A Walk In The Woods

(I said I’d tell you the truth, and I will)


A Walk in the Woods


Was I eight or nine? I can’t remember.  I remember other things such as  the stench of skunk cabbage and the cool, dampness that penetrated my shoes, my socks,  leaving my toes aching like the splintered wood on the side of our path as we walked into the woods.

The high grass hid broken tree limbs left to be consumed by the ground, footprints from other explorers before us, most of them the size of children smaller than us, and brown bottles from Budweiser and Pilsners – all of them empty – and occasionally, along this path, there were empty bottles that had contained vodka and gin.  Some were half empty Four Roses bottles. I knew what they looked like.  I knew them from my father. Some fathers drank beer.  Mine drank Four Roses.  I would know the smell in my sleep.

I remember this day the way one does an old movie with colors still rich and deep beneath the scratches of white flickering on the film frames as they pass in front of me.  I remember the important parts, the scents, the prickling of mosquitoes on my legs and the look on my brother’s face when we made our discovery.

My brother is 22 months older than I am.  We grew up closely, going to church together, then Sunday movies, fishing and crabbing in the Hudson River, building a fort at the end of the street we use to live on.  We buried our turtle in a ritual of capes and fake swords, conjuring up angels and guardians for its safe journey into the unknown.  This day was no different.  We walked together into the woods near our home with a few neighborhood children, all of us wide-eyed explorers, following the skunk cabbage trail to the clearing we’d heard about, looking forward to making a pretend camp where we would eat our bagged lunches and talk like wilderness children.  It was, after all, our wilderness.  It was our time. As New York children, a park that offered miles of wooded land was a gift to be opened, a novel and glorious playground.  We’d been to the edge many times.  This was the first time we were venturing in on our own. It was said that one could walk from our entrance all the way to the Southern end and be on the Northern edge of New York City.  There were pony rides toward the edge, stables where you could pet the ponies and feed them. But that was a long journey for children on their own.  We found satisfaction in simply searching for the clearing.

The skunk cabbage was lush and thickly grown in May.  The soggy sides of the path we walked contained so much of it that the stench was overwhelming.  I pushed my brother in front of me, begging him to walk fast and straight so I could easily follow him and keep my feet from sliding into the soggy shoulders of the path.  He laughed, saying I was a “scaredy cat” and would never be a true gypsy, which is what he wanted to be. A gypsy or a priest.  He hadn’t decided.  Priests were removed from ordinary life and could be aligned with God.  God protected priests.  Priests protected everyone else.  Gypsies roamed everywhere entertaining for food and dancing whenever they wanted.  Gypsies didn’t need bagged lunches.  They knew how to forage, how to cook squirrel and rabbit.  They knew how to survive.  In our house, surviving meant being quiet, saying “yes, sir”, learning not to count on your dreams, learning not to repeat what we’d heard or challenge anything, and learning not to laugh too much.  Too much laughing was a sign of weakness.  We all laughed when my youngest brother was born.  He was small and shriveled and looked like soft dough.  His ears were like little dumplings and he smelled like my mother, sweet and fresh. We laughed until we were told to stop.  My mother always smiled.  But according to my father, we would be quiet, obedient and serious.  It was a strange place to be.

We walked the path, my brother in front then me, scratching at my legs, Lydia behind me and her sister Maria behind her with little Anthony Landis behind all of us.  He was the youngest, the weakest and most frail.  He was Lydia and Maria’s cousin and went everywhere with them.  What I most remember about the path we walked, other than the skunk cabbage’s overwhelming odor, was the rustle of deep grass as frogs scattered with every step we took.  We probably walked for 20 minutes until suddenly, the air was thick and held a smell I didn’t recognize.  The pungent odor seemed to come in on its own breeze, wafting around our heads.  Anthony threw up immediately.  We stopped until he finished.  Lydia made him remove one of his socks so she could wipe his mouth with it.  He stuffed the dirty sock in his pocket when they were done, continuing the hike wearing one sock. As we walked, the smell intensified and flies began to appear everywhere.  They seemed to swarm ahead. My brother stopped.  He stood still with a fixed glaze, swinging his right hand back towards me, open palm facing me, his fingers sticking straight out like obedient soldiers. He was always a serious child, even when we laughed at home until we didn’t laugh any more, always looking for exits and reasons and protecting me.  That would change later in life.  Part of why these memories are so clear to me is that it was a magical time when we traveled together from adventure to adventure, two children against the dysfunction of home, and against anything that might arrive in our lives. Two children saving each other from daily tragedies.  It was a time before our family split apart and the paths we took would be not only separate, but opposed.

We remember the times that have hope, I suppose.  We remember Love before it becomes indifference. We remember our first loss of innocence in different ways.  Some of us move forward.  Some of us create imaginary walls and we hunker down.  We don’t always know at first which choice we will make.

I don’t remember my words at the time. I don’t remember if I said anything at all.  I know Lydia and Maria shouted something and frail Anthony, still sick and starting to cry for his mother let out a shrill scream after running ahead, passing me to stand next to my brother.  It was the oddest scene, a tall boy appearing to protect his little squadron and the small, scrawny child next to him, frozen with fear at what he saw.  We all stood silent for what seemed a very long time, perhaps only a minute but it was the type of minute that changes the way you see your world.

Ahead of us, on a raised area of dirt beneath an oak tree near the path that led to the clearing there was a circle of acorns around the tree’s perimeter, the kind of circle witches made in children’s books. Unless what we read in children’s books, inside this circle was a man’s body.  A dead, swollen body.  Bloated.  Bluish. Spotted red in some areas.  He was naked.  I had two brothers.  I knew what naked male bodies looked like even then. I’d seen them many times.  But I’d never seen any of them naked beneath a tree with strange markings on it.  And I’d never seen one with small rocks arranged around its torso or leaves piled on top of its feet or berries crushed and streaked along the upper thighs.  My brother knew they were crushed berries.  He was a boy scout with more badges than most the scouts in his troop.  And I was becoming a girl scout.  I knew crushed berries by their trail of seeds and the chunky pulp residue that was left behind.

Once the moment of shock was over, my brother and I walked closer to the body, leaving Anthony to protect his cousins.  It gave him a mission, a purpose.  My brother told him that’s what men do, they protect their women.  The girls were silent as was Anthony.  It was probably the day that Anthony remembered as his most brave throughout his childhood, possibly adding a few details of his own, perhaps that it was he who saved everyone, or maybe he remembered the vomit details differently.  We all add our own spin on what happened in a group but I will never know what his recollection really was of the day because when he grew older he died in Viet Nam.  I’d moved from the neighborhood and wasn’t in touch with Anthony or Lydia and Maria.  I’d completely lost track of Lydia and heard that Maria was lost to motherhood and an abusive husband who beat her into submission frequently. Last I heard, they had grandchildren.

My brother and I walked closer to see what we could.  I think he was a young man, probably in his thirties.  He seemed old to us but we were so young and unaware of what regular life did to age someone, never mind what death brought to anyone.  It hadn’t been a quiet death.  We could see that. His penis was limp and very dark. His hands were so swollen that the gold ring on his left hand was tight and cut into his skin.  Both my brother and I covered our noses.  It was the only time I’d been near skunk cabbage that I welcomed its aroma, or considered turning my head and inhaling its fragrant and overpowering ordinarily disgusting smell. None of us had ever encountered a rotting corpse or the smells and colors that accompany it.

The man’s eyes were closed.  His hair was dark, wet from the moisture in the woods.  There was a red cross drawn on his forehead.  There were animal bites on his legs and the red berry streaks on his legs were scratched into the skin.  We knew it wasn’t blood.  Blood doesn’t have tiny hard pits in it.  There wasn’t any blood on or near him.  My brother walked around him, circling like a wolf, again and again looking everywhere for clues, for possible evidence of who he was.  I think he was really looking for an exit.  A way we could all be transported back to our street, away from these woods that had become so unwelcoming.  I stayed in my position, crouched down on the dead man’s right side, not too close and not too far, saying the Our Father silently, crossing myself as a good Catholic child does and wondering what we should do.  We were in the woods against the wishes of all our parents.  All of us would be in trouble if they knew where we were and what we’d discovered.  I remember looking back at the three friends who had come with us, seeing only that they were huddled together, holding on to each other, looking toward us and waiting for something that would make it all disappear. There were so many flies around the body, some of them hovering near his face, particularly his mouth. They were hungry and cold, like all of us.

For one moment a few shafts of light came barreling through the surrounding trees laying themselves directly on his face.  His whiskers glistened.  The dark shadow of growth suddenly looked like miniature trees, standing erect, awaiting growth perhaps but none was coming.  I was hoping the light would baptize us all, lay itself on our souls and heal everything that was wrong.  Of course that didn’t happen.  The tiny forest of whiskers fell back into darkness and shadow when the light shifted. Both my brother and I were unchanged.  The dead man was still dead.  It’s only in movies that light lands upon the dead and awakens them.  In the woods that day, the light only illuminated the trappings of unexplained evil.  The bluish and bloated body was still as it was when we found it only now, it was something that would never change.  The light failed it.  The light failed us.  We stayed there for a while, each of us holding fast to our spots along the path and around the body, praying our silent prayers for the dead man and wanting to leave.

My brother said, as we all began to walk out of the woods toward the exit near our street, that he thought the man died of alcohol poisoning, that perhaps the empty bottles in the area around him were his.  But “where are his clothes?” Lydia said in the high pitched frightened voice of a young girl.  I remember those words.  I remember Anthony’s silence, Maria’s shallow whimpering and my brother’s eyes.  His eyes stayed full and sad as if a veil had been lifted, perhaps a veil of adventure had left him.  Perhaps this was the beginning of his disinterest in gypsies and priests and his love of the military.  I’m not sure.  I know that we all threw away our bagged lunches and held hands on the way out of the woods.  I also know we didn’t tell anyone later which would be a theme to come in our lives.  Some children act out.  Others act in and become silent.  We were all apparently in the second group.  Neighborhood talk later was that a body had been found in the woods.  No name had been given.  The man had been sexually molested and might have been the victim of a ritualistic murder.  He’d been “exposed to the elements” for a very long time.  I felt guilty, that we’d killed him knowing of course that wasn’t true.  But he hadn’t been found by police for several weeks after we’d discovered him.  Years later, the case of the dead man in the woods had become cold, an unsolved murder which meant, of course, that the murderers had gone free.  It was never solved.

That night, after we all went home, my brother went silent and stayed in his room.  My younger brother was an infant at the time.  I watched my mother nurse him, then rocking him in her favorite chair.  I was curious about their connection, the way she held him, protecting and loving him and wondered if she’d done that with us, if she’d nursed us and let us cling to her.  I wanted to cling to her then.  I watched them for a while, later going into my room and staring out the window.  The moon was large, plump like an orange and the shadows of the buildings seemed to dance as the night breeze picked up strength.  We never spoke of the dead man again.  None of us. I never cried.  I don’t know what the others did.  I just know my brother was silent in his room and in the morning his eyes were pink and dull. We never went that far back into the woods again.  We kept up church and the Sunday movies together as we did other activities. Those things never changed but he stopped holding my hand in public.  He said that was for children, and he wasn’t a child any longer and I shouldn’t be either.  He said one Sunday “Stop being a baby”.  I’ve not forgotten that.


© 2016 by jacqualine-marie.  All Rights Reserved

Truth and Future – Words for 2016


speak the truth-001

(A Maggie Khun quote)

I took a silly Facebook quiz recently to determine my word for 2016.  Not a quiz exactly, just a random response to one’s name.  The first time I did it, the result was the word  Truth.  Since I prefer relationships to single choices when given a challenge, I did the quiz a second time with a different version of my name. That response was Future.  Future and Truth. What can I do with these two words in the coming year?

First, I should tell you that I have not been blogging for most of the last half of 2015 because I’ve been living.  Making changes is a dirty job.  And sometimes it’s a great drunken brawl. There’s much clean-up and rumination about where to put new things and where to discard the old.  And, sometimes you just want to get your hair done and see what’s for dinner. You may have gone off to do some living yourself.  Hopefully, you’ll come back because here I am, so here we go.

December 2015 was my 70th birthday.  That’s right. S-E-V-E-N-T-Y.  I’m not that.  Am I?  I am that  label. She is seventy! And because I do not look that label, what sits behind it becomes less important to some than the label. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the label, certainly youthful looks help much of the time although never in the unexpected moments such as the dark hours that require the soul to perform with courage that was, until that hour, unimaginable. I am grateful for the gift of youthful looks.  But there are times when I want a T-shirt that reads: I am the author of an incredible life.  I survived.  The only thing that defines me are my wings –  because what I hear much of the time is “What? You can’t be! How can you be?” and labelers cease to look deeply.  They want all the nice stuff, the light stuff, never the meat and never the bone. This is why I tell stories.  True stories.  I am these stories.  I have been there.  I am here.  I am going elsewhere. I am many things in many times, but I am not a number. You are not a number.  We are lives.  We are Life. We are the stories. The stories are our truth and the truth creates the future for everyone.  There’s that other word – Future.

When you tell a story that is your own, you need to tell your truth, otherwise your future becomes a lie you live.  A lie that we all live because we are all a part of each other, that connection we share on this incredible stage called Life that tells a larger story about the world, the universe. If you tell your truth in your stories no harm ever comes to you.  There are no secrets to be used as swords, no bridges denied you. All doors are unlocked.  You are released from bondage.  When you are released, we are all released. But I digress.

If I could choose my own number, separate from age or deadlines, I would have chosen the number 3.  It is round, thick with opportunity, velvety like the dark edges of purple roses, plump in a garden beneath moonlight on a clear night.  The closed curves on one side of the number hold secrets while the open spaces on the other side are pathways for knowledge, roads over which messengers travel and meet for tea, for a shot at the end of the bar just before closing. Where outcomes are determined. Where puzzles are solved and gun barrels are emptied before there is ever a need to point the weapon.  Everyone goes home alive.  I would have chosen the number three.  It would have been mine. Seventy is already on its way elsewhere.  It is also where I am in my story.

Stories I will tell in 2016 – to you or in private – will be recorded in the history of truth so that others with similar stories recognize they are not alone, and a road is opened for potential healers of the future. We desperately need more healers. Some of my stories are about me.  Some are about people I love and one or two are about villains I have personally known.  I will show you the marks they left and some of the gifts that were bestowed upon me. Every single story will be written in truth.

What about you?  What will you tell?  How will you tell it?  I wish you a year of healing and restoration, of love, abundance, peace and kindness and most important of all, I wish that you find whatever you need that gets you to stand in the center of your world – our world – and be exactly who you are, fully and with great flare, with kindness and compassion and absolutely without apology.  Stand in your truth. Naysayers off to the side.  Their time will come.

May the Force be with you, the wind at your back, and all the cookies be calorie free.


My Huntress Cat

wednesday iressa

My cat is quite the huntress. She skulks down the lengthy hallway, surely imagining all sorts of creatures hiding in the molding, prey for her feline passions.  At thirteen years of age, the boundaries of her defined black and white markings have begun to blur somewhat, grey hairs invading the black areas, and all the beautiful white spaciousness of her throat, belly, and parts around her paws is yellowing slightly, much like the color of the beginning sunset along the beaches on the East Coast of the U.S.  Perhaps that is because this is where she is from.  I am a New Yorker and she is from New Jersey. Now, however, we are here, in California, where my family origins are. But that is another story.  And I wonder if our early beginnings are where we end up after learning to strip away the layers of logic we have been taught, that insulating and often deadly mask we are taught to wear.

She is an aging cat, moving through the last years of her life with incredible dignity.  But there is a beginning of that inevitability that lives within her, as it does in all of us.  Parts of her face are packed with grey hair.  Her eyes have become a bit dull. Her youthful spirit and sweet personality never hide although there are days when she struggles to keep it visible.  She is petite, boarding frail now that illness has decided to reside in her, and seems fairly content although had life been different for her she would have been a noteworthy killer.

I don’t think she realizes what she has missed these years of being a house cat.  She sits in the window part of the day and sniffs the air that drifts by softly but doesn’t seem to yearn for anything more than mornings on the enclosed porch, afternoons in the heating padded lawn chair in my studio, and occasional chin scrapes along the edges of the bookcase beneath the window on the far side of the house.  She has her routine.

Her daily travels include a trip down our long hallway. Her prowling is purposeful.  Her mission is worthy of noting as she prowls.  She begins in a back bedroom, sticks her head out the doorway, and looks down the hallway to peruse the area efficiently.  She steps over the wooden threshold, begins a nearly timid first few steps as she moves her head from side to side bringing into view everything possible. She issues one sharp meow as if alerting anyone and anything that might be lurking.  She quickly moves to a stately stance, one that exhibits confidence with her strong legs solidly moving and her arthritic hips bringing up her rear with less than feminine grace but complete effectiveness.  Her mission is to seek and secure the area, although the only thing there has been lately to seek out was a stray lizard which seemed to confuse her.  Toy? Enemy? Food?  It was clear she wasn’t sure and in that unsureness her choice was to let it live.  There are lessons in that for all of us.  Let it live.  Be compassionate and swift in one’s decision but always opt for life unless and until we know what to do. Don’t be led by assumptions.

As she progresses down the hallway one begins to notice a wiliness that sits on her shoulders, a cat superiority that envelopes her as she switches from curiosity mode to surveillance and struts like the queen she knows she really is, keeping her queendom safe from invaders.  She has always known what her job is.  She is a guardian and the house sheriff, ready to intervene if necessary, to leap on anything that might move against those she loves or annoy her during her long naps on her blue blanketed, heating padded lawn chair.

Toward the end of the hallway she stops and looks back at her path.  There is that minute of paused staring when her eyes are fixed and solid in a gaze of accomplished wonder.  She is at the halfway mark.  There are considerations and adjustments to make for the return trip.  Anything hiding behind the walls might have shifted their position, or built armies, or even set traps for her. She gazes with the surety that comes with seasoned travel, the awareness that even if uneventful a trip is a worthy way to spend one’s time.  In her aging mind, there must be reminiscent flowers and shrubs, the scent of freshly mowed grass and pine needle droppings.  She balances the memories, snaps out of her paused gaze, and proceeds to the kitchen where she walks slowly in circles like the ancestors she has a sense of but has never known.  She knows she isn’t them but also that she is directed by their legacy.  And so, the circles slowly shrink – apparently, nothing will die today – her expedition for game ends here, in front of the refrigerator door, where she will be fed the reward of the day in a glass custard dish, licking herself clean in the corner before she heads back down the hallway.  Life is often exhausting, hence the need for rest stops.

Always, at this point in her travels, she is picked up, hugged, spoken to and scratched into a state of loud purring.  Her eyes are always on the distance, though.  Her hearing isn’t as sharp as in her youth.  It is clear she doesn’t always know what someone is saying. There is a blind spot in her vision although in her travels down the great hallway she doesn’t seem to be effected by it but as she is held and loved there is the knowledge that her illness is progressing. She weighs too little.  There are moments of great lethargy as well as moments of silly activity throughout her day.  Her rabbit fur mice lay dormant and lonely in a toy box that she no longer frequents. The litter pan takes longer to get to and suddenly there is more than one water bowl for her. “Keep her hydrated and feed her anything she wants.” All these reminders of who she was then, and who she has become, flood everything and she is let back down on the floor where she contemplates the trip back home.  It seems to get longer every day.

There is the second long paused glaze as she recalculates, summons the cat gods and their wisdom and utters a yowl as worship and gratitude for their unending and faithful guidance.  Once again, the legs are solidly planted on the floor, her stance is strong and purposeful, the arthritic hips click and align and she begins moving although a bit slower than before. She is as intentional as earlier and journeys back down the hallway, passing each doorway with caution as if all the lights are green and in her favor and, finding no perpetrators or villains, enters the studio with a backward glance, yowls one more time, and slowly climbs up to the blue blanketed, heating padded lawn chair where she will sleep and dream for hours of what life might have been like if she’d been free.

Every single day, I wonder – Should I be less selfish…should I let her out the back to roll around in the sandy grass near the cows… should I clear a path away from the dogs next door and the guns I hear pop in the distance and just let her roam…let her be the killer she could have been until she….I cannot think of what would happen…free her?  Should I?  Could I, at this point, after all these years?

How do we ever know what is the right thing to do for the beings we love, for the causes and the projects we have to make decisions for, for the goals we set, for the paths we walk down and the responsibilities we encounter as we go through life?  What if we’re wrong? I question myself.  There are moments of complete confusion mixed with crystal clear insight.  It is simply a mixed bag of concerns.

I know one thing.  In this world of choices, the only right choice is the one that comes from the center of our hearts.  We don’t know what endings are in store for us, we only know that there will be endings.  That is the only given and we aren’t necessarily sure of that any longer. Therefore, the only sensible way to live is in beginnings that stem from love.  Using logic never works, not when it is void of the heart, of the intention of love, of the goal of love – of the mission of love.

As we walk our path, embrace our demons – imaginary or otherwise – we are the ones who decide what we see, what we will react to and what that reaction will be, and how we will interpret the trip. We determine where we will be when the trip is over, how much love will be in our hearts and that, I am convinced, depends on how much love we give away.  It seems to be an endless flow of emptying and refilling.

Wherever your love is, look now and embrace it.  Be grateful.  If you can’t find love, create it by changing how you make choices.  Choose to let love live. Share it. Give it away.  Give more and more.  The more you give, the more is there. Give it to people, pets, things that grow in the earth, the water, the sky.  Learn to get down on your knees and praise what you feel.  Don’t label it.  Don’t praise someone else’s god. Praise your own. Praise your garden, your friends…….pay attention to the cat going down the hallway or the dog growling in its sleep.  Fall in love with choosing what you experience. Make choices based on your heart, on what comes into your soul and speaks to you, not on what you were taught to choose or be.  That is your head speaking.  Your head wants you to be afraid to travel. Your head lies.  Your heart – when you really listen to it, when you dig down and break open all the walls – does not know how to lie.  It only knows how to get you down the hallway and bring you back purring.


Who We Are (Now that we’re not you)

I first thought of this blog post a month ago, began writing it two weeks ago and then it stalled the way a storm would over a fictitious group of islands in the imaginary ocean of a bad novel.  It seemed to hover and gather energy while not quite knowing in which direction it would go, if any.  Some storms dissipate.  Not this one.  It just seems to hang around.  It’s about dialogue with friends, other women in the same age range.  We discuss art, writing, rebuilding lives altered by illness and job loss, lives after everyone else has left the house, the failing economy, divorce, spousal death, all of life’s challenges and mostly wanting to be of service – as if our lives hadn’t already been about that all these years.  Now that we are of a certain age the need to confront these issues as they arise is paramount if there is to be continued happiness in the houses of our altered lives.  Many of us are now alone in a culture of youth and blatant propaganda.  Opportunities for women of a certain age have never been anyone’s priority. This isn’t news. I Googled the term “women of a certain age” to see what beliefs existed that were definitive of our age range.  I was appalled at search results.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had an affair with a pizza boy (Pizza?  Couldn’t it at least be the car salesman?) and I don’t wear exceptionally gaudy clothing, yet these traits were listed as definition on one of the websites I visited.  And, I only have two friends with “sensible” haircuts.  One is a relative I’m not fond of who apparently likes looking like a manly man, and the other has had the same haircut since she was in her 20s.  She still looks amazing. We are not represented by this definition. Most women aren’t. We defy definition. We redefine definition.       

But how do we redefine the definition of who we are while facing this desert created by invisibility?  How do we redefine while in the midst of everything else that comes with being a woman?  Unless you are a woman in public office or of Hollywood notoriety, you see that at some point in the aging process you are no longer sought out or looked to for much of anything.  It just happens.  One day, you are there.  Invisibility arrives and you are perplexed because inside of you is this energy that is the opposite of invisibility.  Yet, there you are. In general, you are now perceived to have less value, less desirability, less pertinence.

Speaking about my generation, the ones on the edge of the tide of change, we are all the result of the freedom of the 1960s. We came into our own so to speak, and yet we become invisible to everyone from employers, politicians, and even family. What the hell is that about? It isn’t only about our hormones.  There has to be more to it.  I don’t have solid answers.  I’m still at the question stage as I am on many things.  It’s a nice place to be, actually, because it is a place to look openly and without judgment in the search for truth. I do have suggestions.

We need to transform, to become something there was never time to be, something we are for ourselves and no one else, something closer to the nature of who we were intended to be.  Why?  Because it can change the world for the better.  Because women are capable of anything.   

 Tammy Transform

“Transform” by Tammy Vitale

Historically, women were portable, malleable, and beatable beings with rarely a singular role.  Newer generations now keep their maiden name without social discomfort, if that is their choice.  We couldn’t really do that. Being a mother made that choice less likely.  Also, younger women now have a more broad scope of careers to choose from – doctors instead of nurses, lawyers instead of secretaries, scientists instead of cooks, and so on. They no longer have to be nurturers because of gender inequality although we have a very long way to go.  War and draft: World wars, Viet Nam in particular left us behind.  Enough soldiers were killed to reduce our chances of marrying. Yet babies needed to be born. Bullets and tanks had to be made.  Soldiers needed to be put back together after being shattered as did their families – we, the people who stayed home – waiting, knowing that who would return wasn’t who had left.  Women now go into the military and suffer the same damages, yes, so they have won “choice”, however now they suffer on a more direct basis.  It is a no win situation because we are still second to all. 

Women are refurbishers, supplanters and vehicles for hosts of souls who continue to press against the walls of the universe, inhale, wait for that first beat from the drummer and thrust themselves through the portal of life into the form of living flesh, screaming their way into existence.  Men can’t do this. That’s our job.  That’s what we do.  We bring into being. Anatomy is Destiny (Sigmund Freud) – or so it has been.  As we age, we become invisible yet the seed marches on.

Every woman I know has been a caretaker of someone.  I cannot say this is true of all men. Some, but none are driven by nature of their own birth.  Women who haven’t given birth still become the caretakers of someone – siblings, parents, other people’s children, the addicted, the failures and now and then, when the planets align and the heavens shine light upon us all, the geniuses who arrive on the planet as saviors and scientists who will catapult our species into a new dawn.  They need caretaking also.

At some point, we all raise someone but women do it more often, more intensely and with fewer breaks, if any.  We tend to delay more. Think about that.  If you’re a woman, you know.  If you’re a man, you’ve watched and listened but you can’t know firsthand what it is like to have your body taken over by hormones, often against your will. They are the seed of an ever changing landscape. Whatever we do – make art, throw a ball, discover cures, master a sport or music, will always wait for everything else.  It isn’t a terrible thing, but it isn’t a free choice.  Regardless of which choice you make, the stakes are often too high to bear.

The only answer I have found, for those of us who live an inquisitive life, a life of constant growth, is to enter the realm of Goddess Nature, to slough off the old and reinvent our names, our energy and our own purpose.  The work of birthing others is done.  They have moved on.  Spouses die, children go off on their own, lovers change partners and we enter a land of namelessness.  I am not intending to paint a negative picture, on the contrary.  I am not a negative women but I do see what has happened time and again and an answer is to see this land of namelessness in a new way, shining a light on what is for many women a complete rejection of who they have been simply based on the fact that they bleed.  In this place where everything is possible – because that is what a land of namelessness is – we no longer have to be invisible.  We can choose to be nurtured for the first time by sisters, Goddesses all, and men who are open to a new way of seeing, to the idea of creation instead of devastation.  This is a place in which we can regroup, recharge, rebuild and rejoice.  The Goddess Nature is our new home.

 Tammy Her STory

 Her STory by Tammy Vitale

We’ve bled in many ways, from the heart, from the soul, and from our culture. We are of the past and of the future.  Now, in the present we bond and commune and call each other by new names in order to continue the creative act of birth because this is who we are.  We are conduits of life – this time, however, we birth ourselves because no one else can.  The masks of mother, daughter, wife, caretaker, nurse and saint are shed and in their place there is a face that is the voice of truth and wisdom that only women have. 

In the circle of Goddesses we create, we are no longer discarded.  We are holy women who rise to the heavens and speak to the layers of life that hide from the ordinary being.  Some of us chant in the woods, some write campaigns of freedom, some dedicate their selves to broad causes such as guiding peace to such a reluctant world, clearing a path of safety for the un-privileged who crave basic survival. We want them to have more.  We are there, as always, and we are changed, refined, burnished, and anointed.  We are the full cycle of life itself, free to be whom we really are now that we no longer have to be you.


Monday 5 – 8 p.m.


now one



 On The Way

now two




now three



Further Still…

now four




now five-001


 (Please zoom into the photos for a more enjoyable viewing experience)


“The truth is of course that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.”……David Bowie



The Dead Leaf Story

orange copy large

Early last year, I was editing some photographs and happen to show one to a then friend of mine.  It was of a dead leaf, similar to but not the same as the ones above.  People who know me well know that small moments of nature impress me, move me, capture my attention.  I’ve had my share of jokes and comments about being weird, most of them oddly funny and harmless. Most. Not all.  This was an old friend of mine, someone I hadn’t seen in many years, a person I’d gone to grade school with, someone I’d reconnected with via social media.  We’d been to the same schools, grew up in the same cultural environment, known many of the same people even after leaving school. I was happy to have reconnected with her at the time. We discussed many things in catching up, our mutual love of art, of great food.  We remembered each other’s parents and siblings and shared some very funny stories.

The photo I’d shown her was one of my favorite.  It was a leaf edged in brown (as those above), crisp along the edges and stemless. What appealed to me when I first saw the leaf were the speckles of black, brown and deep forest green, the brilliant oranges and reds that still resided in the core of the leaf, and that it was alone on the ground, isolated from all that it had ever been with, left by the world to die alone.  I found this somewhat enchanting, and that it had perhaps inspired me to write a short story.  There was much there, I’d thought, memories, holes near the veins, a codex of chirping birds, squirrels scurrying up and around it as it lived in the safety of the mother tree, winters of snow and frost yielding to the cool breezes of spring and the healing rays of summer sun, over and again until here it was, on the ground, alone, ready to leave the world as one form and become another. I saw the death in the leaf, of course, but also – first and most important to me – I saw incredible beauty, wisdom and transformation. It never occurred to me that someone else would feel moved in a different direction.

My then friend did not agree with my vision.  All she saw was ugliness and death.  I’m used to people not agreeing with my concepts, that they don’t see what I see.  I’m an artist and writer, not a politician.  Somewhere in the thick of my weird and wonderfully strange childhood I made a not so conscious decision to follow this path – crooked though it might have been – and I am still on the road, traveling for a long time and with no intention of stopping.  I will stop at the end of the road when it reveals itself as the end and I can no longer take even one more step.  Not until then.

We are all so different, aren’t we? This makes us interesting.  We are, each of us, teachers and students at the same time.  Our past loves and heartaches shape us.  We are the product of our experience and our beliefs. Diversity contributes more to the creation of ideas than sameness. Ideas keep us alive and thriving.  Control of ideas, however, does not. But, back to my then friend and the dead leaf photo…

What I hadn’t expected in her dislike of my photograph was the depth of her disdain and what was, apparently, a hatred of this leaf and all that she felt it represented to her. Generally, I don’t like indifference – it is often a coward’s way out – but I would have welcomed that at this time.  I was ill prepared for such a reaction to a photograph of a leaf. Her response was laced with anger.  “Oh, how can you look at this?” She’d said sharply.  “It’s a dead leaf! It actually makes me sick.” More than her loud, sharp words, I remember the tone of her voice, her annoyance at the idea that I would even show her such a thing.  We were on the phone.  I could almost hear the snap of every syllable as they leapt out of her cell phone, raced along as radio waves and then thunked hard and heavy into the ear buds in my ear.  They squealed as they funnelled themselves through the narrow cord into the ear buds themselves, like invaders from a surprise and hostile galaxy. And that is when I should have known.  But I ignore that crazy little voice that says……hang up.

“Look how intense the colors are. I love them.” I’d offered softly, or something close to that as I recall.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t expect that reaction.” I added, not sorry at all but trying for politeness from one of us. Maybe she was having a bad day.  Maybe, I thought, there is something I don’t know. She made that awful sound in the back of her throat, that deep guttural clearing of her throat that is meant to project disgust.  (Disgust over a photograph of a leaf. Really.) “I can’t believe you like this leaf!  It’s awful!” She exclaimed. “I actually have a headache from it.” “Oh……….” I stammered, and she remained upset at what was something that someone else had already offered to buy,  and I could not understand this at all.  She prided herself on intelligence, on elegance and charm.  Yet, here she was ignoring the fact that this was a part of my art.  And then…after a few more conversations…after giving her the benefit of the doubt (why, oh why, oh why)…after visiting and looking at the world around her in its lush divorce-won abundance….after comparing where each of us had ended up at this stage of our lives…listening to comment after repeated comment about how she could offer me lessons on better choices, most subtly delivered …watching her in a bar as she stared at a man and his wife, a couple having a lovely evening, as she flirted with him (he kept looking away to avoid her glances) and continually saying things like “I could get him. I’m prettier than she is.”, and after listening to story after story of how her ex boyfriend wouldn’t return her repeated and incessant phone calls, I began to understand.  Here she was, accomplished on some levels, having so much and none of it was enough to satisfy what was so obviously a deep and unhealed self. You do not really know anyone until you spend time with them, live with them or see them in their broken state.  Telltale signs appear.  Wisdom is knowing how to spot them and having the courage to walk away. I was a little slow on the wisdom with this one but managed to rally. We can not heal other people.  We can only decide whether we want to stay in the room with them when they decide to admit that they have fallen apart and need healing.

There are two types of people I know of.  One is the type of person who sees beauty, if not in all things, then in something, somewhere, even in the bleakest of times.  That type of person chooses joy as much as possible. That person fills themselves with love and personal freedom while kneeling to the holiness of others, cries and laughs without shame regardless of circumstances, and develops the desire to help others reach their potential instead of asking them to yield to their own beliefs. That person looks within for what they seek and centers themselves in order to see the world around them in its fullest, and decides daily to accept accountability for choice and intent toward others knowing we are all connected.  We are mirrors.  We are kin.  If we are miserable, it will send out a wave of misery and reach to the far corners of everything and poison the landscape.  That person grieves their losses and stands up to take that step forward.

The other type of person sees only the coating of beauty, the shiny newness of things but never the substance.  They care little about truth, only about expectation. When they look behind someone’s eyes, they see themselves, not what is really there which is the soul of the other person who is connected to them in a web that is designed to provide all with what is needed, wanted, and created by them.  They have an answer for everything, therefore there is no need to inquire, to learn more or to exist for the sole purpose of experience and for the joy of loving for the sake of love itself.  It is all planned out, the routine of expectation, of control and hostility that taints and discourages creativity – unless, of course, there is a monetary value placed upon it.  That type of person is filled with angoisse toxiques – a toxic angst – because they have been wronged. The world has not given them what they were due and in retaliation, they refuse to see what is in front of them and set out to ruin what others have and will not give them, saying all the while that they do not want it.  What they want is the other person’s joy because they can’t find their own. What is in front of them is real life.  It is in front of every one of us. What is required is to see it, embrace it, and begin to say Yes.

As you’ve probably gathered, my then friend is no longer a part of my world, although in knowing that we are connected as living beings I am also reminded that she and I are simply two different points of view, two different choices on how to see the world, on how to walk down that road toward an inevitable ending (Yet, since I don’t know everything, I must say that I don’t know whether there really is an actual ending or not). We are, perhaps not so different in many ways. We are, however, different in how we see a leaf – I know that for sure –  how we see the layers of life and in our expectations of others, of reward and consequence of choice.   I guarantee you she doesn’t agree with any of what I’ve said.  She would tell you that I am in denial, that she could help me find a third husband, that she knows better than I do how I should live my life for complete fulfillment.

And so, I wonder…..which one are you?  How do you see yourself?  Are you entitled or grateful?  Are you a half full type of person, or half empty? Who do you believe creates your life?  You?  Or some “other”?  Let me know.  I’m an artist and writer.  I’m curious to the last breath.






Silence (3) – or – 10 Ways To Get Out of Hell



(You might want to read the previous posts on Silence.  Silence (1) is here and Silence (2) is here.  That might further you along in the understanding of this Silence (3) which stems from………….)

……a conversation with good friends about the economy, job loss, loss of the middle class, personal things, aging, weight gain, all of us having had the experience of being stuck in Hell and not knowing how to get out.  Here is a list of steps.  There are other ways out, of course, but these work as a general guideline.  They are efficient.  Do the steps.  Never mind the little details.  Just do the steps and you will see improvement because as you do them, each will bring you to a new point of awareness.  Over a longer period of time, you can do other things but right now, apply these steps for 10 ways to get out of your own current Hell.  It doesn’t really matter which Hell you’re in.  You’re in Hell and you want out. (I will presume you want out.  Some people don’t.  They seem to like it there.) You’ll see how much better you feel very shortly.  Don’t analyze or think about them too much.  Just do them.  Love yourself enough to start now. Hell isn’t much fun.  Get out of there.


 Get rid of Groundhog Day and get out of your head. Whatever happened to you – has already happened. Done. Fini. Fatto. You are repeating the pain from the past out of choice. That’s right. You’ve made a choice. Make another. Stop hurting yourself. The past might have been horrific, but it is the past. If you need help, get it.  But for right now, realize that whoever hurt you, whatever happened, it is repeated again and again by your thoughts.  When you think those thoughts every day, all day, all you accomplish is repeating old pain.  The original pain ceases to be the villain.  Now, the villain is your thoughts. You can’t undo the past but there is no reason to keep living it, therefore…


Dump the suffering. Grieving is a complicated process and different for everyone. Loss, whether it is of a loved one, a fortune, a dream, etc. is unique to the individual.  But it is still loss and deserves its time. Sadness and pain are part of being human.  Suffering, however, is unnecessary.  Between the Groundhog Day syndrome and deep suffering, we stay in our chosen Hell.  Grief will take its own time and you might need help with it but don’t invite it in for the remainder of your life.  I know this personally.  I have had an intimate relationship with grief as most of us have at a certain point in life.  Express the grief.  Speak of it, paint it, share it, don’t deny it, but don’t live in it.  Your life is a room of possibility, a world actually, with invisible walls.  Grief is a visitor to that room.  Have your conversation with it then open the windows, let it out.  Inhale fresh air.  Grief can be a false badge of honor when you wear it too long. You might not believe that as you read this, but it is.  No one will be able to embrace your experience as you have.  They will embrace their own.  Don’t’ suffer.  Suffering will never restore your dream.


Controlling feelings and outcomes. Stop. The only control you have is with yourself, your thoughts, your actions, what you intend.  Any belief that you can control others in any way, is an illusion.  It is also unfair and arrogant.  Why would you need to control anyone or anything?  They have their own life and are on their own path. However, you do have feelings, dreams, and desires.  Don’t deny them.  They are there for a reason. Don’t stuff them.  Don’t eat them, don’t drink them.  Don’t rage them.  If you are doing this, stop.  Just Stop.  It serves no purpose for you or others.  Express them (as in #2 above).  Here’s the thing – you just feel the way you feel but when you’re stuck in your own Hell you need to see that the world is doing its own thing and will not come there with you.  Even if it seems fake, for right now find a trusted source with whom you can voice your feelings.  Do so without expectation.  If you’re angry, say you are angry.  If you are sad, say you are sad.  Learn to connect with the feelings for what they are and be kind to yourself and the people around you.  You need to go in the other room and cry?  Do so.  Come back without apology and start all over.  But when you do these things, do not expect a specific reaction from others.  (You see how #1 and #2 are related to #3).  

Feelings deserve a voice but they do not need to be run on a track (#1), pounded into your subconscious inflicting more pain for you and others (#2) because that will keep you in Hell.  Stop controlling the reaction of others and the outcome of events (#3) and you will begin to have some clarity. Once you have clarity, you can learn more that will help you on your journey.  Your business is not to solve the world’s problems or fix problems for friends. Your business is to get yourself out of Hell and be productive again.


Pay attention to the joys and sorrows of others. If you see people around you who are happy, it is because they have moved forward if they’ve had pain and suffering. If they haven’t had pain and suffering, they will at some point. This seems to be a fact of human life. That’s what you want to do, move forward.  If you know them well, see if you can enlist their help, their wisdom.  What do they know that could help you move on? How did they survive their pain?  Remember that when you ask these questions of others, they will want to tell you freely what they think.  Be courteous. Listen.  Be grateful. It doesn’t mean you have to do what they say.  You are gathering information.  Be open to suggestion (not control).  Study the similarities. Do what you must in this regard and remember – if they have a life you think you want, then it means it exists already and there is a lot of it to go around.  Don’t get stuck in analyzing everything about why you think you didn’t get a better deal, just pay attention to the positive things.  See if they would work for you.  You can figure out the rest later.

As for the sorrows of others, consider volunteering. Small scale or big scale it is beneficial for all and will take you out of your own misery at least for now. Remember that no matter what sort of pain you are in, you need to make time to help other people.  Even if all you do is listen, do that.  You are not the only one in pain.  It feels like you are, but you aren’t. Be of service.  Service presents others with examples and ideas that they can act on.


Dump your garbage. Put on gloves (I mean this literally) and start right now. Let me first say this – no one needs a cleaning obsessed human checking all the corners and under the beds. It is annoying on so many levels.  However – and this is definitely something I know to be true – get rid of your crap.  If you don’t use it, if it is ugly and you’re only keeping it because a friend gave it to you, get rid of it.  Clutter will kill you. What you are doing by living in a cluttered life is telling the Universe/God/Creator that you have no need for anything new.  (If you believe in energy work as I do, you will come to see that accumulating items that are not loved, that sit there without their own space, is a disrespect for the item and for yourself.) You are living a past life and often, someone else’s when you hoard.  Yes, extreme clutter is hoarding. You are holding on to something that is not real. You loved your Aunt and she gave you wooden shoes and you still have them.  Okay.  Great.  Then clean them, put them in a display case and show them off on a clean table in an uncluttered room. But if they are in the closet or in a box or hidden in some manner, then you don’t love them as much as you thought you did. (If you love your deceased Aunt, there are better ways to remember her.)  Get rid of them.  Paper, also.  Everything.  If you can only do one of the 10 Ways to get out of Hell, do this one.  Clean your house, your car, etc. with attention and intention.  Dust, wash, declutter.  (Art spaces exempt) All of that crap you keep is adding to your Hell and in the act of willful cleaning you will find order, and in order you will find a bit of sanity.

By the way:  This includes you.  Up at the same time every day, shower, shave, sing, blow dry your hair if you still have any and get dressed.  Maybe a little makeup. Do all that with awareness.  Be present.  Anoint yourself with care.  The only one you need to shine for is you, but do it in style.  Others will see your glow.  That’s one way to be a light for others – start at home, now.


Have faith – Have success. No, I haven’t gone religious. Fact is, we all need to work a system every day.  Whether it is a church of your choosing, an earth ritual you do beneath the full moon (if you go naked, call me and I’ll bring my iPhone), a 12 Step program – it is of no one else’s concern, only yours, but you must work a system every single day.  I use to walk 3 miles every weekday.  During that time, I would organize my thoughts.  I always felt better when I came home. Does yoga do it for you?  Do that.  Does grooming the dog daily do it?  Do that.  How about reading a specific type of text (Bible, Course in Miracles, 50 Shades of Grey type of “literature”)?  Do that.  Do. It. Daily. You say you don’t have the time? Well, you can’t afford to not do this.  Do something you believe in every single day for at least 30 minutes. Do it consistently.  Make it your private connection to whatever you believe in.  Don’t complain to it.  Give it gratitude.  Thank it. Love it.  Perfect it. Just do that which you choose as a system/program every day.  It will transform your life once you understand that all of this is simply different forms of meditation, a way to connect to a power larger than your conscious self.  If you don’t believe in a larger power, then do it because it is a ladder rung at the wall of Hell and will elevate you out.


Get off your butt and close your mouth. Seriously. Everyone says this because it works.  Most people in Hell don’t want to do this.  But do it. Exercise.  Walk. Dance. Swim. Bowl.  Go to the gym.  Ride a bike.  Anything.  Just get off your butt.  Talk to yourself out loud if you have to while you do it, but do it.  Blood flows when you move.  The brain gets oxygen.  The lungs expand more easily.  Your joints get lubricated.  You are a living being.  Move.  As for diet, there are so many plans.  I can’t tell you.  So just try exercising some restraint somewhere.  Close your mouth.  Push your plate out of the way and get rid of it.  You can heal yourself of many things simply by movement and eating the right foods.  Make it a game if you have to.  Read about exercise, then do it.  Read healthy recipes, then make them. And by the way, alcohol is not a good thing to overdue at any time but when you overdue it while you’re in Hell, it makes Hell worse.  Just get off your butt and close your mouth. Trust me on this one.


Watch stupid movies. Hollywood cannot make enough stupid movies. Watch some old and some new. Watch Bollywood movies.  I use to watch the Japanese martial arts movies, the ones where there were no subtitles.  I had no idea of what they were saying but I had to concentrate on the action.  Fun.  Drama.  They occupied my thoughts instead of pain.  Nothing heals a broken heart faster than laughing until your belly hurts.  This goes for humorous books also.  Ever read the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich? (Great easy read.) I read One for The Money the week my husband died.  I actually laughed out loud and read it in one night. We all have a different opinion of what’s funny.  Find out what that is for you.  Laugh.  Find humor in Hell.  There’s humor everywhere.  Get lost in ridiculous things.  Take that burden off your back for a bit – it doesn’t mean you aren’t in pain.  Everyone knows you are.  They want to help.  Help yourself first. You can laugh while you’re there.  Do this often enough and you might even forget about the burden. If you can’t get out of Hell today, at least get a laugh track in there.


Hugs, Hugs, and more hugs. Get them. Give them. Hug something other than your computer or TV. Many people live alone or in other isolated situations. This isn’t necessarily our conscious choice.  Shit happens, as they say. Even if we choose solitude, it isn’t always healthy.  We all need to be hugged on a regular basis.  Hugging increases oxytocin – the love hormone – and benefits the heart. We are “touch deprived” and it is more pervasive than you might think.  Even people living with others who don’t hug or connect physically suffer from the lack of hugs.

If you can’t hug a human, hug a pet.  Don’t just take care of them.  Pick them up, say hello, and hold on for a bit.  It will benefit both of you.  (This is where fish are probably not the best choice, although they do seem to reduce one’s blood pressure.) Like all things should be done when we are trying to make changes that promote our best life, do it with intention and awareness…..be in the moment.

A personal note:  I’ve had my cat for nearly 13 years.  We have been through some very serious and difficult times together.  I hug her all the time.  I’m not sure how she feels about it but it has saved my sanity on many occasions.


Stop wasting time. Don’t panic, but be aware that the clock is ticking. Lesson from me, personally: The clock ticks regardless of what you do with the sound of passing time. Might as well have some fun and say hello to all your dreams because you can achieve them if you are not living in Hell.  You can do this.  Make a schedule for your eyes only.  Revise it as often as necessary.  Work it.  Buy yourself the time you need to do something new and reignite your passion.  You don’t want to be over regimented with this but a simple list of things you want/need to accomplish helps keeps you centered, especially when you’re dealing with those thoughts and fears that you don’t feel you can get rid of. Even when you feel like screaming, you can look at the schedule and see what you’re supposed to be doing.  It’s another organization tool that helps keep your mind clear and open.


Lagniappe– (a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus.  A gratuity or tip. An unexpected or indirect benefit).  Here is your Lagniappe:

Self-Love. Rumi says “Your task is not to seek love but merely to find all the barriers within yourself”.

Everything you read in this post is about self-love.  Start with You.  Love yourself.  Recognize that you are human and make mistakes, that your heart will be broken and you will break hearts.  It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I have my own opinions on why we are here on the planet but this is about you and how you can get out of Hell.  You might have other opinions on that.  Love yourself enough to take the steps to that end.  Once you are out of Hell you can look at the sky and see other things, read inspiring people, make bigger changes in your life – or not.  It is your life to do with as you choose.  So do what you want.  But nothing will happen until you love and forgive yourself for all your flaws and failed attempts.  Those attempts are not necessarily failures.  Sometimes they are lessons and sometimes they are just mistakes. Get over your self-judgment and forgive yourself no matter what you think you’ve done wrong or how much you think you’ve ruined everything, because you haven’t.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. Regardless of what anyone tells you, regardless of what your pain brain tells you, you are lovable and you are loved.  Now, starting today, you need to love yourself so that you can love your life and everyone and everything in it.  Get out of Hell.

A note about gratitude.  Many times, when people give us suggestions about having gratitude, we can’t understand the concept if we are in Hell.  It seems like more stress.  How can we be grateful for all this pain?  Consider this – when you read about self-love and begin to understand that you need to love yourself first, you will see that you become grateful for your own life.  Be grateful for that.  Be grateful for waking up.  Be grateful for absolutely anything you find every day that is of merit to your world.  Start there.  You will see, as you climb out of Hell, that you begin being grateful for everything.  At that point, practice gratitude regularly.  I do walk around and say “thank you” out loud when something wonderful happens or I see signs of hope.  I don’t label who it is I’m speaking to.  I just say “thank you”.


Still need more inspiration?  Read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It…Kamal Ravikant – Wonderful book.  Wonderful – you can read it in one day instead of having painful thoughts.

Let love heal you. Start at home with You. Now.




Silence (2)

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been contemplating the meaning of silence.  That post was mostly my thoughts about the act (or non act) of ceasing to speak up against violence and harm, the refusal to participate in bringing to light the darkness that invades our freedom, whether we are a large or small group, and it was my statement on defending everyone’s rights.  We are responsible for each other’s welfare whether we like that idea or not because we all live on this planet together. (This week, I’ve heard about two people dying via my circle of friends and three people – close friends – who are faced with devastating financial loss.  This post is for them as will be the next one.)

There is another meaning to silence that is just as important to me, as most people know.  That is the silence of grief, the quietness of a particular space that seems to appear when our sense of loss is so severe that we cannot seem to cope with it, and often simply cannot even seem to breathe.  I know several people who are there right now, living in that space, looking for a way to hide from what has been too much pain.  And I don’t think this is a terrible place to be.  I think it is not a good place to stay, but certainly it is a place we go to when we are faced with terrible loss.  All the families and survivors of world tragedies go here, whether briefly or for long periods of time.  It is inevitable in the human experience.

In that place of silence, where we initially feel that nothing can live, where we are abandoned by any belief system we’ve had – even if only temporarily – and where we want to stay, to cling to the loved one we’ve lost in death, the traumatic event that occurred, the job we’ve lost or been denied, our relationship breaking up, saying goodbye to our ideals and dreams – there are so many things we lose in a lifetime that it is impossible to list them.  So many of them are such hard hits that we are stunned. Subdued.  But there is also the potential for joy if we accept this inevitability and move forward, giving it what it deserves – our attention.  If we refuse to see that this is part of life, then we miss opportunities for the reminder of love and the awareness that we can move on.

So, if we are destined to visit that place of silence, where we believe nothing grows and where no love can be, where we seem to have lost good fortune, let me share the following with you since this is something that has changed my life, first with the worse possible heartache, and second with the knowledge that I had choices and that in those choices I could transmute the experience and become a deeper and more caring soul. I did this, of course, with the support and love of others but I’m the one who went into the silence.

A poem of mine from when my husband died.  As in all things, there really is hope in the end as you will see in last part of this.  We forget that what is now causing us pain was a point of love before.  That is what we mourn in silence, in that abyss. What we sit with in the dark silence is the awareness that we have lost what we love, but once we are back into the light we will see that the very thing we lost was such a gift that to have had it at all was a miracle, an act of Grace and Grace is where we need to intend to be for more of that goodness to shine on us.  This is a personal piece for me and perhaps not your experience but it is the experience of many and lately, with the world seeming to be in such turmoil, there are far too many people living in the void of silence.

In all silence, in all desperation, grief and pain, there really is hope although while you are living in the silence you don’t believe that for one moment. There is the opportunity to make new music to listen to, a new life to write about, and a new list of experiences.  Tabula Rasa.  Silence is a clean slate. But you will not see that if you don’t embrace the inevitable because truth is the only way to live.


The wretched hours before dawn

The hours I’ve been warned of

As if warning heals anything

With envelopes of empty sorrows

People pass through

I can’t bear another voice speaking

I wait for signs yet nothing comes

No wisps of hair moving at my neck

No fiery bursts of your heat in my belly

Heat that always curled my toes

Whenever we clung together

You purring like a big cat

Me feeling the rising of Kundalini

You growling low in your loins

Travelers on some other planetary realm

Heat that called me across rooms of others

Glances and thoughts that traveled

Light speed rattling me in my place

Peeking through this curtain of grief

Engravings in my heart chambers

The code of you

The timbre of your voice

Your scent before a shower

Reading together rainy nights

That edge of your eyelids where

Hairs pushed out like lustrous trees

Soft tiny reluctant soldiers

I watched them grow

Listened as they announced themselves

So long we stayed in bed and loved

I wait for golden molecules still

Announcing in this dark space

That your meteor trail is visible

The night sky illuminated

Gold dust and scattered stars

Waving your grand arrival

I would welcome any sign

Regardless of size or burden

Without question I would bow

Kneel to any master

Inhale you one more time

Fuse with your essence

I am free-falling un-tethered

Ninja stars stuck in my throat

My skin a coat of nails

I have never hurt this much

And I would do it again

Just to see the universe in your eyes

© Jacqualine-marie baxman 2015

So, silence in many cases is the same as solitude.  Part of what I see happen to many people who have had hectic lives, never living alone or experiencing loss alone, is that they can be afraid of solitude.  But solitude, as is true of silence, can be a place of beginnings, a place where one can rehearse a new way of being, try out the new thoughts and ideas and perfect them. Often, all one needs to do is breathe, rest and renew.  One needs both silence and solitude.

My husband’s death was a difficult time.  All deaths are a difficult time. People who know me well understood that and were incredibly loving but no one could take away the shock of his sudden death and the ending of our brief marriage.  I refer to this experience more often than one would think but that Is because the lessons I learned from it have giving me the ability to grow in ways I could not have imagined.  I am grateful to now understand and be less afraid of what can seem to be unending silence and what has often been lengthy bouts of solitude.

I am a person who believes in healing but not denial of anything and I think that every single experience we have holds that possibility for us, even in what we think is our darkest time.

I am not alone. We are not alone.  The silence is only a place where we can heal, once we let go.


Better minds than me….

“In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.” – Laurence Sterne

“The best thinking has been done in solitude.  The worst has een done in turmoil.” – Thomas A. Edison

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get n touch with your soul.  To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and find the solutions.” – Deepak Chopra

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” – C.S. Lewis

Next post, I want to share thoughts of rising out of the silence of our own trauma and build a new life.  If not a new life, then at least a new smile.

Thoughts on Silence (1)

Thoughts on Silence (2) on its way in a few days…

Comments on Silence based on thoughts arising in response to Charlie Hebdo.  Mine and others, some unrelated to these specific events but appropriate and pertinent.

There are different types of silence.  This – here, today – is about acquiescence and the refusal to join the argument that many think is not theirs. You are a part of the argument whether it is about the murder of innocent citizens, what is being forced into your food supply by your own government, the reduction of opportunities for people to support themselves, atrocities committed by your own government and others, the manner in which your children are treated in schools, or the right to practice freely the lifestyle you choose. Opposition is a fact of human life.  Terrorism does not need to be.  Once we give in to it, once we accept defeat, we have lost more than our own life. We have lost the lives of our children, our children’s children, and all others to follow.  We need to stand up and be counted and not become the violence and rage that we are standing up to. Not Afraid signs are all over France and across the globe.  We can have a voice without promoting violence.  Je Suis Charlie – I Am Charlie.


When we are silent, we agree to be a part of the ruling group regardless of what they do.  When we are silent against an unfair government, we approve their power and their tyranny.  They are not “someone else”.  They are the result of our silence.  We can stand up and be counted without holding guns and more effectively we can do so by voting properly and starting at the first level of government with watchdog organizations…….because the seed you water is the one that will grow.

Freedom of speech, of creative acts, of protest and voices that illuminate the dark nights of ignorance and radical oppression must be protected, whether we like what someone says or not. We are now adding Paris events to the ever lengthening list of atrocities one group does to another in the claim to having the more righteous god, the more powerful alliance, and the only true voice.  You/we must defend everyone’s right to be free.  Creatives continually do what many others won’t.  Change that.  Act in solidarity and not in silence. Be loud.  Be clear.  Be consistent……

“Because if you don’t stand up for the stuff you don’t like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you’ve already lost.”

Neil Gaiman

“It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don’t have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or sold, or bought, or read.”

Philip Pullman

“To view the opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concepts of democracy.  To oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of democracy.”

Aung San Suu Kyi

               “If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves. We should, therefore, protest openly everything … that smacks of discrimination or slander.”

Mary McLeod Bethune

               “The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination.”

Robert Frost

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”.

George Washington

One last thought – silence does not make bad things go away.  It just gives them the space they need to grow, to gain strength and power.  Prayer – for those of you who use it – and intention are wonderful things but until they can remove a bullet from a gun before the trigger is pulled, they aren’t the first line of defense.  Not in my mind.  Mahatma Gandhi believed in peaceful protest, but not in silence.  Martin Luther King’s March on Washington was one of the best American examples of peaceful protest.  He did not believe in silence.  Raise your voice. End your silence.  Use your voice, tax dollars, boycott capabilities and everything you have at hand to turn things around and help build a safer place to live for all of us.

Thank you for reading my blog.

© Jacqualine-marie baxman 2015