary words last week. They tell me in myriad ways, both literally and figuratively, how they don’t want to be temporary. They use phrases that begin with words like logically, and it’s always been, and absolutely, and of course. I try to convince them that words are not their friends. They blink. How temporary is impossible. I’m lying. I don’t tell them this. There are other words to consider like blasphemy, so instead I teach them about bias and ideology and rhetoric. More words. I tell them to discern. I tell them their thoughts are not their own. No I don’t. There are other words to consider like employability and fear. So much alphabet soup to drown in. How to explain to them the decrepit nature of language while simultaneously swooning in its hopeful porosity?

My daughter has nightmares about holes in her skin. This does not appear to be very hopeful. I take my first ballet class on my mother’s 68th birthday. This seems to resonate with futility. But these too are just groups of words perched on the edge. And if you were to reconstruct these scenes, you wouldn’t be able to tell that I have always been dancing and there have always been holes in my daughter’s skin and that holes are filled with space and that space is nothing to be diminished. Because space is composed of hope and futility. And in-between this hopeful inhale and futile exhale is the edge. And the edge is an illusion. And illusion is just that.

Happy New Year!

I’ve been thinking about tricks. How the eye reads a story. How the eye reads a story by selecting which meaning vision attaches to an image. How the eye can trick the brain into believing with absolute certainty. How this is a reciprocal relationship because the brain has its own bag of deceptions hidden up its metaphorical sleeve. And even the heart can throw a monkey wrench into the mix—add an extra beat or cut to the quick. All that action contained within the constraints of the chest cavity is sure to affect sight—is sure to affect thought and feeling—is sure to affect the translation of life as life merges into a story about life.

As far as tricks go, I think this is the most magical, the most incredible, and potentially the most dangerous: how our own eyes and minds and hearts conspire to mold life into a narrative about life. How we pick a tale and stick to it in a this is what I saw this is what I thought this is what I felt so it must be true manner.

Consider this: A bumble bee’s eye sees more than the human eye. A bumble bee sees a world other than what the human eye reads. In other words the bumble bee literally lives in an alternative version of life on earth.  There are so many versions of reality, so many ways to translate what we see and think and feel.

By default we tend to write our stories, the version of our lives that we attach to, through judgment. We judge what is right or wrong, good or bad, valuable or disposable, and we filter life as it is happening to accommodate our chosen internal texts. This is one way we create our individual realties. We attach to a version of life, and then we see and think and feel what validates the story we have chosen. I believe the outside story we live is a reflection of our inside story, specifically I believe that in order to manifest the ideal version of a life lived in all its myriad possibilities  it is first necessary to notice where our judgments lie.

I’ve been thinking about tricks. About how my eyes and mind and heart have tricked me into believing that my opinions are as certain as granite is solid, have tricked me into believing that judgment is synonymous with discernment.  Because while discernment advocates for choice, a discerning selection is based on authenticity without necessitating a label that marks each choice of sight or thought or feeling  as right or wrong or good or bad.

One may argue that some things are simply flat out plainly wrong or bad. What I am suggesting is the possibility that when choices are made from an authentic space of discernment and are not judgmental in nature, the natural outcome is inevitably positive, and that if we can disengage from our most prominent and often destructive narratives on both personal and public levels and perhaps rewrite or at the very least edit the versions we are most attached to something amazing just might happen.

So for 2015 I am setting a personal intention to choose, in whatever capacity choice is relevant, with discernment, to perceive, recognize, and distinguish rather than to judge, to release some of my most prevalent opinions about myself and others,  and to open up to the possibilities as imagined through an eye of the bumble bee.

Happy New Year.

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf


"Late" According to Whom?

The Teaching Factor

Learn Something New Daily, Teach What You Love

Andy Jackson

Poetry from a body shaped like a question mark.


Growth, together

Silver Birch Press

New Voices in Fiction, Nonfiction, Plays & Poetry

O at the Edges

Musings on poetry, language, perception, numbers, food, and anything else that slips through the cracks.

Contemplative Writing

a space for authentic expression


A Mysterious Jungle Cat...


Flash Storms of Art for the Visually Addicted

Daniel Scharpenburg

Dharma Teacher

innisfree poetry bookstore zine

Turn up the Muse

Bobby Taylor's Blog

two or more countries

Smile! You’re at the best site ever

Solidarity Park Poetry

poems for #direngeziparki #occupygezi #resistanbul #resisturkey #taksim