(For Donna Eden)

“Love does this”.  That is what I heard Donna say before I put my head down from the phone and wept.

I have said something like this before myself, not understanding at all the magnitude of what I was saying.  Once I said my Golden Retriever absorbed some of the evil and badness in our home, having horrible seizures each night, taking the focus away from the sorrows and illnesses which permeated the last months of my marriage to Eli, but I am not sure I understood what I meant.

When Donna told me about “David taking it – he took his grandson’s traumatic head injury”, and then she said, “Love does this.  This is what love does”,  I could barely contain my skepticism as she began the telling of the tale.  But less than a third into it, the authenticity of her words rang so deep into my blood and brain, I listened without needing to, knowing the story myself, realizing the outcome before Donna’s words registered in my hippocampus and whichever parietal lobe registers awe and recognition of that kind.

I love David.  I love his absolute simplicity.  I love how difficult he can be, yet how deep and delicious his soul and truth appear when I remove my projections and see him honestly.  So it was with humility and tenderness I listened to Donna tell me about her husband, my friend, who stepped out of his need to tend to his own wellbeing so completely that he would literally give his life for the grandson he loved with all his heart.

Donna tells the tale about a bus crash in a foreign country.  David’s 4-year old grandson, who he loved and was connected to in a way which sometimes defies description, had received a severe head injury, but rather than go to a hospital, David went into a kind of trance state and suddenly informed the group that the little boy would be “okay”.  The ambulance was sent away.  Yet on return to the United States, it was discovered that David was clearly deteriorating.  He had been unharmed in the accident, yet it was found that he had a traumatic brain injury, a subdural hematoma, and was close to death.  He was bleeding out.  Through a series of energy medicine and western medicine miracles, he was saved.  He had, quite literally, “taken it” from his grandson.  Now, how can this happen?  It cannot happen, right?  This is impossible.  Or is it?

Lucky Girl, my little Pomeranian Poodle mix, did this for me last week.  I know how grateful my little dog has been for the almost 17 years she has spent with me.  I know how she loves me, and how she has loved and been devoted to my daughter, Cameron.  She has been a mighty healer, this little doggie, this six pound Hercules.  And having rescued her as the runt who was left by her Mama, who did not have enough milk for the five dogs she whelped instead of the three promised by the vet and for which she could only care, I nursed the runt myself, waking every two hours to give her a little bottle, keeping her warm on pads and using my own body to nurture her.  I was her mama, and she was my daughter, and she has never let me down.  She has always told me how deeply grateful she has been for her life.  She has been a deeply devoted little doggie.  She has spent most of the last five years in the crook of my arm.

I have nursed my baby for the last year with the congestive heart failure which killed her Mama five years ago.    Lucky has been hanging on, alternating between good days and bad days. Congestive heart failure can be slow going sometimes.

 The night before the Launch Party for my book, First Kill All the Lawyers, I was terribly depressed and frustrated.  Cammie was giving me grief about coming to the party – driving up from San Diego.  It was incomprehensible – how could she even consider not coming?  Theresa had called her, I had talked to her, and she was still giving me grief.  She was tired, why was I making her come?  What about her?   I had never seen her like this.  Something was terribly wrong.  She could not be this self-centered.  As Theresa pointed out:  this was her mother’s day.  She was to suit up, show up, work the room, smile, be supportive, and never let anyone know anything could possibly be wrong.

I went to bed the night before the party quite early.  I had surrendered to the fact that my daughter, to whom my book was dedicated, would not be at my launch.  As usual, I put Lucky on her bed in the kitchen around 10:00 p.m., because her coughing would eventually wake me up.  She suddenly was in bad shape.  Her coughing was different; it had a different texture and quality.  I became worried.  I held her for quite some time until she calmed down.  She had not eaten for several days; not unusual, but difficult because I could not give her any medication unless she ate her food.

Something woke me at 5:00 a.m. with a start.  I knew Lucky was in crisis.  I ran into the kitchen to find her gasping for breath, making a terrible noise in her throat.  She was drowning.  I held her and called the emergency vet, driving the 20 miles at 6:30 a.m. to euthanize my little baby girl.

At 7:09 a.m. on May 4, 2014, I held my baby in my arms while she died.  Her adorable little face was looking into mine, and I said goodbye.  Then I held her for a long, long time, the little dog who had stayed by my side through the profoundly difficult last 17 years of my life.  I thanked her again for her service, for her devotion.  I thanked her for her love and devotion and service to Cameron.

 Euthanasia is the most profoundly beautiful, sane way to say goodbye to suffering pets.  I have said goodbye to 7 pets this way now.  Each one is more beautiful and important than the last.  I grieve and cry, but then I realize the hours of suffering I have spared my little precious child.  It is absurd that we cannot give this to each other as humans but can give this to our animals….

I cannot remember the next hours of this day, but somehow I collected myself enough to show up at the gorgeous, catered event my friends threw for me at 2:00 p.m. in their beautiful Los Angeles home.  About twenty minutes into the event, I felt a warm hand on my arm.  I looked to my right, and saw the most beautiful face I may have ever seen, that of my daughter, Cammie. Rather than a true seeing, I experienced an energetic ‘seeing’ of this love that beamed from my daughter’s face at me, so huge and lovely it almost knocked me down.  It was one of the few energetic experiences of love I have had.  It was almost an indescribable event – I had little recognition of my daughter save for the absolute experience of a love which had no depth, width or breadth.  It was a love of such profundity I believe I held my breath for a long while.  There was a beam of light coming from Cammie’s eyes directly into mine – at least that is what I “saw” – and this love, this extending, uncomplicated love, held me in its’ embrace for the rest of the afternoon.  I was unaware of my daughter, but felt held and supported in this love all through the day.

When Cammie had to leave, she stood in the book signing line and said she had to go.  She had the most beautiful little smile on her face.  The photograph of her shows her hand on my head as she says goodbye, as if in blessing.

Something has shifted in my relationship to my daughter, and it feels like it has shifted forever.  Some great congestion, some complication in our relationship, some stuck place, well, it is gone.  I cannot seem to find the feelings I had before.  I love my daughter the way I loved my little papoose girl who came home from Lenox Hill hospital 25 years ago, all wrapped up in my arms.

And this, I believe, is what love has done.  This, I believe, is why Lucky Girl chose to die for us on this day.   Lucky Girl “took it” as Donna would say.  Because this is what love does.  This is what love did. 


Me ‘n Bone

I called him a douchebag.  A brat.  A little snot.  He was the worst cat I ever adopted.  I read articles about male ginger tabbies and how horrid they were.

He would purr and then haul off and take flesh from my hand, my leg, my butt.  He would splay out in marmalade grandeur, his green eyes slanted and content, his body in a relaxed sleep.  Then he would awaken and attack Jenny Annie Dots for no reason, the mildest, kindest, most feminine Persian female I have ever owned.  And Jenny has little, useless teeth.  Her pathetic claws do no harm.  She has been the mother of 35 kittens. She is a beautiful, warm, door-stop.

I work at home. I have a separate office where I see my patients and clients.  So, someone is always here.  T Bone can climb up and hang on the door jam and regard the people, looking for his next victim.  Sometimes he purrs, sometimes he bites.  He will go for weeks curling up next to me as I sleep, then go for months hiding somewhere in the house, not to be found.

Last Sunday I was gone for 13 hours.  I went to a Seminar at LAX.  I returned home after being gone for over ½ a full day.

That night, as I went to sleep, T Bone was unusually obnoxious, meowing and jumping around.  Jenny was asleep, as usual, on her little bed, next to my pillow.  T Bone paced and howled and wouldn’t settle. So, I put him outside the bedroom at 11:00 p.m.

At 12:10 a.m., the sliding door between the living room and hallway began to shake and rattle.  It was T Bone’s paw.  But not only did T Bone knock on the door – relentlessly – he howled.  A jarring, pathetic wail.  This went on for over one hour.

So, I took the water bottle and prepared to chase him away.  T Bone hates water. He is terrified of water.  If he even sees the spray bottle, he runs.  When I put his flea medicine on his neck, about the size of a pencil eraser, he looks so wounded and upset I could have castrated him without anesthesia again and again.  He is terrified of water.

So…I opened the sliding door and showed him the water bottle.  He squinted his eyes and kept howling.  I squirted him.  He squinted and crouched down.  He started to walk toward the bedroom.  I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed.  I sprayed water.  On T Bone.  Wet, nasty, furious, T Bone was nearly crawling on his belly like a reptile as he slunk toward the bedroom.

I was incredulous.  How could it be that the now-drenched cat, his eyes ridiculously squinty, take the abuse like a soldier?

T Bone continued to march-slink toward the bedroom.

T Bone was now getting screamed at, drenched, and abused so horridly I ceased to care and threw the empty plastic bottle at him.  He ducked.  He literally ducked.

Then he jumped on the bed and settled in his spot.  He looked wretched.  He looked like he had been through a terrible storm.

T Bone slept through the night in the wet spot.  He was soaking wet, but quiet.

In the morning, T Bone would not move from his spot on the bed until he was sure I fully understood his resolve.  When he saw that I finally understood him, and I finally DID understand him, I sat down close to him and cried.  I told him that I got it, that I was sorry, and that I realized that his personality was his personality.  I had forgotten, for a brief while, that I was his mommy and he was my baby, and no matter what he did, I would always love him and would never, ever, shut him out again.  I told him that he seemed so independent I had forgot he needed me, that I would never forget again, and that I would never leave him for so long again.

T Bone got up, yawned, stretched, gave me a little nip on my hand, and went to his food.

T Bone continues to walk around and between my feet in the most irritating manner.  He howls and cries and bites and purrs and chases Jenny until I am beside myself with worry that he will kill her in a moment of biological forgetting.  He gets on my clients and patients and my heart is in my throat as I try not to think of liability insurance and lawsuits.

And me and the Bone?  Well, we are fine.  I won’t forget again, no matter how obnoxious I perceive my baby to be.  I won’t forget again, no matter how things seem.

I just won’t forget.  I won’t forget my Bone again.

The oyster shells will cut your feet to ribbons they told us

               Daddy cut watermelon on the back porch

    And Mama got Shine to sell her the sivvy beans

      And we were so in love with them

     our hearts split in two like the luscious melons

    and the labs – Pandemonium and Mary – slept logy and fat in the 

                   shade of the live oak 


All summer our girlhood became as tender as the plough mud

             with the richness of new things growing

                     In the mushy warmth


And we became creatures called woman before cognition

                registered in our young minds


Bone gangly hilarious skin screaming with confusion

                 and longing for Punky and Stevie to notice

         and Punky’s head smelled so good I reeled

               When I went to pick up the peanut meant for the RC Cola

dropped intentionally by Punky

                         and I caught a good whiff

                    Punky’s hair smelled to me like what I knew but had forgot                               in the other worlds

                            sunshine, sweat, salt, some nastiness….


Mama used to kiss our boo-boos and admonish a trembling lip with that look of hers




          sifting through with smell, snorting and snuffling, like a pig with truffles, pulling up the memories

            like poems in the wind 

the earth a poem of its own 

the plough mud my menstrual blood all the boys and men I held in my     arms those nights of confusion and longing

          the terrible deaths I died over and over and the babies and the blood

                 the secret becomings and the crucifixions

and the babies and the blood 

             seeing Mama finally wither at the feet of patriarchal demagoguery

and it ended there and then for all of us didn’t it? 

Her heart once so filled with love and devotion now so angry and

                 spiteful brittle mean dry and spitting at the end

That meanness – it can happen to all of us at the end


The heart is a muscle too

            It must be exercised    all those chambers and hidey-holes it contains!

  All those uncountable places we thought

                                                No! No!  I can’t go there! Not there!

But we sniffed this one out – this memory – that memory – that unbearable one – this unbearable one –

               we sniffed and sniffed and sniffed


until we were nothing but light all the memories bending and fitting into light

            nothing but light


              and the light became another’s poem

                                     another’s word

                                     another’s wind

                                     another’s dream


and the oyster shells cut our feet to ribbons

                and we dangled shreds of flesh

                      like gems into the precious past





Who hasn’t suffered?  Who hasn’t felt pain?

What if we understood our experiences – our woundings, so to speak – in a larger context?

In my own life, where I have known cruel abandonment, loss of friendship, loss of family, job, status, finances, even my place in the world – I have been led to reflect on the meaning this kind of suffering could have and to extrapolate out to the greater picture, to decontextualize things within a life we all share.

In times of existential annihilation, when the pain has become too much to bear, I have been flipped into an understanding of the potentiality of evolvement.  Not just to see crisis as opportunity, or to merely accept my suffering, but to understand it as a dying of an archaic self into a new version of a new self; to be re-birthed as something formerly unknown but willing to experience this apparent phenomena.

What is the knocking?

What is the knocking in the door of the night?

It is someone who wants to do us harm.

No, no, it is the three strange angels.

Admit them.  Admit them.

D.H.Lawrence  “Song of a Man Who Has Come Through”

Often primal, painful experiences cause us to stop, shift our perspective, and face what shadows had formerly been hidden.

It may be true, and in my case, is true, that we are never completely healed from our woundings.  I still suffer from the devaluation I experienced at the hands of my ex-husband, who kept his bad parts in abeyance, until he had me a hostage; shriveling my self-worth so completely I was scarcely recognizable to myself.  The strong, capable self I had built was all but gone, yet because of this, I have been able to help others go through the crushing ego blows of this kind of diminishment.

When we are wounded, the body goes into electrical shock.  Most of us want to find therapies to discharge the shock.  But what if we found ways to use the shock instead of getting rid of it?  Too many of us recoil from pain because we are terrified of it.  Then the charge debilitates us, and we organize around safer and less intense lives, foreclosing on possibility.  But we can reactivate the memory of failure or of loss and then take that charge and select an entirely different set of variables – say a movement toward creativity and compassion rather than toward collapse or safety.  “Dear God, please allow me the grace of release rather than the old way of choosing safety. Let me be born again.  Amen.”

If we are courageous enough to choose this metaphorical re-birth – and it takes courage to plumb the depths of one’s heart and mind – we can experience an in-pouring of light or grace so sublime we are left breathless with understanding that we are living in a benevolent universe.  We are given the grace of understanding that we are loved and forgiven no matter what we have done or have not done.  We open to a reality that is pure beingness –  the grand frequency that contains all other dimensions and realities – a primary order of pure potentiality.  This is where we find, as St. Francis so eloquently said, That Which is Looking is That Which is Being Seen.

Getting past the small story to the larger Weltenschaaung, trusting that our lives mean something, then letting go into the Mind that is Minding, takes courage and discipline.  It takes a devotion to trusting that our suffering is authentic.  And ultimately, it takes brave understanding to allow ourselves the realization that we are not the Doer but the Done, not the Thinker but the Thought.

And as soon as we think we have found meaning in any of it, it is gone….  And we begin questioning all of it…and it is gone…






Homer Hanuman Ram Dog:  June 9, 2003 – June 21, 2017

Homer taught me everything I know about God, as did his predecessor, a Golden Retriever called Shiva.  From them I learned how to be a disciple; and from them I learned how to be a master.  I learned how to wait for instruction from God, twisting in pain if I went against what I knew – the will of God revealed to me if I waited.

Homer Hanuman Ram Dog used to corral the children if they got too rowdy in the pool.  He gave slurp-baths to Odysseus and Boots, our two cats, who welcomed his sloppy drool as they preened themselves by the fire. He helped me through the bad times when the family blew apart and my health faltered and the marriage ended.  He was there.  Always there.  Allowing me to bury my head in his neck and cry.  When he slept his fur smelled like popcorn and his feet smelled like Fritos.

Because of his compromised health and his crippled legs and spine, Homer tried and tried to join groups in the dog park.  No pack would have him.  He would run up to a few dogs to try and play, but they usually attacked him, leaving him dirty and sometimes with a bloody lip.  What did he do? He ran to another pack to be accepted.  Eventually Homer would be accepted by the chihuahua’s.  And the memory I have of those dog park trips (not only having to learn the most difficult parenting skills of not interfering when the other dogs took him down) are of Homer, an 80 pound yellow lab, playing with 2 or 3 little dogs, running after them, letting them climb all over his belly and nip at his face, enjoying life like I have never seen a dog enjoy life, giving these chihuahua’s something to brag about when they got home – perfectly content to be mocked by the other grownups and chastised for being in the small dog park; being barked at by the larger dogs and by other, non-compromised Labradors.  What lessons we learned in humility!  What lessons my Homer taught me in patience and acceptance!

And I?  I will never forget the look from Homer’s long face when we became lovers, so long ago.  I will never forget that Homer, even in his later years and with his crippled condition that made him fall all the time, never walked through a door before me.  He waited, allowing the woman he loved and served to go before him.  He never once, not once, rushed the door.  He waited, collapsing on his rotten back legs, his hips a phenomenon of the past, his gratitude nonetheless apparent for yet another day with the One He Loved and Who Loved Him back. He waited, he watched, he served, he loved.  And he could no longer walk.  He hopped.  Homer hopped for the last two years of his life, and when he couldn’t hop, he used his front legs to drag himself. He was just so very happy to be Homer Hanuman Ram Dog.  Nothing else.  Just my good, good Homer. Just Homer, the dog.

Homer taught me how to love.  He taught me how to be of service.  He taught me everything about being a disciple.

I hope you are hopping in heaven, Homer, playing with the chihuahua’s. I think I can hear you there right now….

June 22, 2017


For Byron Katie

I hurt him for the first time today.   In all his noble life, Homer Hanuman Ram dog had never whined or whimpered, at least to my knowledge, and this made it all- the- more unbearable, when his legs got stuck in the seat tracks of the backseat of my Volvo.  I was trying to get him out of the car and he got stuck.  His nearly 14 year-old arthritic hips and legs got stuck, and he cried out.

I sprang to action and hurled myself over the back of the convertible, wrenching my back and pulling a muscle in my groin, trying to free him as he lay there.  When we were both finally free, sweat pouring down my face, Homer hobbled out to the green grass of the front yard and lay down, as I lay on the floor of the garage and assessed my injuries.  As I did so, I felt Homer come to me and lick my face, licking away my tears of frustration and pain.

My devoted Homer later gnawed gratefully on a marrow bone on the living room rug. This seemed to spur the two cats, T Bone and Jenny, into frenzied action.  Back and forth they zoomed,  knocking over pictures and vases, thundering around the room as I sat on the couch, attempting to read.  The craziness culminated in the two felines hissing and spitting on the back of a wing chair, turning it over, causing them to scatter, hissing and screaming loudly.  Homer continued with his bone; I with my book.

A bit later I looked up from my book, noticing things had become ominously quiet.  I looked for the three animals, finding them in the tiniest room in the house:  my office.  The sight burst my heart open with love and gratitude.  Jenny, all six pounds of her (soaking wet), was sprawled out on my leather chair, sound asleep.  T Bone, a somewhat feral tabby and a 13- pound monster, was sound asleep on a small stool, his paws outstretched toward Jenny.  And Homer?  He was sound asleep, his back pressed against the couch, the couch where 15-20 patients talked to me weekly.  This couch is where Homer worked.  He assisted me with these people, and had done so for the last 14 years.

Sunlight streamed in the window and hit all three animals at the same time, and my heart began to hurt in my chest as it swelled with love.  How could these three animals touch me like this?  How could they represent love so completely that I longed for nothing else when I looked at them?  How did I know God through these furry beings and have no doubt in Her existence when I looked at them?  Why did I break down with joy and compassion when one of them yawned?  What was this thing that caused me to cease my barbaric yawp from time to time when I touched my sweet, sweet babies?

I crept softly over to the couch, and sat down.  In that moment, I remembered the time I had been shown the secret of the Universe thirty years before, lying on this very couch.  It was another time, in another city, on another coast, and the couch was covered in a different fabric.  Tears filled my eyes as I remembered the time. I had awakened from a deep slumber to behold the most beautiful sight I had truly ever beheld:  the sight of my infant daughter’s face as she napped in her swing next to me as I napped on the couch.

Chrissy’s face was arranged in a smile that almost caused me to stop breathing – it was the smile that created the Universe.  It was the smile of one’s Original Face.  Somehow, I was given a glimpse of this before the weight of thought and what we call reality consumed me again.  Her smile covered her entire face, and a gurgling sound came from somewhere deep within this smile, as her chuckle and grin doubled back upon itself and I saw the Truth of All Things, morphed and imprinted on what I called my daughter, but what God called His Beloved.  I could see into eternity, and I will never forget what I saw.

Sometimes we are given this gift, as I was given it again today in looking at Homer, T Bone and Jenny. I was given the promise of the absolute nature of God, the extension of pure kindness and devotion.  Perhaps we get these glimpses to help us remember along the way to keep on keeping on.  To remind us that there is no problem.  No problem, ever.  To help us remember Who We Are and Why We Are Here.

When the love becomes too much to bear, Homer licks our face or T Bone knocks over a vase.  These stories are given us so that we do not implode or explode or burn too quickly.  Love is a fire, and we want to consume this fire with reverence and awareness.

Love is meant to break our hearts.  Love is meant to split us in two again and again.

Let love break your heart again and again.  Let love break you in two….



 I remember the Blue Room as if it were the guest room in my home today although I have not been back to Rockland for fifty years.

The Blue Room lay opposite Mama and Daddy’s room, facing the waterway. These two rooms were the brightest of the five bedrooms, and I remember the lace curtains fluttering at the two large windows facing the water.

I do not remember if this room had side windows, but surely it did, as each room in the Plantation house had enormous proportions. What I do remember were the twin mahogany beds with the blue bedspreads, and Homie-Homie’s Chippendale chest on the wall opposite the windows, overlooking everything in its hulking magnificence.

This is the room where everyone who stayed here, saw her. Our guests would come down in the morning and report the same dream, or ask us if a housekeeper, a “pretty woman, in a floral dress,” had come into the room during the night.  Every single guest!  It got silly and somewhat ridiculous, so we either stopped having guests or Mama put them in the back guest room, which had, in an unbelievable and odd – and only Southern feat of agility and weird taste – four double beds next to one another for the house party my sister and I had only once – yet the beds remained.  This room shared a huge bathroom with my brother.  The bathroom boasted a large and comfortable deep tub, a tub I liked to escape into when no one was looking.

But the Blue Room ghost? How could everyone see her?  Who was she?

Rockland Plantation had been built as a summer plantation for a wealthy landowner in Charleston in the early 1800’s. This landowner and his family liked, as did most Charlestonians, to escape to the low country islands during the most oppressive heat of the humid summers.

Wadmalaw Island is beautiful. It is simply unspoiled, and the old homes remain, their stories and spirits still whispering their secrets…but what was ours?  Were we ever to know?

Old legend had it that the owner of the Plantation had been cremated in the large fireplace in the Grand Room. So my sister and I avoided that room like the plague, except when we threw up down the chimney into that very fireplace after drinking beer and eating coconut cake with Vinnie and Gayle.  Somebody had to clean it up, and since I was usually the responsible one, I cleaned up the puke, putting myself into some sort of trance, not only to avoid the horror of the ghost which might pop out at me, but because I was, and remain, phobic about vomit.

I liked to imagine that the blue woman in the floral dress (did I mention she had a blue-ish tinge, people said?) was the lover or mistress of the Master of the Plantation, and she visited him at night, singing spirituals and watching him as he slept.  I liked to imagine she adored him, watching him, suffering the heartbreak of unrequited love, still wondering where he was, coming again and again each night when a body or bodies inhabited the bedroom where the Master and his wife surely slept. Except my young, poetic story did not fit the image, as this woman was not unhappy or longing; she seemed happy, people said, and she did not fill anyone with sadness or fear.

How I wish I had the courage to sleep in that room when I was a young girl! How I wish I could have seen this woman myself, spoken to her, contextualized her in my mind instead of my imagination.  How I wish I could have spoken myself to the guests we had who reported the same thing, again and again.  The smile on Mama’s face when our guests came to the kitchen for coffee, knowing what they would say.  But this was a time when “children were seen and not heard” and it would have been not only discouraged but possibly punished had I spoken up to houseguests.

How many nights I would write my poems to that blue woman, sure I had her sequestered in the corner of my mind where sadness and longing lived, a Maud Gonne to her William Butler Years, perhaps even an Heloise to her Abelard.

How many nights my heart hammered in terror as sounds came up the stairs as my sister slept softly in the bed next to mine, sure that the Master had come back to life, coming up the stairs to reclaim what was surely his, whatever it was, and there would be some grand coupling in the Blue Room, to which I was not privy, but could only imagine and hear? The Spanish moss outside the windows would appear as ghosts in the moonlight, and try as I might, eyes scrunched tight, my mind would conjure the image of coupling and ecstasy in the Blue Room; my ears would hear what no one else in the house would apparently hear, the sounds of the reunion of Master and Mistress.

Coming to breakfast in the morning, stopping first to greet the Labrador Retrievers in the front hall, my mother would ask me why I looked so tired. How could my family not know what I knew?  How did they not have access to this world of spirit that lived beneath the surface when the veils separated at Rockland Plantation?

I was glad we moved from Rockland when I was 16. I was happy to move to a home which had been built in the last fifty years, rather than the former two hundred years.  I was happy to move to a home which carried nothing more than a few stories of the past – nothing that could not be seen with the eyes opened or closed.  A home which had no colors. A home with rooms which required little psychic effort: beige rooms., brown rooms, pale rooms. When I walk into a home with no spirits, I breathe a sigh of relief.  No work to do.

But the Blue Room at Rockland still apparently lives on. How do I know?  My sister went to visit the current owners several years ago.  When they took her upstairs and into the front room, what we called the Blue Room, they spoke of the “ghost in the room, a woman in a floral dress…”


From the Rockland Series


For Blakely 12/21/2015 

She must have come from some sort of wolf family. I remember saying that to someone as I endured yet another tantrum from my 2-year old daughter.

Her tantrums – usually initiated by my saying “no” to something – were more like fits:  frothy spittle coming from her mouth, a low and pervasive growl mingled with outright howling and screaming, on and on and on.  I knew they were age appropriate, and I knew they had a beginning and an end.  But I swear to God, they seemed like she was purging some sort of demon that lived in the bowels of her soul, and it was difficult to endure these fits, and more difficult, I would imagine, to witness.

I was meditating then. Every day for many hours.  We lived, for the most part, with our spiritual teacher in her Ashram in upstate New York.  So, when her tantrums happened in public in other places, like on the streets of New York City, I was able to hold space for her with great equanimity.  I was able even to endure the well-intentioned people who tried to intervene and “help” – usually people who were scared and trying to take care of their feelings of impotence and helplessness rather than truly being of any use; so I could simply be quiet and spacious, as my daughter raged on and on and on.  I could even detach from the harsh admonitions of the more vicious women who would say things like: “Well, if she were my daughter…”  I would usually begin a Tonglen practice at that point, knowing full well these were shamed based women, projecting their self-hatred, and I could usually muster a kindred compassion and kindness for their shock and anger and feelings of impotence at watching us both experience these fits of toxicity.

These tantrums happened in airports. They happened on the streets of New York City.  They happened at home.  Once, when my daughter had a tantrum in a woman’s bathroom in an airport, I confined her behind a stall door as she frothed and screamed and growled and actually gnashed at the door with her teeth to try and escape.  One woman actually said she was going to call the police, and that is when I gave her a slightly withering stare and said:  “Please do.  I could use a break.”

I was getting tired by the second year of this mayhem. We were living in upstate New York that summer, between my daughter’s second and third year of life.  We had a room in an old hotel secured by the Ashram where devotees lived and performed their sadhana.  It was a gorgeous existence, and very difficult for those of us with the seva of child-rearing.  But my teacher said we always came with what we most needed to do and learn, and although I yearned for a more public and/or interesting seva (than taking care of an oppositional and difficult child), I was performing my work diligently each day:  yoga, chanting, seva, meditation, and a very austere life of study and prayer.


It was after lunch one day that one of my daughter’s tantrums began. And it was a doozy.  She was full tilt boogy into blood curdling screams and growls, which actually concerned me since the dharma of the Ashram was one of strict silence, when a resounding knock came at our door and a harsh woman’s voice called out “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THAT CHILD?”

For the first time I collapsed a bit. I opened the door, and said:  “She is purifying herself.  Mind your own business.”  And I closed my door, and wearily sat on the end of the bed, looking at the top of the bed, where my daughter looked uncannily like Linda Blair , frothing, screaming, growling, winding up to attack me, scratch me, bite me.

For some reason, my eyes fell on a book by my teacher’s teacher, Baba Muktananda, which lay on the bed. It was open to a page where my eyes immediately sought a sentence as if it glared neon at me.  The simple sentence said: “Hear God in the tantrum of a child.”

My breath caught for a brief moment in my throat. At the same moment I looked at my daughter.  All sound had stopped.  She had thrown back her head and her mouth was wide open.   Blue pearls were cascading from her silent mouth toward the ceiling.

The Shaivite scriptures tell us that all of creation is contained in the Blue Pearl, and that God appears to us as a Blue Pearl, a dot in our consciousness. When I had first awakened to God some years before, it was these blue dots which shimmered in my vision everywhere; with my eyes opened or closed, my vision was swirling masses of small blue vortices of consciousness.  Now they were tumbling, falling, yet somehow also rising out of my daughter’s mouth.

Suddenly my daughter fell back on the bed into a deep slumber.

I was to join her moments later, enfolding her sweet body into my arms, and the two of us slept deeply, awakening several hours later.

When we awakened, the world was completely new, fresh and fragrant, and completely different than what had existed only hours before.

My daughter never had a tantrum again.







Loving Faye

Katie Law Goodwin, 2015

There are moments that seem to occur outside of time, moments that ping my heart and curl and nurture the corners of my mind when I remember them.

One of these occurred when my daughter was two days’ old.  She was alone with me in my room at Lenox Hill Hospital on 77th Street.  The nurse had lifted her from her bassinette into my arms and I was attempting to breastfeed her.  My memory says she was a slippery little eel, naked and warm, but I am certain she was swaddled in some way on this bitter November day in New York City.  So it was not the slippery texture of her skin – or was it?  Was I attempting at that point to change her diaper?  At any rate, it was the twist of her head and the plaintive, high cry she made as I shifted her in my arms, either to the changing pad or to my other breast that bonded me to her forever.  Whatever happened, whatever the texture of her skin or clothing or hair or the smells I smelled, it was the cry she made which caused me to know severe and true love for the first time in my life.  Whatever it was, it overcame me, and I realized what I now call devotion, duty, love, fidelity and the vast overwhelm of a heart willing to die for another – all in that moment outside of time.  Something in me but not of me knew I was Cammie’s forever, and I have been hers for the last 25 years in the same powerful way.

We were in my sister’s kitchen in Florida, long before Cammie’s birth.  Her son, Balthazar, was a toddler.  I stood in the doorway as she cleaned up, watching her wipe down a countertop.  It was the power and fragility in her wrist in that moment that un-did me.  My heart leapt silently from my chest to join with hers’ in powerful cathexis; I was moved beyond words by the movement of her hand and wrist.  She was speaking.  What was she saying?  She was so tired.  Could she not feel the power and love sent as wave upon wave of sustaining energy from my mind and heart to her own?  Could she not feel the absolute love and joining in that moment outside of all time?  I wanted to give her all that I had; I would have laid down my very life for her, so great and all-consuming was this love.

I have previously written about the sustained safety and feeling of all-rightness in the presence of my meditation master.  I will not repeat that experience since it does not truly relate to the experiences I recount above.  But as I sit for long periods of time at the feet of my true master, I lose all sense of moment v. non-moment, time v. non-time.  There is no momentary “ah” of love – it is absolute and all-encompassing, complete and sure.

Faye has been gone for some time now.  Of course, no one is ever “gone.”   When I think of my sister, she is as present as she ever was.  I often see an image she sent me when she was in Africa in the 1970’s.  She is throwing a Frisbee, and her long blonde hair is swinging behind her.  Her jeans are rolled up and she is laughing, skinny and free.  The encumbrances and burdens which were to overtake her in the later years are non-evident in the freedom of her posture.  This is how I remember my sister.  I try not to think of the last twenty years of her addiction, which led her to scapegoat and target me as the split off projection of her own self-hatred.

Our own dear mother had done the same thing to me in the last years of her life.  She was beat down by the vicissitudes of Daddy’s gambling.  Oh, Daddy never “gambled,” really.  He was a classy stockbroker, but I grew up noticing great wealth then not-so-great wealth.  I do not know how a woman of Mama’s stature continued to keep her mouth shut when she noticed stockpiles of cash in the bank and then noticed that her money was gone.  Mama and Daddy seemed to always be living for “when we had plenty of money again” and it was Daddy who was going to make the money for them.  And make it he did.  But he couldn’t hold on to it, and he continued to invest in small, volatile stocks which sent their accounts plummeting, again and again.

When Daddy became ill with prostate cancer he sought out advice from me regarding his diet and his health.  Had Mama been stronger and in her right mind, she could have overcome her petty jealousies and welcomed the help my father wanted from me.  But she was threatened, as she was later to confess to me, so she treated me terribly when I visited, audibly mocking me and humiliating me in front of the rest of the family.  Faye had been banished from the household for some time due to one too many drunken tirades against Daddy; and Daddy, usually my greatest advocate, was too tired or sick to stand up for me.  And my brother, who I could usually count on when we were alone, also withdrew into the confusing and dysfunctional family system.  My brother, like the rest of us,  tumbled into the void of rage and helplessness pervading us all now too frequently.

Mama was relentlessly compensatory for my sister’s inadequacies, or those she perceived in my sister, apparently identifying, having been left in the cold by her own father at quite a young age. Had she been alive today, and had I been younger, and had we both been able to be more conscious, we would have obtained therapy.  Perhaps Mama would have been open to work through her difficult issues with me.  Perhaps she would see how she protected my sister at the expense of my own well-being and the certain guilt this caused in her.  Perhaps she would see how conflicted she was, admiring me, but now knowing what to do with me.  Perhaps she would see how she married her own father, and then got angry that her daughters also had a father to whom she was married.

And Daddy, who had previously and nobly been my champion, now looked the other way, or into his glass of bourbon, so I was left alone, to be humiliated and shamed wherever I cast my shadow.  Here I was, this meddlesome and unwanted daughter, the one Daddy loved.

And Faye? I would have liked to protect her when things were rough; when the cost of winning our parent’s approval and love often caused war and destruction.    Our sad and isolated family system had taught its’ members to compete for the one place in the family where one might survive, as if love had to  be earned, and if one were lucky enough to win that small piece of the love-pie left on the plate, one won the dubious gift of what? – seeing the others slaughtered, slighted, ignored, abandoned? Perhaps left with stories rolling off the educated tongue like the mint juleps which slipped down my throat when Grandfather made them for me as I sat on his lawn and watched the night disappear into my mind?  How different it would have been if I had been able to simply love my sister the way I do now, if I had been able to profess this love and proffer help and guidance and attention all through the years.  But opiates and alcohol were lethal to Faye – they took her to places in her mind which saw only her sister as the evil shadow she had disowned.  I was lost to her, and she whined victimhood and sorrow and despair to any and all who could tolerate her for long.

But she was not always like this.  When did it happen?  I had always loved her.  She was my right arm.  She was my very own self.  She was my sister.  There was no life without Faye.  Kaye and Faye.  We were inseparable.  It was not as if I thought about her.  I thought about her as little and as much as I thought about myself.  She was just there, just as I was just there.  It was just so.

But in retrospect, some insidious disease was lying incipient in her.  She constantly compared us.  She had a mirror taped to the inside of her books, and conned our teachers into believing she was reading and studying, when in fact she was looking at herself, hour upon hour.  She would ask me, “do I look like you?  Is my lip like yours’?  Are my eyes like yours?”  I could never understand, so I pretended it did not happen. We were identical twins.  I could not stand the discomfort this caused me, and the apparent agony it caused her.  I went into a deliberate form of dismissal and denial from most of which I believe I have never recovered.

Sometimes I fantasize about traveling to see my sister today.  We would sit before a fire and listen to one another, relishing our victories, saddened at our tragedies.  We would encourage, love and cherish one another, knowing we were the only ones left.   We would cluck and mock our childish, churlish younger brother and his sometimes silly wife.  We would refuse to perpetuate the family curse of isolation and dismissal; of estrangement and triangulation and negative bonding, one against another.

I miss Faye.  I miss her almost every day.  I miss the Frisbee girl from Africa, so free and enviable, so delighted in her own sense of ease and happiness.  She is who is with me today.  I love Faye, and no one will ever split us up again.  And though gone in bodily form, I speak to Mama and Daddy as much today as ever.  I know they are with me.  I listen to them and I speak to them.  But mostly I listen.

And at night, as my dreams take me wherever I command, I spend most of my dreamtime with Faye.   I forget the old stories of disappointment, heartache, betrayal, victimhood – all the vagaries and difficulties of a life I thought I led until I realized it could soon be over, all the ways I have told myself estrangement and loneliness are justified because I am right and they are wrong.

A decent regret for harms done, a day of memories kinder than a child’s laugh, a lovingkindness meditation offered at the foot of an altar; tender, soft- belly for what we call the past, this is loving my sister today.  Letting go of that which was formerly broken, unheard, judged, forged from old cravings and aversions:  these have now become the unconditioned experiences of what had been a conditioned and hardened mind.

Some ancient force is called forth today as hindrance after obstacle are removed without effort or intention.  Loving Faye has become the clear path back to My Original Face.


-gaté gaté paragaté parasamgaté bodhe swaha!-


A Tribute

My plane was over three hours late. I agonized as the plane circled the Charleston airport, knowing my father was waiting, knowing the waiting area had no chairs in which to sit, knowing he would be there, standing, uncomplaining, waiting.

This was the first time I had returned home since Mom had died, two month’s previous. Mom’s was a startling and quick death – 12 days from start to finish – and Mom, in characteristic thoughtfulness, had let no one know she was sick, so when we saw the scans of her lungs and brain riddled with tumors, we had each and every one been astonished at the depth and severity of her cancer.

Mom was the love of Dad’s life. For over 60 years my mother and father had been by each other’s side.   As I walked with my carry-on bag toward the gate, my father broke into a big grin. I was stabbed with love and gratitude for him, for the fact that he would never complain about the long wait, that I would never know if he had been uncomfortable or tired, that he would never complain or even give voice to any discomfort in his body, and that this teaching had carried me long and hard into the vicissitudes and difficulties in my own life.  I was grateful and filled with awe sometimes that this 87 year old ex-Marine could endure so much with a stiff upper lip, yet be so filled with love and kindness to me, his eldest daughter.

I folded into Dad’s arms and he held me for a long and hard hug. He then gave his characteristic “tap, tap” which meant it was time to break away and begin walking.  We got into his old, rundown car and made the long trip from the Charleston airport to Georgetown, arriving well after midnight.  Not once did he complain about losing sleep or being tired.  In fact, when I awoke in the morning, coffee was made, the paper was laid out for me in Mom’s place at the breakfast table, and a cereal bowl and spoon were laid as well (with a note),  as he had gone for his morning constitutional.

The week I stayed with my Dad without my Mom, for the first time in my life, was painful and difficult for me, yet strangely one of the best weeks I had ever spent. In fact, at the end of the week, my father told me he had more fun that week than he had ever remembered.  I had a hard time falling asleep in the upstairs bedroom next to my parent’s room, peeking through the door to the bed they had shared for over 60 years, seeing Dad asleep on his side of the bed, wondering how he could do it, how he could fall asleep without her next to him, when he would crack up, when he would certainly begin his descent into the hell I was sure would come (and this did happen, but mercifully, not for another year.)

I cleaned Dad’s house from stem to stern. The tumors in Mom’s brain had made her addled, and the house, over 200 year’s old, was dusty and moldy, so I turned it inside out.  I polished silver and furniture.  I scrubbed toilets.  Glennie, down at the shrimp docks, saw fit to bring us so much fresh shrimp I boiled us a potful almost every night, and we sat at the kitchen table, melted butter at one end, cocktail sauce at the other, my homemade slaw in a bowl, the ubiquitous and essential white rice in the other bowl, and we ate and ate and ate like there was never going to be another bite to eat on this entire planet.

And the cat, Mr. Chrissy, (God only knows where the names of my parent’s animals come from), became gregarious again, and began coming inside and curling up at the end of my parent’s bed, as he had done before.

My days with Dad took on a rhythm, which I now realize probably mimicked my Mom and Dad’s time together. I would accompany Dad on his first walk of the day often down to the water and shrimp docks, then set about doing housework.  After lunch and a nap, we would go on an outing, usually a drive, often to Pawley’s Island, an enclave of beautiful, old homes on the ocean, where Dad had played as a child in the summer, and where Mom and Dad had taken us each summer when we were kids.  A haven for those with old money and a place where new money and newly built houses were an absolute impossibility, Pawley’s Island was a place of ease and almost clumsy wealth.  With its’ ragtag beauty and laid back people, perfect clapboard houses and sparkling white sand, I felt like I had truly returned home.  I got my first kiss on the pier at Pawley’s.

My father’s birthday is October 25, and had he lived, he would be 94 years old this year, 2015. He died two years ago, at the age of 92.  He was considerate and kind when he died, having just finished dinner.  He ate his ice cream and put his head down.  Then he died.  Just as he was in whatever this thing is called ‘life,’ he was courteous and respectful in this thing we all call ‘death.’  He was courtly and mannered and caused no trouble.  He just died.

I was unable to visit him the last few years of his life, counting on my brother to keep his commitment to call me with reports each time he visited. But my brother failed to keep his commitment, leaving me to rely on a few calls every now and then to the Assisted Living facility to hear Dad’s childlike voice, trying to gauge from it if there was any issue to which I should tend.

Dad had fallen down the slanted stairs in his pre-war house several years after Mom’s death – probably very deliberately trying to kill himself – but instead of dying had fallen victim to a severe subdural hematoma, which had left him mentally compromised.  He was eventually put into Assisted Living, and my sister, God bless her soul, cared for him until his life ended.  But my sister had, many years before, turned against me in bitterness and envy, so I could not rely on her for information nor could I visit, as my visits triggered her deep hatred and she was likely to strike out at me, usually in ways which affected my livelihood.  I therefore steered clear of South Carolina during my Dad’s last years.  It was best this way, and I was deeply grateful for the times I had previous with Dad, before his downfall.  Family curses run deep, and it is often best to respect and understand them rather than challenge them.

The last time I was to see Dad, it had been his birthday again. That is why this time of year hurts so.  It holds a morphogenic trauma, a memory which can never be burned away.  In fact, it should not be burned away.  For it was this last visit I realized Dad was not okay, he was not processing his loss, and he was drinking heavily, trying to drown the impossible grief he had buried at first.  With no hope and the certain improbability of healing, he had kept drinking and drinking, to the point of oblivion many nights. My last trip to see my father had been difficult and humiliating, resulting in neighbors helping me carry my proud father up the stairs and to bed as he could not, quite literally, walk.  After I left this time, Dad hurled himself down the stairs.

And it was this trip, the afternoon of my leaving (for I had rented a car by this time to drive myself back and forth to the Charleston airport) wherein something in me recognized I would never see my father again.

Not only had Dad been drinking heavily each evening, but during the day, he had begun the troubling behavior of saying “Let’s go visit your Ma!” We would get into the car, always silently, and journey down Highway 17 to the beautiful Hospice building Mom had been so instrumental in building in backward, pre-Revolutionary War Georgetown.  It was here she had died, in a beautiful, mahogany four-poster bed, thinking she was in her bedroom at home, with her family and loved ones around her, loving her more than anyone could be loved on this plane of so-called existence.  Dad would drive in the driveway of Hospice and circle the parking lot, slowly, his jaw set, his eyes dull yet somehow troubled.  We would do this two or three times daily.

On my last afternoon, my bags packed and in the trunk of my rental car, Dad and I were sitting outside on his porch. The day was balmy, and he slowly, without any further chit-chat, got up to walk me to my car.  I suddenly began to cry, hard.  He held me and said “Save it, Kathy!  You will need it!”  Then he looked hard into my eyes and hugged me so tight it took my breath away.  Then I was gone without awareness of driving my car.  Suddenly something drove around the block as awareness of a body, a heart and mind crept into me again, and I pulled over to  sob and sob.  I knew I would never see my father again.

As difficult as things are with my sister, I do have a great deal of sympathy and compassion for her, having moved from Florida to South Carolina to be with Daddy, only to have him become so ill so quickly after her move. How disappointing this must have been for her, with fantasies of sitting on his front porch in the rockers, sipping mint juleps in the afternoons.  But this was not to be, and she was thrust into a caretaker position long before anyone could have wanted or assumed this role.

When Dad died I did not go to his funeral. I knew I would not go, knowing the funeral would be for the living, not for Dad.  I had said my goodbye to him that day, when I had wept.

But I did go back to South Carolina two years ago, for his birthday, when we had a small memorial service at the family graveyard, in Sumter, South Carolina.   I was deeply moved at lunch afterwards, looking at my brother and sister and the children, realizing that things would be different now, that my sister and brother would surely get over their small and petty differences and would include me in their lives.  I said so and held them each tightly before my daughter and I left to begin our journey back to the West.

Several days upon my return I was served with papers for a lawsuit, initiated by my sister, with the full knowledge and apparent support of my brother.

What my father gave me was the knowledge that he had my back, that he would never betray me, that his mind would never be filled with bitterness or envy. I never heard him speak an ill word about or to anyone.  He offered presence.  He offered loyalty.  He was there for me.  He furthermore celebrated my independence and freedom from the limitations and expectations of being, not only a woman, but a Southern woman.

My sister and brother, and even my mother when she became mentally ill, punished me for being preferred by my father. This is their cross to bear.  It has hurt me each and every time, but I truly would never trade places with them.

This time of year is hard for me. It is a time of incredible loneliness for me.  It is a time when I am told, in word and in deed, that in order to have a “family,” I would have to become a hostage.  This is not a price I am willing to pay, so I prefer to go it alone, knowing I am okay, knowing I only have to cross the threshold of memory, once again, into the sanctuary of my father’s arms.

Katie Law Goodwin © 2015