Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fierce Grace / Mourning / Morning


Yesterday afternoon I went downtown to see "Crazy Heart" at the Pickford Theater. There was a long line. The tiny theater was full. I didn't see anyone I recognized. That's unusual, considering that I've lived in Bellingham since 1974.

I'm not sure how the movie would be experienced by someone who has neither experienced alcoholism first-hand nor loved an alcoholic. I thought that it would be a re-make of "Tender Mercies," starring Robert Duvall, especially because Robert Duvall appeared in "Crazy Heart." It went beyond "Tender Mercies" in a way that I didn't expect but which was deeply affirming of my choices in connection with Richard, the alcoholic I loved who died in April of 2008.

Richard loved movies and was a fan of Jeff Bridges. I can only guess, but my guess is that this is a movie that Richard would have suggested for me to see.

Despite what the song says, Richard didn't ruin my life anymore than the alcoholic man in "Crazy Heart" ruined the life of the young woman who loved him. There is something Ram Dass called "fierce grace." That describes my experience with Richard.

Fierce grace. Mourning. Morning.

"Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

An End To War

This is what I'm listening to in my car for the next while. The CD arrived a few days ago. It was released on February 26, on what would have been Johnny Cash's 78th birthday.

If you scroll down here, you can hear Johnny sing "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream."

Scroll down here to hear more samples from American VI: Ain't No Grave.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

"... that silence is so beautiful."

The following words came from page 97 of 6 Billion Others: Portraits of Humanity from Around the World, A project by Yann Arhthus-Bertrand in association with GoodPlanet. Realized by Sibylle d'Orgeval and Baptiste Rouget-Luchaire.

Tsatsita / Lives in Chechnya
"It was January 15 or 16. I remember like it was yesterday. Suddenly, there was absolute silence--no more planes, no more explosions, you could hear again. I came up from the basement, and I found myself outside, and I saw an enormous full moon. Along with the silence, it was really sublime. So I thought that if there is an eighth wonder of the world, this must be it: When silence comes after war. Whether it lasts one second, two seconds, or ten seconds, that silence is so beautiful."

Although I don't buy books as often as I used to, this book caught my eye because I love looking at human faces. I told myself that when I got a job again I would buy it. The next time I was in the bookstore I still didn't have a job, but I bought this book anyway. People from around the world were photographed and asked questions beginning with, "What were your dreams as a child?" and ending with "What would you like to say to the inhabitants of the planet?" Some responded with direct answers. Others told stories.

Tsatsita was responding to the question "What is Happiness? Are you Happy?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Walking in Big Rock Garden / Prayer


"I pray that I can be a kinder person."
(Bob Dylan, from Chronicles Volume One, 2004)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Valentine's Day 2010 / Our lives became true with love and meaning, against all odds

The catalogue at the back of my book, the "About The Artist/Poet" page and the back cover:





Now you've seen my book in its entirety. I hope you can hold a copy of it in your hands someday. It's a beautiful book.

Today, shortly after I woke up at 5 a.m., something told me to make my 70-page full-color book of art and poetry available for $14.95. Contact at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, if you'd like to buy a copy of 42 years: a book of changes, by Amanda Wald Rachie.

It might be a good idea to wait a few days to make sure that they have the book priced at $14.95 in the computer system. It was just today that I went in to ask about changing the price. Thanks to all who have already bought a copy of my book!

My plan now is to begin looking for an agent. Given that wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends, will continue to wait for loved ones to return from war in the foreseeable future, my book is both timely and timeless. The story I share with others throughout history is that although our collective dreams of being reunited with our beloveds didn't always come true in the way we had hoped, our lives did become true and whole with love and meaning, against all odds.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Late yesterday afternoon, the phone interview with the transcription supervisor took place. It went well. It is likely that I will be hired and begin working 34 hours a week at home in March.

I was having a hard time believing that the interview went so well and that I will be probably be employed again. I felt kind of dazed. Then I was surprised to see everything outside lit up in a break from the spring-like rain. I went out on my porch and stood there for a few minutes looking around at the illuminated scene. Then I noticed a faint rainbow forming out to the east!

Friday, February 12, 2010


"So let us go forward, quietly, each on his own path, forever making for the light."

-- Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Two Lovers (fragment)
Painted by Vincent van Gogh in March of 1888

Thursday, February 11, 2010


When I drew the image above in January of 2008, three months before Richard died, I was thinking about a story Richard told me in 2001.

His story was that late one night he went out walking down the hill in the direction of the ocean in Half Moon Bay, California. Before he reached the ocean, he noticed a horse standing in a pasture. After talking to the horse, he climbed over the fence and slowly and quietly approached the horse. He stood there talking to the horse at length, gaining its trust, and finally asked the horse if it would be okay for him to climb onto its back. The horse allowed him to do that. He told me that he took off his belt and was able to use it as a makeshift bridle.

At that point in his story he stopped to explain to me that although he had not known how to ride a horse at the time we went riding together in 1970, he had learned later. At the time when we had rented the two horses and rode on the bluffs at Half Moon Bay, I had about four years of experience riding horses.

Continuing with his story, he told me that he rode the horse around the pasture for a little while and then opened the gate to the pasture and rode out into the night. He said that they went through the neighborhoods, out along the bluffs and then down to the long sandy beach. He said that they wandered for a good part of that night, and then they returned to the pasture where he left the horse and went home and went to sleep.

He ended the story by saying, "When I went back the next day to see the horse, it was gone. I never saw the horse again. It was a magical night."

In January of 2008, remembering Richard's story, I pictured that magical horse coming to him at night, coming to the bed where, depressed and anxious, he tried to sleep in the stroke rehabilitation unit at the V.A. hospital in Palo Alto. Richard was blind in one eye, unable to speak, breathing with the help of a tracheostomy tube, having difficulty swallowing and requiring tube feeding, and only able to walk with great effort. I pictured the horse talking to Richard, asking him if he would like to leave the hospital for a night ride. When Richard said, "Yes," the horse lowered itself down so that Richard could pull himself over onto its back. Once Richard was on the horse's back, he found that he had the energy he had had as a boy and that he was no longer in the hospital room but out on the hospital grounds. By the light of the full moon, accompanied by a single bird, he and the horse went out to the coast. They returned before dawn. Richard felt a peace of mind and heart that he had not felt since he was a boy. He asked for an easel and began to paint again.


If my father were still alive, today would be his 96th birthday. He died just a little over a month after his 89th birthday on St. Patrick's Day of 2003.

In the last year of his life he wrote this:

My Daily Prayer to My Almighty God

You are above all of creation.

In it You have created all universes and everything in them.

In it You have created millions of stars and planets, far apart.

In it You have created the greatest physical force in our Universe, the magnificent sun.

In it You have created the planet for us all to live on, the Earth.

In it we have You, the sun, oceans, mountains, caves, rivers, lakes, rain, snowflakes, waterfalls, forests, land, air waves we cannot see, every living creature and the most powerful force of all, Love.

Thank You my Almighty God for everything on our planet, Earth.

I ask You, my Almighty God, to forgive me for any harm I have done.

I ask You, my Almighty God, to forgive anyone who harmed me, whether I knew it or not.

You are above all human beings that You have created.

No one on Earth can be compared to You, my Almighty God.


June 17, 2002

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


It was in February of 2008, when Richard was in his fifth month in the stroke rehabilitation unit of the V.A. hospital in Palo Alto, that I had the healing dream that inspired the last poem in my book of art and poetry. Today something told me to finish up with the preview of my book.

There are four pages of art and poetry that follow these two pages and then the catalogue of art work at the back of the book and an "about the artist/poet" page.

The black and white images in my book that I drew on my iBookG4 screen using the trackpad and the Appleworks6 "Painting" program were drawn in January of 2008 with Richard in mind.

The poem was written on Good Friday, two years before Richard died. Richard stopped breathing on Good Friday of 2008 but was resuscitated and lived one more month before a brain tumor ended his life.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"How does it feel?" / Bob Dylan Revisited

This last weekend, with the Civil Rights Movement Music Celebration at the White House in mind, I went to a 3-hour introductory workshop on the subject of nonviolent communication, as developed and taught by Marshall Rosenberg. Although I don't usually attend workshops of any kind, a friend I respect gave me a free pass to this workshop, and I decided to use it.

What I understood from the workshop leader was that Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication workshops have their roots in Gandhi's faith that major conflicts between nations and within nations can be addressed through nonviolent means. As I understood, Marshall Rosenberg proposes that nonviolent communication can be practiced on an interpersonal level by anyone who wishes to address conflict at the level of family, friends, marriage, workplace and local community.

The classic process of listening to someone's point of view and responding with compassionate communication, as presented in the workshop, is this:

OBSERVATION: "When you (see, hear, etc)_____________...

FEELING: "do you feel ___________________"...

NEED: "because you value______________?"...

The classic process of expressing one's point of view with compassionate communication is:

OBSERVATION: "When I (see, hear, think of) _______________..."

FEELING: "I feel _________________..."

NEED: "because I value ____________..."

The workshop leader acknowledged that using this prepared script could very well be counterproductive in a setting of unresolved conflict, and his handout contained a hilarious cartoon by Matt Groening that begins with two people sharing their feelings and ends with one of them saying:

"Thank you for sharing that. And I must reply that calling me a name-caller is a form of name-calling, you name-calling jerk."

It was explained by the workshop leader that, with practice, the classic script could be worded creatively and intuitively in addressing conflict.

Bob Dylan's question, "How does it feel?," struck me as compassionate communication when I first heard it when I was 14 years old. I didn't feel attacked. I felt that someone cared enough to ask how I felt. I didn't feel alone anymore. Over the years, I've heard Bob Dylan sing "Like a Rolling Stone" with wildly different nuances, and I understand that the same words can be sung with or without compassion and humility.

These days I hear Bob Dylan singing "How does it feel?" with a compassion and humility that he didn't have as young man.

What I took away from the workshop is that without compassion and humility, a person using a script for nonviolent communication verbatim can be a producer of alienation rather than harmony. Or, paraphrasing what a friend of mine said upon hearing that I was going to attend the workshop, "If you use that passive-aggressive script on me, I'll scream!"

Job update: I'm waiting for a phone call or email from the job recruiter so that a time can be arranged later this week for the interview with a medical transcription supervisor. That interview will determine whether or not I get the job.

It's a beautiful foggy afternoon here today, but here is an image of yesterday's late afternoon sunlit clouds:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Spectral Light and Ukelele

This particular configuration of spectral light only happens one day of the year. Because of the winter cloud cover in coastal Northwest Washington, many years can pass with no sunlight coming through the prism on my windowsill on February 3.

This year I noticed the light just as I was going to sit down to take an on-line test that might lead to an end to my long stretch of unemployment and would allow me to work from home and set my own work schedule.

Although I had been screened by the job recruiter before being allowed to take the test, the computer program written for the test determined that I was ineligible for the job for reasons that the recruiter had determined were not a problem. Although I have 20 years of experience as a medical transcriptionist, the computer program told me to come back when I had more experience. My hopes aren't dashed yet, but this may be a door that isn't going to open for me. I emailed the job recruiter for clarification.

Perseverance furthers.

I opened the I-Ching at random and found this:

The Abysmal repeated.
If you are sincere, you have success in your heart,
And whatever you do succeeds.

And then I remembered:

She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all.
(from "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," Bob Dylan, 1965)


Then at 2:30 p.m. I received an email from the job recruiter requesting me to go through the computer log-in and sign-up process again and to answer "yes" to the question about recent experience (even though I don't have any) so that I can take the test ...

It's 7 p.m. now. I just finished the 4-part assessment after encountering bewildering technical difficulties requiring multiple phone calls for technical support. Finally, I decided to switch from my PC to my MacBook and had no problems after that.

I'll hear back in 3-5 business days whether they are still interested in hiring me. Whether they are interested in hiring me or not, I know now that I can do anything I set my mind to!

Monday, February 1, 2010