Sunday, March 29, 2009


(Illustration by Angela C. Werneke, from MEDICINE CARDS: THE DISCOVERY OF POWER THROUGH WAYS OF ANIMALS, by Jamie Sams & David Carson, a book I bought in spring of 1999 during a period of unrelenting emotional stress.)

In May of 1955, my sisters and I had chicken pox. Still have a small scar from that. My guess is that all the kids in our neighborhood and at school came down with it that spring. We called it "Chicken Pops."

Just as I was feeling unusually good and ready to draw again, I've come down with a second bout of shingles. The first was in spring of 2001 -- a time of continuing severe emotional stress for me. As you may already know, shingles is caused by the same virus as chicken pox. For many people the virus remains dormant for the rest of their lives. For others it becomes active in times when one's immune system is not working well or in times of emotional stress. Previous to recent years, I was plagued with frequent upper respiratory infections that would linger for weeks and weeks. I also suffered from environmental allergies -- a sign of immune system dysfunction. My immune system must be working relatively well now because I haven't had a cold for several years and have not suffered from allergies in the way I used to. Still experience emotional stress, though. Especially this past year.

The medical term for shingles is herpes zoster. Herpes means snake and zoster means girdle. In my first experience with herpes zoster, the "snake girdle" was at my waist on my right side and very painful. This time it is not as severe, with numerous small "snakes" attacking my right leg. I'm not one who is afraid of snakes, but I do have respect for them. I had a dream a few days ago that the pattern of the rash along the dermatomes was actually quite beautiful to see. A work of art. Something to look at with wonder and appreciation.

I'm wondering if there is something about feeling unusually good that is stressful for me. On the other hand, I'm approaching the first anniversary of R's death.

There's some blue sky, sunshine and bird song this morning. Yesterday I saw a pair of wood ducks out on Scudder Pond. Probably my favorite sign of spring.

As might be guessed, I'm not feeling well physically and will be taking time away from blogging for a few weeks. A good time for just plain book reading in bed. In a few weeks, it may be warm enough to have all the windows open and for some good long walks in the woods!

Friday, March 27, 2009


I've been meaning to post this ever since I found the link at Chatoyance, Lori Witzel's blog. Gave me much to think about. Especially liked the story about Tom Waits in traffic. Have not read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert but do like what she has to say here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


"Well, even in these depths of misery I felt my energy revive & said to myself, I shall get over it somehow, I shall set to work again with my pencil, which I had cast aside in my deep dejection, & I shall draw again, & ever since I have had the feeling that everything has changed for me, & now I am in my stride & my pencil has become slightly more willing & seems to be getting more so by the day. My over-long & over-intense misery had discouraged me so much that I was unable to do anything."

(Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh in a letter, p. 79 from THE LETTERS OF VINCENT VAN GOGH)

I'm re-reading the letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've loved this song since the moment I first heard it. I couldn't help but see R "in the sky above, in the tall grass, in the ones I love." Still do. The album's liner notes said something like, "Somewhere a red-haired girl smiles." I smiled when I read that. I hadn't smiled quite like that in a long time.

Haven't been able to light the candle lantern on my porch lately because of wind. A few days ago I added a colander as an impromptu windbreak. It works!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Being able to see the home movies of R with his parents and his nine siblings throughout his childhood and part way through his teenage years is deeply affecting for me. As the date of R's death last year approaches, the recent gift of the home movies from R's sister fills me with gratitude. R and I were born within 24 hours of each other in 1949. He was a one year old in New Jersey. I was a one year old in California. There is healing for me in telling our story in words and photos and drawings and paintings. It wasn't all good. It wasn't all bad, either. It was something else.

It's still in the thirties here, but I took a short walk with a friend yesterday. This is a view from Marine Park, looking out at Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands:

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I have the same question that Dale asked in his comment on my post from a few days ago titled "FREEDOM." What to call the above image and others like it? Are they truly drawings?

They are not drawings in the traditional sense, but they are done using the same mind/eye/hand coordination required for drawing on paper. What is different is that I make the drawing/painting movements on my computer track pad, and those index finger/hand/arm movements result in marks on my laptop screen drawing plane.

On the other hand :-) , the process is much like fingerpainting. As I move my index finger on the computer track pad, I am reminded of childhood experiences of using my index finger to move fingerpaint around on paper to create images.

The now-obsolete Apple Painting program on my iBookG4 allows me to vary the size of the lines, to blend the lines as if I were using charcoal and to use various other functions that are much more tedious on a computer than simply drawing on paper. The program will easily make perfect circles and lines, if I choose, but I choose to draw freehand. The best thing about the process, especially given that I am unemployed, is that I don't have to buy art supplies, except for printer ink and paper to print the images on.

The resulting image on a computer screen, though, appears to be a woodcut or a linocut, a silk screen print or, possibly, a scratchboard drawing. I have so far used the term "trackpad drawing" to describe these images I have created freehand.

It's something like drawing a picture on packed beach sand with one's index finger, without touching the sand. I'd rather be on a Northern California beach drawing in the sand, but I can make the best of what is right at hand :-)

("A Question For The Teacher" is a trackpad drawing from several years ago by old girl of the north country. The day lilies are thriving this spring in that planter on my porch.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


R's sister emailed that she was sending me a DVD of their family's home movies. When I checked my mail yesterday, there it was. I had seen the home movies in R's family's living room in the distant past and never imagined that I would see that footage of R and his family again after all these years.

The home movie clip where the image above originated was probably taken in the winter of 1965("in the winter of '65, we were hungry, just barely alive" -- The Band), when we were 16, a year before R and I met, three years before he was drafted into the Army. When we were 52, he told me that he had almost died from a drug overdose just before he met me in December of 1966.

In my first days of friendship with R, he frequently surfed as well as fished at Miramar Beach, which is across Highway 1 and down the road from the house where he lived with his mother and father and six of his siblings, the youngest of whom were fraternal twins born in December of 1964. His oldest brother may well have been married by then. His next older brother was in the Army in Thailand. R had become the oldest one who lived at home. He had dropped out of high school and had started working odd jobs and possibly selling drugs. Somewhere I have a drawing I did of him as he stood facing the ocean with his fishing pole.

At 16, I was an extremely shy young woman who loved horses, the ocean, swimming, drawing, the Beatles and Bob Dylan --a girl who spent hours and hours in her bedroom reading books and other hours and hours walking great distances with our family's dog, exploring deep into the countryside outside of city limits. I was 16 and "never been kissed." My self-esteem was so low that I couldn't imagine that I ever would be kissed.

Unable to imagine that I would ever be married, I had the notion that I wanted to be a nurse, and so I volunteered in the pediatrics ward of a nearby hospital as a "Candy Striper," talking with childen who were hospitalized. It didn't take me very long to discover that my life, difficult as it appeared to me, had been a sheltered one. A young boy I talked with calmly told me that he was in the hospital because his father had stabbed him in the stomach with a knife. I had no idea what to say to him beyond that I was sorry that had happened to him. I was in way over my head, not sure at all that I could ever be useful as a nurse or anything else, for that matter. All I knew for sure was that now I wanted to be with R.

After having met R in December of my senior year in high school, I would drive my parents' car to the hospital on Sundays to volunteer my hours and then drive out to the coast, hoping to find R walking on the beach. I told him about the boy. He told me about his friend whose father would get drunk and chase him around the house with a knife. R told me that he never wanted to be a drunk. Drugs, yes. Alcohol, no.

When were 16, both of us listened closely to Bob Dylan and the Beatles. That year we would have been listening to Highway 61 Revisited and Rubber Soul:

"Like a Rolling Stone"
"Tombstone Blues"
"It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry"
"From a Buick 6"
"Ballad of a Thin Man"
"Queen Jane Approximately"
"Highway 61 Revisited"
"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues"
"Desolation Row"


"Drive My Car"
"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"
"You Won't See Me"
"Nowhere Man"
"Think for Yourself"
"The Word"
"What Goes On"
"I'm Looking Through You"
"In My Life"
"If I Needed Someone"
"Run for Your Life"

It was R who called me from California in 2001 and let me know that George Harrison had died. Two weeks after he returned from Vietnam in 1970, he had given me a copy of George Harrison's double album, "All Things Must Pass" as a Christmas present. George Harrison and R both died from brain tumors, but R survived his first bout of lung cancer, going into remission in 2002 and living until April of 2008. He returned to drug and alcohol abuse in those years, and his capacity for physical and emotional abuse of me was clear. For my physical and emotional safety, I had to keep my distance. I detached from him -- first with fear, then with anger, then with love. Anger and fear alone would have killed me.

A year ago yesterday, R suffered acute respiratory failure at the VA hospital but was resuscitated and placed on a ventilator and feeding tube in the ICU. Although I was unaware of what had happened to R that Friday, I had a strong urge to call the VA hospital that weekend. Something else told me not to call but I struggled with that something else until Easter morning when I made the call.

His nurse must have thought I was his sister or another nurse and told me everything about his medical condition, including the part about the stage IV brain tumor. In shock, I just listened. She told me that as he was being transported to the ICU, she had asked him a question to see if he was oriented. He spoke in the only way he could, with a "thumbs up." When I heard that, I felt sure that he was going to be okay.

"I keep traveling around the bend
There was no beginning, there is no end
It wasn't born and never died
There are no edges, there is no sides
Oh yeah, you just don't win
It's so far out -- the way out is in
Bow to God and call him Sir
But if you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there"
(George Harrison)

"Unable are the Loved to die/For Love is Immortality"
(Emily Dickinson)

In 2001,when we were 52, R said that the only thing real about him was his soul.

George Harrison quoted this on his last album:

"The soul does not love. It is love itself.
It does not exist. It is existence itself
It does not know. It is knowledge itself
How to Know God, page 130"

You know, I'm not really expecting comments on all this, but it does help that I can write this story as best I can and be heard. Like the boy in the pediatrics ward, I just need to say what happened. That a person I loved and should have been able to trust hurt me. I was implicitly threatened with a Bowie knife on one occasion after R returned from Vietnam and then later struck and knocked to the floor by R, the person I loved more than anyone in the world. I had to leave him but continued to love him. That there were times that I wanted him to hurt, too. It has taken most of my life to sort that out. I can say now that I've come a long way. I'm finding it harder and harder to call it a love story, but it is a soul story.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

small, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

(David Whyte)

("Boy Riding Home Before Dawn" drawn by old girl of the north country early in the morning in January of 2008, using a computer track pad)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Anyone else remember the following episode of "The Twilight Zone" and how it ended?

Although I watched all of the episodes of "The Twilight Zone" as a adolescent, I was unable to watch more than one episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" because it frightened me deeply, seriously undermining my tenuous sense of safety in a world controlled by adults. I'm sure than I'm not the only one who had that experience in 1961. "The Twilight Zone" gave me things to wonder about, but "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" only gave me nightmares.

The Beatles were just warming up in 1961. What a relief it was to see the Beatles for the first time in early 1964. For the first time in my life, I felt glad to be alive. "The Twilight Zone" gave me things to wonder about, but the Beatles gave me hope as a young girl.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


A wise woman, who was traveling in the mountains, found a precious stone in a stream.

She reverently placed the gem in her bag.

The next day, she met another traveler, who was hungry.

The wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone in the wise woman's bag, admired it, and asked the wise woman to give it to him.

The wise woman did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune.

He knew the jewel was worth enough to give him security for the rest of his life.

But a few days later he came back, searching for the wise woman.

When he found her, he returned the stone and said,

"I have been thinking. I know how valuable this stone is, but I would like to exchange it in the hope that you can give me something much more precious. If you can, teach me the secrets about the power you have within you, the power than enabled you to, without hesitation, give me this precious stone."

(from THE SECRET POWER OF YOGA, by Nischala Joy Devi)

Some years ago, it was suggested to me by a yoga teacher that I study several interpretations of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The above story introduces the only interpretation I have that was done by a woman. Interestingly, her focus is on the first two of the four books, and she suggests, "As your curiosity about Books III and IV develops, I encourage you to read the many translations available."

The other interpretations I have been reading are:


THE YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI, translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda.


In the last few days, I've also been listening to THE YOGA SUTRA OF PATANJALI TUTORIAL, chanted by T.K.V. Desikachar. Reading one sutra early each morning and discovering how the Sanskrit words are pronounced is becoming part of my yoga practice.

("Woman Listening" was drawn in chalk pastel by Old Girl of the North Country in the early 1980's)

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Something reminded me of the moment in 1970 when I was at an intersection somewhere along the Alameda de las Pulgas, not far from Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, driving somewhere north in my blue-green 1965 VW. R was in Vietnam. The car radio was on, as it always was in those days. Aretha Franklin started singing "I Say A Little Prayer." I wasn't someone who believed in God or said prayers, but I knew that Aretha understand how much love I felt for R and that I wasn't alone in loving someone that much. I can still feel the joy that song brought to me. For all I know, it was thirty-nine years ago today.

(Notice how Aretha and the back-up singers hold their hands in prayer as a Buddhist might before bowing or as someone in the tradition of Yoga might do as they said, "Namaste.")

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009


Yesterday I heard an unusual bird call. When I turned to look outside, I saw:

What I heard:

This morning:

This afternoon:

"How are you?"

"Perfect, thank you. I'm traveling incognito."

"Oh? As what are you disguised?"

"I am disguised as myself."

"Don't be silly. That's no disguise. That's what you are."

"On the contrary, it must be a very good disguise, for I see that it has fooled you completely."

-- Nasrudin, Sufi Tales

Sunday, March 8, 2009


"Some years after getting sober, I was standing at the kitchen sink in my cottage in Concord, washing dishes. Above the sink was a window through which I could see a row of fifty-foot-tall pine trees that lined the driveway. That day as I did the dishes, I was watching a squirrrel busy doing whatever it is that squirrels do, when I had a powerful experience. A voice inside me, the voice of awarenesss, said to me, "You can't sleep, so now what?" I began to laugh. It was a moment of complete acceptance. I finally understood that I just was how I was. To resist, to fight, to attempt to alter the essential nature of my life, was in fact making matters worse, and now I understood that I simply needed to learn how to live with the reality of who I was. In this moment I discovered that it was here, in the midst of suffering and confusion, that healing and transformation can take place, if I can stop trying to escape."
(p. 54, from At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace, by Claude Anshin Thomas, a monk in the Soto Zen tradition).

"Though my understanding of peace continues to grow and change, I do know that peace is not the absence of conflict; it's the absence of violence within conflict."
(p. 151, from At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace, by Claude Anshin Thomas)

"Everyone has their Vietnam," Thomas writes. "Everyone has their own experience of violence, calamity, or trauma." With simplicity and power, this book offers timelesss teachings on how mindfulness and compassion can transform our lives.
(from the back cover)

Claude Anshin Thomas's memoir helped fill out what I know of R's story. There was so much R couldn't tell me in his letter in 2005 or ever. As for my part, there were passages in his letter that were so disturbing to me that I was afraid to write back to him. It was not so much what he said but something I could hear in his words that reminded me that he suffered from nearly a lifetime of uncontrollable bouts of rage and that he could lash out violently at those he loved and then experience unbearable remorse. When I showed the letter to my Jungian psychotherapist, he suggested that it would probably not be a good idea for me to respond to R's letter.

At the beginning of the letter R wrote, "Took some long walks with Jesus." The Bob he refers to is Bob Dylan.

In the photos above, looking east from my porch, you can see the rapid changes in the sky in the late afternoon yesterday. As I look at the past, I am grateful for the way it can bring me back to the present day and present sky, if I am open to that choice. R loved the changing sky. I wonder what happened to his large painting of huge white clouds in a clear blue sky. He wrote about the beauty of the land and sky in Vietnam in the midst of war.

This morning's sky to the east:

Thursday, March 5, 2009


This Land Was Made For You And Me.

Ever since I saw the above painted image of Woody Guthrie on the YouTube video of Ramblin' Jack Elliott singing "Talking Fish Blues," I've been trying to find the above photo image of Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo from the early 1960's. I remember seeing that photo for the first time in the early 1980's. I've always liked it. Now I like it even more.

Thanks so much to robin andrea for the link to Sita Sings the Blues, a playful telling of the Ramayana.

About an hour ago it started to snow here, but there was blue sky to the north:

Now it's 41 degrees on my porch, and the view looks like this:

Do you see the bald eagles' nest in the cottonwood trees?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


"Mona Lisa and the Clown and the Cool Rain of the Law" -- gouache, watercolor and chalk pastel image by me from the early 1980's.

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." -Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

"The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure. To live it you have to explode." -Bob Dylan, writer and composer (1941- )

The photograph above and the one to the left are from Bob Dylan's film "Masked and Anonymous."

Do you hear the gentle spring rain this morning? The hard rain is gone for now.

My blog is the only place in my life that has a clear sense of direction. That's a start. It has occurred to me that a blog takes the form of a totem pole. I hope to see the film "American Carver" today.