Sunday, January 31, 2010

Becoming Visible

Our family's winter houses made to shelter new life.
"...To be human
is to become visible
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others.

To remember
the other world
in this world
is to live in your

true inheritance."
David Whyte *

I finished this week by spending the evening with a group of men. I had the privilege of carrying the singing stones from the fire into the lodge where they were gathered. What an amazing week of beginnings. First, being welcomed into a women's circle to receive their blessing. Then to serve and pray in an all men's circle.

Today i thought how this sense of balance in community is what I have always longed for. It's just the way I arrived is far different than I imagined. So many of a child's dreams shimmer only in the secret world... the other world. When I took my vows this week I stated a commitment to my own life, which is created by God. It's a life which is a miracle just like everyone else's life. The breadth of details and outcomes seem to be out of our control.

Rilke says in his Ninth Eulogy:

"The trees you planted in childhood have grown
to heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air,
to what you cannot hold."

I wonder if the task of living is to be born again and again through the many stages of our lives. I'm sometimes shocked that I am here, barely hanging on to land that I love while learning to be present in a family and a marriage. Last night I sat with men who shared from the heart about situations that have challenged them to the core. Then we all sang together as the clouds swirled about the lodge.

This week I have felt welcomed by the masculine and the feminine, mother and father, sister and brother. I want to carry these two ends of the rainbow into my everyday life.

Bless you.
May we meet somewhere in the circle of the heart,
in the safety of brotherhood and sisterhood.
May we meet in the challenge and the afterglow of our journeys.
May we see each other.
May we be made visible in the seeing.


* An excerpt of the poem: What to Remember When Waking from a wonderful book by David Whyte called The House of Belonging. p.27

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Three Strands of Community

Venersborg Apple Fest

Three beginnings occurred in my life yesterday.

I met with my amazing editor, Jill Kelly, to go over the draft of my book The Cabin That Flew Home.

I walked into my therapists office and left the nice, always competent looking guy at the door.

And as the ring around the moon ignited over the swaying forest I was ordained in a circle of women at my community People of the Heart .

All three events seem to weave together. The creative, the shadow and the initiate within me came together for a reunion yesterday. What humbling joy to have the whole of me witnessed by my friends.

I'll tell you more about the ordination this coming week. What I can say is that there is a circle of love praying for the world, up in the wild hills above Battle Ground, Washington.

When I knelt for receiving my vestments, when prayerful hands were laid upon me, an expansive peace came upon me... filled me. Those moments still flood my memory with hope.

Today I am grateful for the calling of community. I am grateful that community sings its richest song when the whole diversity of self and beliefs is invited along.

Peace to you my friends and family.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Family in the Sun

The wonder of sadness is that it can become a great motivator and teacher as it morphs into something else. I hope in my case that my wrestling with depression blooms as wisdom and compassion.

We went to Canon Beach for a day this weekend. We've been spinning in circle of a familial storm. So we paused and left for the coast. As we discussed our vision for our coming year together I was struck with the power of gratitude. Recognizing what meets my needs helps me to make more rational and soulful decisions. In this year I contemplate: What do I want to accentuate and foster? Rather than "What do I want to diminish and excommunicate in my life?"
I understand that the struggles in our family system are not just going to fade away and magically transform. Family life is a challenging path to God. I at least want to feel connected with my own heart (Not all clenched up) and connected with my partner. When I am disconnected I see three roles that I participate in. Perhaps you see yourself somewhere here too? I call them the AAA of Inner Circularity:

Agitation: Keeping moving and busy, fixing things, fixing others in my mind.

Analyzing: to the point of scrutinizing aspects of myself and others that seem unnecessary or distasteful.

Assuming: I know the motivations and purposes of behavior that stings me. Assuming the world is fair. Assuming I am communicating fully.

Being still, praying and just witnessing the inner melee' are helpful. Taking a time out to touch and be caressed by the natural world is wonderful.

Today, I'm grateful for the pause of getting away without dissociating from my life and body. Today, I feel more hopeful because of collecting a humble basket of gratitude at the beach and with friends.

War does not stop war

Resistance to what is true does not bring healing

Today, I seek boundaries and more personal stability based on what I decide is healthy and loving for me in my family. I'm grateful for my loyal loving spouse. I'm grateful for the diverse circle of couples at People of the Heart that have supported us.

Today the sun is shining on our home. I know that moods lift here when there is light. Tomorrow it may storm But I have today to collect and store a little more happiness by choice.

Peace to you My Friends,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sanctuary For The Heart

In our garden, this morning

Do not despair when the beloved sends you away.
Today's rejection may turn

tomorrow into an invitation.

If the door shuts, do not go away.
Be patient, even if every possibility seems closed.

The friend has secret ways known to no one else.
* p. 96

It's 9:30 PM. Rain is thrumming on the roof steady and hard. I am wrapped in a rainbow afghan that my mother made for me when I was twelve. I hear only my wife's book page turning occasionally in the other room. In the silence I feel a sadness, a loss that the day of talking and driving cannot divide from me.

I hold in my hand a polished wooden frame that holds a single sheet of paper titled The Constitution of the Field of Seven Houses, May 15, 2008. Written here is an invitation and commitment that I had hoped our family could share. I hold words that offer loving kindness and respect. And there is also a simple rule of no violence in the forms of words or actions that are meant to harm another.

Right in the middle of the sheet are the words: "This is a place where people are safe and free to reach for the life that they long for." The words: "tolerance, listening, cherishing, dialogue, privacy and sanctuary are woven into the document. These are ideals we all agreed to pursue and instill when we moved here.

I feel sad because I see that the home I idealized and envisioned is often shouting out with demands or anger or even violence. And I am split. On one side is the innocent who longs for unconditional mutual positive regard. And another side that sinks into despair because I often do not feel safe here. Perhaps God loves us between these two polarities. I hope so.

I wonder how Adam and Eve felt when they lost the nurturing of the Garden and were sent out into the world to toil and bleed on the land? I think, how hard it is to grow up, even when you are already 48 years on this earth. Tonight, in my childhood shawl, I hear a sad rainfall moaning: "It's not fair!"

No, it's not fair. But the morning will come. Some part of me will bleed... like the rest of the world. Some part of me dazed from the awareness that the rule book seems to be shattered, along with a peace of the heart. And some part will be healed again.

Morning will come. The constitution that hung in our front hall will rest beneath my bed. But the words true meaning will burn in me like the sun. They will shine, even if I don't feel safe, even if a storm of children's unkindness and disrespect blows in on the winds.

Is there a place for ideals in a world at war? Is there a place for peace and love?
I say Yes, YES!.

The day that I say : "There is no sanctuary for my heart." is a day that life would stop shining for for me.

The tome of loving kindness is under the bed instead of forgotten in plain sight. How does one be an adult and still have innocence of magic in their life? Love is not easy. And yet it is so necessary in this world.

From Rumi's Secret Places:

Lovers find secret places inside this violent world
where they make transactions

with beauty.

* p. 48

* Rumi translated by Coleman Barks, Rumi, Bridge to the Soul. Journeys Into the Music and Silence of the Heart, 2007, Harper Collins Books, NY

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Holy Breath Holy Memory Holy Life

Mt. Shasta Cedar Grove... A Holy Place

Having a new experience with children has caused me to think about developmental stages. I've been curious about the range of actions and motivations as kids grow through their early lives. It struck me today that adults continue to develop too.

As I near fifty I am beginning to feel a fullness of experience. I am seeing how memories and recollections can metabolize into my very cells. The places that I consider pivotal and sacred are becoming a part of me. I think that one of the jobs of early eldership is to allow the metaphor and the experiences to grow richer and deeper. I notice that the kids I love are going through stages of knowing what the basic truths are about their lives. But inside them there is much insecurity.

As I get older I see that I really don't know much. I'm being chiseled down into a more fluid shape just as I am expanding in my soul and mind.

My yoga teacher has a quizzical saying when she is centering and stilling herself. When she loses herself to spinning thoughts she chirps in a childlike voice... "Hmm, that is not my breath." And she follows her breath again.

I'm not very good at stilling my mind or my body. However I feel a distilling process is happening within me now. I am being winnowed down into more basic elements.

When I am physically still, memories come up in me like bubbles from the floor of the ocean. I witness them floating up. I breathe in and out. As a recollection of a place or interaction with another being rises to the surface I think to myself: "Hmmm... is that love?" When I just let the memory move through me I almost always hear a reply..."Yes that was love. Yes, that is love!"

When I am still, a part of me rests in the grove of the holy world, where we are... a world so rich with beauty and terror. I feel a part of me becoming the song of the universe. And I feel another part of me being chipped away into something more.

Holy, holy is our one life on Earth.
Holy, holy the paths that choose us.
Holy, the song that remains in the silence.

Holy, holy
Each moment is forever...


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Intersections and Opportunities

Choices of Honey (c) RSS 12/09

Quote from my Great Grandmother's journal, 1890:

"...I will try always to be better than my words and more liberal than my promises; every day I will make the most of myself and the best of myself; and so be ready for the opportunities which god daily sends to those who are ready for them..."
Julia M Sievers, Dennison, Iowa

Last night I was driving with my wife to an agriculture entrepreneurship class. The ongoing class is held at the extension office south of our little farm. When we came to the intersection below our house I turned north. We'd arranged sitting for the kids. We'd paid for the class and came ready with a completed business plan and basic business vision statement.

Yet I turned north, not south! My wife looked at me and said "Where are you going?" I replied that I wanted to go out on a date instead. Impromptu.

She laughed. She agreed, fortunately. And I lightened up my obsessions about making a living on the farm. We shared a beer and ate chocolate cake at the new pub in Battle Ground. We talked while the business class forded on without us. In the process I became clear that I want to focus on my writing and creative life

The catalyst for my heart is not farming or building or community service. Rather I love trying to synthesize something meaningful from these avocations within the written word. For me, nothing makes time dilate and fly more than working on a heart strung poem or story. Nothing threads the space between head and heart like words and colors. The choices for joy are different for everyone. Clarity is sometimes difficult.

I will go back to the class next week. But this time it will be with an expanded attitude found in a noisy pub over melting ice cream. What a privilege. There are so many choices in life. And there are many motivators, including paying the mortgage.

I remember my great grandmother today. She lived a vibrant and solid life. She created art in her children's upbringing and within her home. She prayed a lot and took risks based on what her heart and mind said.

What brings joy for you? And what experiences are you uniquely created for?

What opportunity would come for you if you were to "make the most and best" of yourself?

Last night the opportunity came in the laughter as we ditched a class. I found a happier clarity between home and my dreams.

Blessings at your intersections.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rune of a Dream

The Rune of a Dream
The Traveler Coming Home


Excerpt from a book begun today:

Have you ever had one of those mornings where dreams kept right on coming? You open your eyes and there they are, alive. I had one of those mornings today.

A woman named Oran stood by my bed, all in black. Lace skirts shimmering. Midnight gloves with her fingers bursting through. A rainbow feather dangling, tied into her wind strewn hair.

We stepped into the night, the dreamer and the dreamed.

Oh many wonders of dreams and wandering!

We walked out through the dew as the jet sky was offering herself up for the sun’s silver coins. We glided into the powerful part of the day when everything is between this or that. I invited her into the cabin. Inside the light was already alive above my desk of many hues. A song stream of paint flowed off the linoleum desktop. There, onto the floor, flooded a story of a rainbow and a god’s promise fulfilled. Oran looked at me, still dreaming. “In the colors is the telling of the universe.” she whispered along the nape of my neck.

She swayed into the room; her skirt was many waves rustling. I followed. I implored her as an unrequited lover: “Please stay. Take any seat you’d like. Please stay. It’s been so long.” She looked up to me with her voice of a thousand soft winds, her breath sweet grasses, blowing and swirling in my hair. Her feet ruffled all the loose paper and project strewn on the floor. The shelves of poetry rattled in a shiver quake of recognition. The books came to life, remembering the One who wrote every word ever written.

“I’ll be here now.” she said. She flew her right hand into the air, scrawling a sign for the deaf and longing, for the pilgrims of earth, for the dreamless and the worried, a gift for the found and the ones searching. Her index finger was outstretched. Her and and fingers followed loosely like a wing.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just Be Ordinary

Stairway into the Columbia River.

In my shamanic training I learned about three spheres of our universe. There is a upper world which is a realm with the ascended ancestors and light beings. There is a lower world, with the animals, humbling beauty and echos of earth. And there is this place that we live. My teachers called it the Ordinary World. This middle place is our home right now. I learned how it is mixed and stirred with spirits and elements and people and all beings. I always thought it ironic and humorous to call our world ordinary. Ordinary? Yeah, right. It's the most amazing place of all.

Walt Whitman said "I know nothing but miracles." When you really witness the creation here, really let the terrible beauty settle in, how can we not think we're in a miracle? Yet there is pain here and loss and misunderstanding. There feels like a brooding dark glass over our vision of what is real and lasting. Maybe moments outside of the brooding and homeless feeling can be found in the ordinary. Right here.

Remember the questions my counselor asked me to consider when I feel lost? Where are you? and What are you doing? I have many pat and scintillating answers. Like: We are spiritual beings living our lives in physical form. Or, I'm growing and evolving with a richer experience as a person. Maybe these are true answers. Yet I wonder if much of my life is spent in a landscape of metaphor. Where everything has to be compared with something else or an ideal.

What my counselor said after I came back with few well chosen answers was this: "Rick, just be ordinary!" Puleeze... just be here with what is. Be right here, in your own body.

OK. I'm sitting in the early gloaming of Sunday evening. The kids and neighbors are playing and laughing just outside the door. I'm at my desk seeing the bright white screen with a hundred trees in the mist around my windows. I am in my body and I am musing to my friends and fellow human beings on the web. I press Send... and I'm on to the next experience.

Just be ordinary! Ordinary? This experience is a miracle!

Is this experience of our life only a reflection of something greater?

Are we sufficient just as we are?

Is this simple breath, in and out, really ordinary?


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where and What

Woodland, WA in about three months
The sun is patiently burning her song of colors within the quiet earth.

I have seen a therapist for several years. Yesterday, in her familiar office I had memories come forward in the forms of physical sensations. I could actually feel an event from the past occurring here and now. I realized a couple of things. One is that the whole body is a mind connected with the heart, thoughts, spirit. Memory that comes forward from a dynamically charged experience is not always recognized as a memory. It may be here as a physical experience. It may feel like a past event is occurring right now, right here. This is particularly true of folks with past trauma. I am amazed at the complexity and wonder of the body mind. I am amazed at the wisdom of it's many voices.

I have a new and simple tool that I use when I am reactive or hyper vigilant. I use this when I am triggered by an external stress or a rising discomfort. I simply stop and ask the questions:

Where am I?
What am I doing?

For many, the experiences of the past can flow into the psyche and sensations. How many times is this an unconscious process? I can be more of a witness for the charged physical experiences that can occur within me. I can be less reactive. An example is when a shot of adrenaline comes when a child is being sassy . We can seek to center ourselves with the two simple questions. And then proceed with actions that match the actual situation. Many times that action is just to take a deep breath, feel the feelings and let it go.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Perspective of Wonder

The next time you are caught up in the details and worries of daily life remember the beauty and majesty of our universe. Remember our planet so powerful and unique. Hear our world and our universe singing in your heart. Such wonder, such awe, such brilliant presence in the creation. Remember the Spirit that enfolds our finite years here on earth, Our Mother.

Two videos of images taken from the space station, aircraft and the Hubble orbiting telescope showing our place in the cosmos:

Earth From Space:

Our Universe:

This year I vow to remember the Great Song that is all around us, to remember that we are all made of the vibrations and the particles of everything seen and hidden.


Promise of Dawn

Traipsing out to the hut in our field at 7AM. The night still ruled. I walked into the welcoming space and lit the dark with three candles. I sat on the cushion. I was still as I could be. As I breathed, thoughts of discouragement came: "No one I know is reading these blogs, except my family". A little sad... and inaccurate.

Then the names came out of the dark:
Felicia, Richard, Holly, William, Janine, Doyle, Rick, Rudy, Edna, Mike, Dan...
and many more.

They came and said "We read from your book!"

I had more reason to create and write, a promise from the dawn. The ancestors read me. Even my descendants, even the daughter I never knew (yet). And there are the living, all out there on other strands of this singing web.

Then I breathed in a prayer for all of us:

We are home
We are seen
We are loved

I breathed out and opened my eyes. The night had retreated. The silver light of sunrise was roiling in clouds filled with rain from far away. The light fell in through the windows. I stood up and I was free.

Peace to you, my brother or sister, the living or passed, the lonely or revealed,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Truth and Compassion

An essential conflict in becoming aware is: How do we tell the truth while being compassionate at the same time? How does the truth become helpful rather than just tolerable?

I have a wise friend who says that a measure of an organization's health and resiliency is to be able to ask the hard questions. This is especially true for families. What is so hard about asking: What's really occurring for me and what do I really feel about it? Does a difficult answer require making a choice? How does one ask these questions and stay true to kindness, especially if the answer is uncomfortable?

I made the effort to go through a juice fast this weekend and Monday. A truth that still comes forward is that I'm addicted to sugar. I crave all forms of the white powder and corn syrup. I crave and eat it even if it is detrimental to my mental functioning and physical well being. That's an uncomfortable truth that presents me with clearer choices. Fasting also brings up other habits into a spotlight. Like how I'm nice to a fault with the kids. How my default answer is Yes, almost as a knee jerk reaction.

I want to start with my own basic truths without working on another person. Yet there are aspects of my external family life that push me into primitive emotions concerning feelings of basic respect, safety and balance. How does one experience the "true" feedback from another person without going numb or reactive? How does one become a compassionate truthsayer in their internal life?


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Time To Rejuvenate

Forest above Salmon Creek

To Moses on the Holy Mountain:

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy

When I was a child none of the stores were open on Sundays in my home town in Southern Idaho. It was nearly impossible to buy gasoline or to get a load of groceries. I've been thinking about the Sabbath, how it was written as a commandment, not a suggestion. I'm not suggesting that we go back to the "good old days". Yet, I wonder about the losses we've experiences by constantly consuming life and growing.

Today both of us pretty much vegetated. We weren't exactly spent or lethargic. But we rested. Both of us commented how strange it felt to just let the ongoing conversations about the kids be for now or how to let the house maintenance lapse for a day. We bought nothing and sought no entertainment outside the home. I felt as if I should be doing something.

Like the forest in winter, our minds need fallow times. Dormancy to rewire and to integrate all of the information continually flying at us. A time to gather silence in order to fill our words and deeds with more compassion through the coming week. Why is it so hard to be still? Are there moments of Sabbath throughout the week? What is the significance of the ancient wisdom handed sown in a commandment?


Friday, January 8, 2010

When Yes Means No.

My Grandmother & Father in1933

May our ancestors smile
as they observe our choices.

My writing coach provided a subtle kick in the pants yesterday. It was not just encouragement, but a velvet provocation. "You need to finish your project." I have a little book about the cabin that was saved from a land sale several years ago. It's a good book that is nearly edited. Yet it has sat on the shelf for almost two months.

I've been thinking about the "Yes Man", a popular book and movie. the plot entails a supposedly true story (in the book, not the movie) about a man who says "yes!" to every request made to him for a year. My default answer for projects in my life has been yes. Yes, yes, yes. So many yeses that I often get about 90% of a project done before I put it away, often forever. The future makes a request that I can't refuse.

In the movie, as in my life, the man finds he can live only superficially when he is so scattered. He ends up discovering that stripping away many options and distractions is the only way he can get what he truly desires.

A sense of despair can even arise from so many choices and so many irons in the fire. One example from my life is working on this land and home. I have a hundred agenda items for my work on our little farm. A chicken coop, the barn organized, the cold frame insulated, the compost bins rebuilt etc etc. It feels like the tyranny of too much. Too much tending and beginning and fixing. It seems like our society is just waking up from being spoiled by so much busy work and consumption. And the result on a societal level and a personal level can be depression. The economy of choices and time can come crashing down.

So many in our world live with only the harshest of choices merely for survival. We, the rich with resources, have the privilege of choosing most details of our life. I think that our ancestors and the very Earth Herself watches us with anticipation and hope. What will I do with the choices I have at this moment? How do I want to say yes to being alive today?


Thursday, January 7, 2010


The computer is not connecting, not jiving with what I want it to do. The picture won't upload. A setting in the network is crossed up. The WIFI in the coffee shop seems to be down for the moment. Screen is diffuse with odd characters. No connectivity. I pause in the flickering. I recall a quote by Marie Whelen:

The Greatest

Is Love,

Not Visions

I look across the little cafe. There is a buzz of people chatting. Beside me is a table with eleven women knitting while they tell stories. Mostly older. A lot of silver and gray hair. A lot of wisdom and experience. Weaving laughter with silence. They seem like long time friends.

I'm reminded again and again of how much we need each other. Being connected with loving people is the foundation for happiness. I soak in the colors and threads of conversation, remembering what I wrote to you about depression yesterday. I'm a little embarrassed by what I revealed. I'm also a little relieved that the connection went through between words of the brain and the song of the heart. Then I sent a part of our shared humanity out into the world to you.

Blessings to you today... this day to connect with the tangles and skeins of community.

The monitor blinks. The letters make sense now. The web comes alive again on the screen.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Naming It With Compassion

The Desk Tilting and Groaning Under the Weight

My wife and I have been watching a series on PBS called This Emotional Life. Last night the series addressed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. I was struck with the information that came out in the program, information that I already knew but suppress. Emotional disorders are disorders of the actual physical brain including the neurotransmitters and the architecture of the tissues. Depression happens to be a physical illness that affects the brain.

The cool thing about the brain is that we have many tools to rewire the well worn pathways of fear and despair. Certain forms of psychotherapy (e.g. cognitive and meditative) and medications can be very effective. The insidious part of depression is that we can assume that what we feel or not feel is something that is a character flaw and normal. We can habituate to a mindset that is not healthily or productive.

A young woman spoke on the program. She said that “The opposite of depression is not happiness, it’s vitality.” Then a whole line of folks described how depression and PTSD often get worse and more entrenched when one resists naming and addressing the issues. One would wonder “Why would I want to talk about all that stuff and just stir it up again?” Because the talk and the retelling the stories can help when under the guidance of a therapist that holds you in unconditional positive regard. There is no guarantee of relief. Past trauma can become rerouted out of the “constantly afraid and vigilant loop”. Feeling all our emotions, especially happiness, can become the norm. But it takes work and persistence. Which are energies that are in short supply for someone with difficulty even feeling or following through with a task.

I talk about this because I lost both of my grandmothers to depression. One died from suicide and one attempted suicide two times after lingering in a vegetative life. I also lost several clients in the most traumatic manner. I talk about this because I am deciding to reveal more about the human condition by telling you about my experience. I take three pills every night just to sleep. I am triggered into a vigilant state with even the hint of aggression. The friends I have left, the ones that can be patient with me, know that I sometimes disappear for months.

It’s fairly easy to be anonymous and serve up platitudes and trite fixes when one writes a blog like this. I don’t want to do that. It’s also easy to say “Look at me, poor me.” on the web. I want to educate myself by coming out more in the world as the person that I am. Part of me is never safe, always on alert and posing as competent and assured. A big part of me. After hearing glimmerings from my community acquaintances and watching the PBS program I understand that much of the world feels the same way. The bible talks about the groaning of the world as it tilts into despair. It also talks about the glory and comfort of the Divine. I feel both poles within me. Today I’m simply struggling to feel worthy and unafraid.

It helps to break through the biologically based denial and habits of depression. But right now I’m not able to get myself out into out in the world of work or paid service because the images and experiences from past events feel current. In fact I'm not comfortable even leaving my land. How many others are in the same boat? Many. I want to continue this conversation with you. I hope it will help others seeks compassionate help. I hope to experience a broader range of my joyful life through the revelations.

Here's a Link to the PBS series: This Emotional Life


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Showing Up

Field of Seven Houses
This morning I made it to the writing desk by 7:30. I sat. I wrote a vision statement for the year. Then I dabbled out a circle of affirmations and intentions. I sat some more. Watched the field and the rain and the cat. I felt listless and a little put off that there were no fireworks in my writing at sunrise. Only gray.

I left the cabin after two hours of sitting and listing, mostly drifting inside. Personal clarifications came out of the pen and onto the paper. But nothing appeared that seemed worthy of this online journal. I traipsed out to the barn and began to shuffle through a reckless pile of scrap and beams and insulation. I addressed clutter that had languished for eighteen months. As the dust was swept and the shelves set up I began to sing a little. I felt my body dancing with the pleasure of working and sweating. By dinner time the floor was clean and the wood neatly stacked.

Now it is late night. And I have a better view of what the writing process is for me. The creative process is not served well by forcing a product to come forward. Many times just the act of showing up brings clarity. Perhaps the true face of writing is not bound up in the screen or the text. My day of writing was spent clearing out old scrap, then seeing the potential in the raw material I'd organized. And I found a touch of joy by surprise.

I walked out into the pitch dark of drizzle at 9 PM. I was so quiet in my steps that I could hear the creek moving through the forest far below me. I could feel the silent wings of my breath moving in and out. The vision statement I wrote this morning became a heart connection with this land and with my day.

The soul of the few words I'd written this morning became me.

Became Me
? What does that mean? It doesn't matter if I can express it clearly. I found a better clarity. I hope that sweeter vision seeps out onto the keyboard as I write to you over the next few months. I hope that the colors of the field ride onto the computer screen, even in the dark drizzle of a winter night.

The simple gift that comes with creating is the act and the process of the creation. Not a product or recognition. My insight is to not expect poetic wit and passion in the words. Just show up. See what happens. And even love what is born in a simple act, even if that means cleaning out cluttered barn.


(c) Richard Sievers, January 2010, All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 4, 2010


Much of my recent life has been shaped by the passing of beloved family and friends. These deaths offer a challenge to me, to all of us. Who are we? What are we doing here? What is the point?

I was standing in line at the pharmacy considering the templates I have lived by. One is a schema of vigilance, where the world is both terrible and beautiful at the same time. I divert a huge portion of life energy watching for the dangers that may affect me or my family.

Another mode that I have lived with is that the sacred and the ordinary are separate, or at best only mix minimally where there will be some lesson or inspiration. I observed all of the ordinary folks in line ahead of me. Each seeking medication or assistance. A young woman clinging to her mother. A farmer fidgeting with a palsy. A well adorned woman looking off into space. And me. All of us seemingly alone. All of us together.

The third assumption has been that preparation and hard work are the cornerstones to character and what a person produces in their life. That discipline means hard work, which is rewarded with being witnessed or understood. I wonder, doesn’t everybody have huge corners of their life and personality that are left unseen?

It’s very possible that my rules for the universe have helped to create the very reason I was standing in line at the pharmacy. All of us human beings there at Fred Meyer Pharmacy together. Seeing their faces I was struck with the tension between fear and awe. A familiar pang came as I thought “This could be the last day of my life.” All of us waiting for the medicine, so fragile and beautiful.

When my turn came to step to the counter I took my prescription gratefully. I want to sleep better. I want to be a more solid person in my sensitivities and emotions. I took my medicine. I came home with my little white bag. I opened the three amber bottles and pulled a pill from each one. There was a potent trinity to aid me as I am learning to navigate between what is a personal problem and what is a universal opportunity.

Now, I feel a little less sobered by how people close to me have died. As I age I feel a more innocence and even delight in another question that rises from the back of the line:

“What if this were the First day of my life?”

What would the possibilities be if I saw everything and everyone as if it were the first time?

Vigilance is akin to Awareness.

Separation is part of Universality

Discipline needs the joy of Discipleship

I scrawl these statements and questions on sticky pads and place them on the edge of the computer screen. Today these are more contemplations than truths. These are queries to wonder about in this brand new life on earth.

Peace to You in your Holy and Ordinary Trinity.


(c) 2010 Richard Sievers, All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Fort Clatsop State Park near Astoria, Oregon

"But for her novice
the sea grew white."***

I've spent much of my life as a puer, which means the eternal (or holy) boy. Puer described me for decades. The boy in a man suit. Instead of hot cars or cool abodes I had mostly spiritual ideals, heart highs and mystical adventures. I'm grateful for that prolonged phase of my life. I still have that idealized monk mindset inside of me. Really there is not much that is nothing ideal about being a monk, or even a poet or artist.

Throughout most of my life I've had notions of what the life poetic would be. I had visions about how I could access inspiration from everyday events readily, almost greedily. This evening my beloved wife softly said to me "How are you doing on your blog? Don't you need to write tonight.?" The day had faded to twilight. I mumbled that the day was "already gone." Besides I don't really have anything to wrote about. And hidden in my mumbling reply was that notion that I need to write something of titanic proportions, that I will be naturally inspired and graceful and eloquent.

I've been contemplating a poem by poet Richard Murphy. His poem The Drowning of the Novice, haunts me. It is about a "lapsed Benedictine" that saw the sea as an idyllic place that was made for his nourishment. He went out on the quiet sea not respecting Her terrible beauty and shimmering power. A storm came, as storms do. In the end he lost his life to the sea. Parts of his boat washed up on the shore like notions to be collected by beachcombers.

I came out to my computer in the dim drizzle of January with the light of a poem glowing in me like a lighthouse. Even the safe harbor of writing something average is acceptable. So here I am. Showing up. And it's difficult, this work, difficult. I respect the sea of words and songs in my heart. And I also depend on on this ocean for my sustenance. And I have a family, community to love and land to steward.

I wonder about the notions we have about the workings of the universe and of inspiration and of prosperity and of work.. I have a suspicion that knowing much real truth about life is beyond the parameters of my biological equipment.

But here I am. A small and loving voice propelled me out here in the night to sit beside a single light and a hissing heater. I have notions about where life is heading. I have notions about why I'm here. Notions about where the words want to go. Yet I don't believe these notions in a wholesale naive manner anymore.

Life will teach us humility and awe and wonder in one way or another.

I might be writing something that is halting or mediocre or simply human. But I hear the sea now. When the salt and tides sing inside it is no longer just some heavenly vision or mud bound metaphor. There is no purely right brained or left brained explanation for what comes.

I see the notions
of my life all around
me, washing in and out.
I see them and pick each
one up, sea stranded treasures,
things sparkling or broken,
things I will show
to my friends and family
when I walk back
across the yard into
my home. In my eyes
I pray that something bright
burns and floods. I pray
that the the great Ocean can be
seen beyond and beneath
all these words and ideas...

that somehow I bring the ocean's nourishment into the world as more than just an a particular ecstasy or a metaphor.

Do the dishes.
Weed between the corn rows.
Stay up with the crying children.
Call the friend back.
Pay the electric bill.
Come always to the ocean and breathe.


*** Quoted from the poem "The Drowning of a Novice." in Richard Murphy's book of poetry: High Island, New and Selected Poems, (c) 1974, Harper and Row Publishers, New York

(c) 2010, Richard Sievers, All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two of Swords

Blessings to you for 2010.

I have the honor of assisting with a sweat lodge in a community of diverse and loving people. I don't actually go into the lodge as the circle prays and sings. I stay outside with the fire and the stone people. Every time I am there as just another part of something simple and prayerful. One of my duties is to bring the stones from the fire into the lodge. Witnessing the ancient ones glow orange white while they sing with steam always deepens and heals me. I'm grateful for the stone people.

Last night a friend and member of the community stayed out of the lodge to hold space with me. Lately I've been tending the stones alone. So I felt an initial tug of resistance when she offered to help. But that tug let go quickly.

One of the duties of a stone handler is to sweep the stones with boughs of trees. This cleans the debris of the stone before entering the lodge. The more important aspect is one of seeing and welcoming the elders into the lodge. It's also an act of preparing them for their work with the people inside. My friend swept the stones with such solidity and respect. She also brought out her rattle to sing with me outside as the rain poured... as the water and prayers poured inside the lodge of our elders. The clouds whistled through the forest. And the stream danced a burbling song in the distance. Such beauty!!

I dedicate myself this year to release the resistance to working with others. No one said it would be easy or clean to be attending to a task with other human beings. But sometimes it is absolutely divine. In these perilous times our working together seems to be absolutely necessary.

Last night another friend did a tarot reading for our community. One card of interest to me, the Two of Swords, came forward. I understand very little about tarot. But my friend explained that in this instance this card meant that working side by side for something good and right is a necessary aspect of bringing healing and love back to our mother earth.

I'm reminded of the Buddhist thought about the sword that cuts us together. The very thing that you may think is inconvenient or hurtful is often the very thing that will recreate and heal us. There is so much adversity with the uncomfortable shifts occurring in our world right now. And there is so much potential.

I vow to stand with my friends to sing about ideals of freedom and service and being inclusive. These very challenges can bring us together as easily as they can separate us. I guess that is our choice as human beings, either to separate ourselves, become numb or even cynical. Or we can grow beyond our original premise that we are separate and alone. That's a big challenge for me. My friends last night gave me a glimpse of what can be true in our world.

I'm very grateful for a chance to be a small part of something loving and necessary in our challenging world. Here's a link to our community of the braided way: