Tag Archives: art

Quizzing Glass

24 Sep

Her eyes said to the professor,
Why don’t you stop studying me and
be with me.
And then she was grateful
to have become so very
not something buried then
a curiosity for
But like a live oak,
limbs and leaves flush with green,
hung with soft sighing hair,
he was just unable to see
beyond the glass
in his own.

Cosmic Cup

31 Mar



there was a way

to empty all the words

right down to the curve of the heart’s cup,

a way to let them pour without spotting,

without the fear of stain

on the ironed cloth of present being.

Cups are supposed to hold in curved kindness,

despite crazing of human heat,

despite bits of golden rim dissolving into the drink.

Nevertheless, purpose serves.

To empty and refill from a darkened kettle

steeping stars and nothingness,

a limber liquid

offering all, over and again.

Love and eternity

in each dark sip.

What it Is

6 Jul
BW mock up of mixed media collage, Unamed. 24x18 June 2016.

BW mock up of mixed media collage, Unamed. 24×18 June 2016.


It’s been four years that I’ve been writing about this journey toward Self and most definitely this spring has been a spiral of endings and discoveries, wonder and disappointment. For months it’s been obvious, I’m in transition but to what I’ve no idea.

Should I sell the house my former husband and I bought and restored together?
Should I change jobs, change careers, change towns?

The only constant has been my mother, my dog, and a few close friends who are honestly in much different places than I. Almost everyone from my post divorce journey has moved on into their silver linings. I’m wondering if mine is here and perhaps I’m just not seeing it.

Last week, my role model Liz Gilbert announced her separation from the man she fell in love with at the end of her famed memoir, Eat. Pray. Love. I found out on Facebook, just exiting yoga class. And to be truthful, after reading her post and Jack Gilbert’s poem, I sat in the car and sobbed for an hour. All melodrama aside, it felt like someone had told me that the scientific community had just discovered that God doesn’t exist…they’d found it on some new MRI or something. It’s all in our heads and explained by chemicals, this idea of infinite unconditional love made human. There is no over the rainbow. Dorothy Gale didn’t go anywhere….she just had a bump on the head. We aren’t crossing over to anywhere.

It was Liz’s memoir and journey, the way she found her most authentic self and happiness, both inner and outer that told me I too could heal after the person I loved most on the planet disappeared. In December 2012, I put myself on an island and what I found at my lowest point was the inner voice, Beloved. The writer in me still lived and she has fueled every creative outlet which has unfurled in my life since. Writing, Art, Dance, Mindfulness.

But what I’ve learned is that the journey is not linear. That to eat, to pray, to love is nothing more than the cycle of living we should be practicing daily in moving forward. Ever present, ever mindful in the moment, but savoring each bit of air granted to us while we live from our most authentic selves.

For all the loneliness this way of life has been, it’s gift is a reminder that family and community is the core of being…not romance. Chatting with the 30 year old daughter of a fellow colleague today about the end of her most recent relationship, I told her, “If my two cents is worth one penny, you should focus on being with your girlfriends right now. Making lasting female friendships is what will sustain you throughout your life. If I had done that in my thirties rather than focus entirely on my romantic relationship, I wouldn’t be trying to find a community now.”

This isn’t to say that romantic love isn’t a worthy desire. After all, “the world must be peopled”. I believe this type of connection is a need. And one’s needs should be taken reverently and honored. To be intimate and physically touched, to be fully human and vulnerable with a beloved other is necessary. Walking without this is like being in the desert, trying desperately not to feel parched, or worse let it show. I often want to scold my friends who take their significant others for granted as if two arms and a warm soul are always available….they aren’t. Finding home is a lifelong journey, but it’s compass steers us toward connections to love and love comes from companions.

I’ve learned so much in four years. Much more than most of my young adulthood.

I’ve learned social and virtual media can rescue a person as much as isolate her. Silver hands never assuage for long.
I’ve learned that to really live can mean a simple icy lavender towel on the forehead during savasana just as much as feasting at 4 Leoni in Florence, a beautiful Italian waiter serving up Chianti and daring glances.

And I’ve learned that one never stops learning. Each day we eat, we pray, we love…we find ourselves in this recursive cycle of savoring what is and banishing the demons that whisper…this is ALL there is. Because lately, I’ve been feeling something missing, an absence of an innocence and playfulness at my core. For the first time in my life, I struggle with feeling way too grown up, feeling pushed to accept the existential realities in a long journey seemingly with no end but exit. It’s as if the expansiveness of my imagination has been emptied of intuitive air. I can’t seem to feel or believe that which I cannot see and this both saddens and scares the shit out of me. For childlike hope has always made me… well…Me.

If I lose something so essentially me, what have I discovered that now wants to squat in its place?

Ask any of my students and they will tell you of the faerie woman and her magical dog, of feathers and wands, tales of travel and synchronicity. They don’t see budding cynicism, self judgement, and loss of confidence taking root. They don’t see deep self doubt. What was all of this for? Have I really walked all this way only to find that I’m exactly where I started, just better able to sit with, dare I say it? The possibility that I might die before I fall in love again.

So this week, by accident, I find myself at a friend’s place in Charlottesville while she vacations. I’m alone, relatively, as per usual and trying to decide what to let go of and what to cling to. In yoga class this morning and in outdoor practice at the IX Art Park last night, glimpses of who I used to be flooded my mind, the best of what I was before my husband and I parted. And let me pause here to change the story of his leaving, because I have learned that I too was walking away many months before he made real the gulf that already existed between us. I see now clearly how I was beginning to grow, to want more out of life than taking care of him and everyone else too, everyone but me. But I refuse to believe that nothing lasts, that we move in and out of love with many others until our last song. The eight years tops theory of partnership, I don’t WANT to believe in. People do die together, eating, praying, loving, …….living in the myriad ways people in committed connection do. Giving goes both ways. It isn’t a one way street.

There’s no judgement on my part for those who grow in and out of long term commitment numerous times. Their worlds are created from the outside in, each new union an entirely new world made from the shift of gravity which brings a new celestial body nearer in orbit. Unknowingly, I have lived through that. But like gravity, I believe in something else that crosses time. Something else that is quantifiable yet not yet proven. I cling to it. Call me naive…but don’t we all believe in that? Furthermore, shouldn’t we?

So is there yet enough magic in me to recreate my world inside out…over and over…each moment, each day, each year?

And while one day I may find a beloved once again, right now I sit with what is.

Each day I sit,

to eat,
to pray,
to love those dear to me.
To cherish my mother and my dog, my friends both near and far.
To try not to focus on their eventual passing or the path my life has taken. But to look forward from a place of hope. It’s hard. It’s created in each breath.

This week, I’m on the mat every morning, swimming in the afternoon, eating out, having my skin and hair pampered, sleeping in the softest bed on the planet. I have three days left here in this nest. And I’m listening for the whispers of what used to be in me.

The priestess, the faerie, the lover.
The poet, the painter, the dancer.

Gravity is peeling back this skin to allow emerging new again..as before. But did I fly too close? Am I watching my faith fall into the sea, a tangle of wax and feather flotsam.

I’ve no idea.

It is what it is…or is it?

Luce e Speranza

30 Mar



If there is just
enough light ahead,
hope blooms in the soul
like the narcissus
in spring
before the Sun,
His arms encircling
a golden
You are my beloved…
my face..my body..my blood
my Self
we are one.


written in the courtyard of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence Italy. Sunset…..today.


By the Gate

31 Jul

I haven’t written anything of consequence in a long while. Maybe its because the end of the school year was filled with a few well placed kicks. Maybe its because I have been trying to come home and I can’t find the last path. Maybe its because I get a bit more lost every summer. So I’ll make this short and a little bittersweet because I see a light on the hill, but it just keeps moving, going dark. A glimpse of it came this summer. I know that I’m definitely at the front gate of a place called home.

Home is not a physical space, nor a person they say. The platitudes of folks obviously not walking with my feet ring of home being “a place inside you”, entirely belonging to you, perhaps a sense of union with the Divine. A spiritual place.

I believe that.

I have felt that.

That’s Love.

The big rushing love of the Divine which lifts the spirit into unity with All.

But it isn’t the home to have on earth. It isn’t a home that sustains a human indefinitely as a loving being all by herself… all on her own. It’s the home one goes to when she dissolves into God’s arms. It’s the home my grandmother so desperately seeks these days. I understand her longing. Her breaths are numbered; her spirit is tired. She longs to be rocked by her own mother again, for eternity. I’m not there yet.

Home on earth lies within a loving intimate human relationship. It belongs to two people with whom that intimacy is mutually shared in a way that is right for them and in a connection that reflects their paths. It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone; it just has to fit. The connection fits them; they dance in it together. They wear the love shoes. They are a pair that belongs. A match.

It’s incredibly hard to find.

Most folks wear ill fitted shoes.

Most folks disregard their favorite pair.

Most folks pretend to like being barefoot enough to not complain of chill, nor remain too long on hot sand.

Our feet are the most precious part of us, the most vulnerable. This is why we wash them for each other as a sign of empathy and love. We kiss them in submission; we surrender in unconditional love before them. Perhaps the suffering is what gets us there.  To a place where we let out the breath and give in to the unknown. To a place where we can see love when it walks toward us unshod.  A human connection of where we go at the end toward the Divine.

Home is the place of comfort, contentment…rightness.

Here on earth, I don’t believe it’s a solo venture. Facebook memes have it all wrong. Screw Pinterest platitudes. I want to shake Elephant Journal writers and ask them how they can prescribe what should or shouldn’t be for all of us when shoes that fit are as varied as the stars in the purple indigo  of night over the deepest of green oceans. When they are living the life I’m living, walking without shoes that fit, THEN they get to tell me how to live.

Don’t tell me I just have to love myself. I do

. . .AND I want to share that as well.

Don’t tell me home is a place inside me that the Divine fills beyond measure. I KNOW that

. . .but does a brown robe come with it?

Don’t tell me to stop wanting to find something outside myself, that everything inside me is fulfilling enough.

I AM a whole self, should I not engage and enjoy the world in all its sensual glory? With others?

Home is not a place of solitude, otherwise dying soldiers would not cry out for their mothers. Home is the place of ultimate love and ease, of acceptance, a place where the sleep that was slept in childhood lets a person lie hip to hip with a beloved in unconsciousness. It is the breath breathed together in lovemaking. It is co-creative , the synchronicity of heartbeat which comes seconds after looking deeply into a beloved’s eyes. It’s in the mystery of chemistry that snares one DNA strand at a time. Unexplainable, often confusing, terrifying but worth every conscious moment.

That it actually scientifically happens is proof. We are made to be in union with one another. It’s only when we stop dancing that the music ends. Like dancers, we can only be with one another in conscious movement. It’s wordless, this language goes back to our human beginnings in touch and energy. I’m not saying we don’t have issues that mess us up. Like Oprah says. “e’r body got issues”. But I think I have to stop looking at issues as needing fixing. Rather they may just need healing and some cannot be healed alone. If I wait to fix all my shit before I engage another human, I’ll die before I live. The language of this type of love engages mind and spirit with the body. Like the Trinity, this union requires all three.

I have been working on this series of color prints all spring and summer. In April, I became angry at a “masculine” Universe. I had told God, “Enough”. Deserving a shoe that fits shouldn’t be this hard. After all,  like a shoe, love is pretty simple. I deserve ones that truly fit me. So I talked to Mary. It seemed easier. Mothers understand when you have problems of the heart. And soon the image of Mary Magdalen bloomed in my consciousness, a human woman who loved a human man. . . who was also god. And he returned her love as human but also as a sacred being. This is what I believe. I am convinced of it. In the end she was forced to sacrifice him because he sacrificed himself.

But he truly sacrificed her, too. It isn’t all about him. They were partners in a divine dance. I cannot separate the bride from the bridegroom. I will not separate the human from the divine. It is all we have here in our breathing body walking. We must honor this oneness the best way we can.

I haven’t finished her feet. . .but the last few steps will come.

I learned what home is this summer, what it feels like. And now I must find how to open the gate, discern the path, and recognize who will be there at the door to welcome me in.

I’m ready to come home. It’s been years. It’s time.

Hen, Passerine

29 Mar


She springs

twig to knobbley twig

amid pale pebble buds

opening under their

jackets of papery vein.

In warble wonder,

her voice clips round

the bareness

of bush,

the warmish drizzle

coating its

black stick frame,

carrying away the last hangings

of fall’s dead.

No nest now

for a sparrow

put out of tune.

No mate.

No promise egg.

No host

within which to make

a downy bed.

Her calls

do not wake His eye.

We watch

each other

as He breathes

out a new world,

in the pause

between refrain

and verse.

Falling From Flight

29 Oct

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She looks to the sky as once she did.

A ferry crossing to Ocracoke on a cold December evening in 2012. Sunset has turned now to sunrise and  enormous clouds. Their magenta pink and cerulean blue expanses have become the sign that we, Beloved and I, are crossing back into the ordinary world. Skyborn images fill the camera on the daily drive to my job.

I am a Teacher again. Beloved is not.

Beloved is a writer and visionary artist.  And she is the most genuine part of me. It’s not as if I ever stopped teaching, but now the load encroaches upon the world we discovered and grew. It threatens much that was built since this journey began. Balance is the challenge, and we are losing the fight.

Back in June, I knew this space was necessary for my expression. Somehow it made the journey easier. In August, the feeling that a cycle was coming to a close was true. It is. . .day by day. However, the final leg is difficult, I won’t lie. And I have neither map nor plan, other than the lessons and skills learned through the creation of this body of work, both real-time and in the virtual world.

As ever, Joe Campbell abides; the archetype stands.  We are in the final ordeal and returning.

I didn’t want to come back…but knowing enough of archetype,   there is no escaping return to the ordinary world.

The following series of poems were written through the most chaotic part of this journey. Every portion of life unraveled beginning in August 2014. I’m nearly four weeks into sleeping soundly through the night, for the most part. Severe insomnia is torture. I hadn’t experienced it to this level since I was nine years old. Needless to say, it truly altered my engagement with the world and view of the journey. Although I am much better now and more rested, miles still must be traveled…

We aren’t  home yet.

The series is entitled, “Falling from Flight”. The first four were written between August  8 and September 2, 2014. The last, October 28.

  • In the Morning Dew
  • Temperance
  • First Class
  • Resolution
  • Somewhere Between Nowhere and Home

I’ll release one a day, beginning Samhain, October 31. (The Celtic New Year) Somehow I must keep this space alive and engaged, or lose who I have become. There is no option but to win this last battle.

Be Well,


Reflections. . . Almost Home

1 Aug

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To write is to reconcile the outer world with the inner reality. Shaping intends a design which not only pleases but informs, both the past and future self. I haven’t written since Ocracoke nearly eight weeks ago and a vision of something in the distance neither bright nor dark signals that this particular writing path might close. This body of words, this part of my life’s journey. A feeling of both trepidation and relief is rising…I’m nearing home.

The significance of my experiences this summer did not come into clarity until 5:30 this morning August 1. But I saw the whole platter of them and their purpose at once in that waking moment. Beloved spoke to me for the first time in over a year. She said,

A mirror… It has all been a reflection of you, who you are and who you have been. Each event each person. Look at yourself.

The events of this summer were reflections of past and of present; their purpose was to sharply focus my recognition of how far I’ve come and perhaps the space of how far I really need to go to reach home.

The overwhelming feeling of not having done much, but yet being drug through one conflict or difficulty to the next is the perfect description of Summer 2014. My wings felt clipped in one struggle after the other, one difficult knot to untie at a time. Every morning and at every email and phone call, I winced.

What next? I would think.

I didn’t want to know.

Missed chances and wrong turns and all too brief moments of happiness scrambled into the pressing thought that on August 11, my life will change in a big way. Back in April at the end of my pilgrimage, I was told that my teaching assignment in the fall would be entirely different. Most of my classes will now be high school freshmen. After teaching seniors and college freshmen for 20 years, this type of change is difficult, and the struggle to understand why it happened, what it is supposed to show me, and how to muster strength to frame it in a positive light is ever present. But now, I think understanding has arrived. And it’s about having come full circle. Surely, I need time to mourn the passing of my first life of teaching, but then courage needs to come for the next.

Without cataloging the travel and experiences of Summer 2014, I will say that generally, the mirror has been held up in every connection. Because that is what this summer provided me. . . connections to a lot of people. And they set me on the rough road of learning more about who I really am in all my own imperfection.

And I’ve learned both wonderful and not so wonderful things about Cyndi.

I learned I am loved … greatly …by others, especially my previous students. People admire my strength, confidence, talents and honor my greatest gift: educating. Bringing forth knowing within others in relation to their inner selves is a gift I have but don’t own. As a storyteller, I help people grow in knowing themselves by example.

I learned that my dog, Clarence, who went through surgery to remove a scary cancerous tumor in his face three weeks ago, is the key to my highest self. He mirrors the real me. He mirrors the gift of evoking unconditional love… a gift I have put aside for far too long. The thought of losing him pushed me to the very edge. And my friends helped me to hold on. How many dogs  have over 100 people praying for them and hoping for their wellness?

Because in all the traveling I did this summer, to Ocracoke, to South Carolina, to Norfolk, to Grandfather Mountain, to Hollins University, where I took my first studio art class in Children’s Illustration, to workout, to plays and into a whole gamut of house repair situations . . .all of it showed me that summoning sufficient courage to face and navigate unexpected events is the only skill with which I really need more practice. And just saying that scares me, sends me into denial because I don’t want to be brave anymore. I don’t want to stick my head down and plow through another challenge. I need and want peace. And I’m not going to find it in the outer world… I will only find it within.

So this morning at Common Grounds Coffee House, a mission attached to Lynchburg Church of the Covenant, I sit with my pancakes and coffee. Ms. Swannie, whom I met in June, takes loving care of me. She fell in love with Clarence the first time we came for “pat and chat”. But honestly,  she saw something in me that needed her kindness and love. And I’m willing to admit it; I do.

Her calm presence and smile, balances the voice of Hamlet in my thoughts,

The readiness is all…

In clinging to life as is, to people, to the world as I prefer it in the hopes that it will remain the same, I exhibit qualities others have shown in their interactions with me this summer. I saw myself too clearly many times. Control, anger, neediness, emotional reaction, ego, anxiety, defensiveness, self abandonment, avoidance, narcissism, distancing, and lack of compassion. But also I saw patience, love, hope, deep spiritual understanding,  sense of humor, vision, emotional maturity, vulnerability, courage and strength. In a way,  in the turning toward home, I am learning the balance of both worlds. The teacher and the artist. The human woman and the spiritual mystic. After all, the hero must return to the ordinary world and share the treasures of the journey. Even if I don’t want to…I must come home.

The blessing of always finding something to learn, to explore has been my bliss.And then sharing it with others and encouraging them to undertake the same process in their own lives is the thing I just can’t “not” do. It makes me a Teacher. And the challenge is to grow in wisdom and in peacefulness, for the greatest teachers were teachers of being and loving. I don’t have aspirations to be the type of teacher who leads a movement, nor counsels the sick and downtrodden on a grand scale. I don’t want to be a saint or a statue someday in a garden or a cemetery. I want to inspire people, in the truest sense of the term. A memory upon which someone places loving energy, and that energy will remain positive in the Universe. And if enough people do that, then the memory of me will be expansive and affirming. It will love people beyond my short journey here.

I need luck and strength this fall. But I am positive it will come. Both tears and laughter will happen and ten months from now, I have no idea what my life will be. But Clarence will be there to remind me that bringing forth love in balance is the goal, no matter what I do.  Teaching is a path… Not a subject or a profession.

It’s time I stepped evenly into Being . . . the hero of two worlds.


17 Oct

It is play not properness that is the central artery, the core, the brainstem of creative life. The impulse to play is an instinct . No play, no creative life. Be good, no creative life. Sit still, no creative life. Speak, think, act only demurely, little creative juice. Any group, society, institution, or organization that encourages women to revile the eccentric; to be suspicious of the new and unusual; to avoid the fervent, the vital, the innovative; to impersonalize the personal, is asking for a culture of dead women. — Clarissa Pinkola Estes

For the last few weeks, I have curled inward, cocooned around a softened space that holds more than can be seen or completely felt. I have trod a deep wave, and begun to swim downward.

I cannot sleep in my own bed any longer. It’s too big, too vast and cold. Clarence and I curl into a pile under my Donegal wool blanket on the couch, a virtual aquarium from a well worn DVD of Finding Nemo endlessly repeating its digital undulations in the blue black dark.

I sleep deeply now, so deeply that I have begun nightly technicolor travels into memory and the unconscious world. I dream effortlessly … visually for the first time in years. A food borne malaise settled over us both mid week and there was nothing to do but sweat the fever out in this softened pile of couch and cotton pillow and read for class. In Women Who Run with the Wolves, I found an acceptance, an acknowledgement for my essence, my way of being. Suddenly, a maternal voice spoke from its pages, a voice which said…Yes, this is what we do. Already swimming in the deep dark blue, each wave from the page sent me deeper.

 It is safe to go here, it said. You are on the right path.

While reading I knew, a critique would be inappropriate. Analysis essay?No way. Academia needed setting aside in the light of it’s subject matter: the reclaiming of the creative feminine self. And I must attempt something I had not faced since beginning this journey. Painting. Art was ready to be resurrected from the cave. My professor’s enthusiastic permission sent me on a tour of video about wild wolves, listening to wolf howl recordings. Suddenly I understood the dogs in my neighborhood who howl so intensely at sirens. I wanted to howl with them. At once, Clarence became a more of a spiritual companion. His physical closeness in our pile on the couch induced night dreaming, his spirit more significantly connected with mine.

Unfortunately, last week also culminated in the end of the marking period, and serious conflict arose: professional obligation versus the creative artistic urge. After spending two days at home cocooned on the couch, healing physically and spiritually, the real world of school and daily life became difficult to manage. My spirit was entirely on the creative plain and I wanted nothing to do with rules, routine, bells and sleepy children shaped by mindless multiple choice.

Friday, I was angry, cranky, frustrated and in wolf terms . . .bitchy. I ranted inwardly about how my students couldn’t read a simple set of instructions and follow them. Thinking for themselves seemed such a foreign concept. I longed to be home with my pastels and paints, creating. I had been given permission to be wild, to indulge what my soul most needed. My inner artist had been starved for too long in the grief of being abandoned.

The summer before I began this journey, I had become quite a good water colorist. My talent had been surprising, and I had begun to pursue it passionately. But then one evening, I returned from painting class to find I didn’t have a relationship any longer. Its no surprise to me that the last painting I accomplished was one of Clarence. I packed my brushes away along with all things “frivolous” and began to simply survive.

So during my sixth period class, my most playful, boisterous and challenging group, I held the lid on the boiling pot and spun plates as usual. We transitioned at the end into a “Code Red” lockdown drill, which practices a shooter in the building. It is serious. During the drill, we are to keep quiet and hidden. We are to protect the students. As the code was called and I locked the door as required, I turned to my gaggle of giggling 17 year olds and said,

“Shhhhhh.!!!!! Okay people!!! This is serious business!!!!” And flipped off the lights.

They paused. Three seconds maybe. Then erupted in the most joyously loud laughter. Seriously? Are you kidding me? But their laughter infected me. I began to feel the irony of the situation as they swept me into  a wave of pure innocence. I stepped up on top of my desk chair and began to read to them from the laminated Code Red lockdown sheet. What the code meant.Why they we supposed to take this practice, five minutes before a homecoming pep rally, seriously.

Then, suddenly, all I could think of was to tell them stories. Perhaps if I kept them entertained they would quieten down and we could get through the five minutes without too much struggle? But as I began to tell them a recent funny story, they became enraptured.

They laughed.

They hung on my words for the first time and their mischievous energy fed my starving artist soul.

Within moments, I was performing the story on top of my desk chair loudly enough to be heard down the hall, loudly enough to keep them with me.

We connected.. We laughed… We played.

For two moments, we reveled in the hilarity of the story, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar figure at my door. Her frown was puzzling to me.Why wasn’t she a merry as me? I was entertaining this corral of ponies, herding their spirits into delightful rows.

As I opened the door to my assistant principal, I was actually still laughing. Literally, I had no cognizance that I was behaving entirely against what a lockdown requires.

Seriousness. Quiet… Fear.

“We can hear you all the way down the hall!” she yelled in a whisper. “What are you DOING?”

“I’m ……I’m keeping them quiet by telling stories… ” I stammered back in growing shame.

Suddenly the ridiculousness of my actions broke over me like a wave of cold North Atlantic. The shocking icy splash said, No, that is NOT the correct behavior for a life threatening situation. Or a practice to live through one.

She looked at me, her face contorted in anger “If a shooter was in this building you and all these kids would be dead right now! Do you understand that!?” Her voice showed her disappointment and annoyance at my supposed ignorance.

“I’m sorry.” My playful spirit evaporated. “My apologies”, I said. “I’m so sorry… I’m profoundly sorry.” I said in a whisper, my eyes looking to the floor. She turned and walked up the hall, walkie- talkie in hand.

I closed the door. My students were silent; our faces were white, drained of the joy of the previous moments.

“I’m in trouble”, I said quietly. “Let me explain to you why I made the wrong decision.”

And so I told them why a lockdown was serious, how we would all be dead right now and I would have failed to have protected them through my inappropriate behavior. Now, I could be written up or even dismissed, sent home for days without pay. I had no excuse.No defense. I lost myself in creative abandon and for that, I might pay. It wasn’t their faults, I said. It was entirely mine. We were playing… And I should have known better.

They were somber when they left for the pep rally.

“I’m sorry Miss Kelley.”

“Sorry Miss Kelley, I hope you don’t get in trouble.” This followed hanging heads and embarrassed faces. We were all ashamed.

Their assurances spoke of times they themselves had been lost in innocence to the joy of play.

That evening, I went home and knew I would have to climb out of the straight jacket of real life. What had happened to me was an example of a state of imbalance, what happens to a creative soul who has been starved for too long. I poured myself that night into an artistic self that was comatose. Eight hours later, I emerged unwillingly from the land of hand and thought, soul and color.


Howl (33 x 22.5) Oil pastel and gouache. Interpretive mandala of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves.

I didn’t know what would happen Monday when I returned. Whether I would be disciplined or it would be chalked up to a long week of testing, and pre-homecoming disarray. But I knew one thing. My days in this environment are numbered. For I cannot play with my children in the way I am used to any longer and I must be who I am now and let that teach them, too. It seems as if that type of teacher is not welcomed by the state, by the culture in our refusal to acknowledge the wildishness of our natures. It saddens me that I cannot show my pups the wildness of the human world, the way in which to negotiate a creative life, and the secrets to remaining awake and alive:

To play.. To create.. To think… To trust… To love… To be.

What have our systems done to destroy the passing of this learning? Before they even set out on the road of life, they are tamed.

Not in my world… Not under my watch… Not under my protection.

I know they must be taught of danger and predator, but they must be taught of moon and stars as well. In the world of shooters and multiple choice we must not tame their wild spirits.Or life will be one long sleep in which we lose the possibility of resurrecting the wild creative, the authentic self.


30 May

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“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” — J.M. Barrie

Hippies. Nature folk. Rasta. The Fae …however one would want to label them,  Neverlandish dreadheaded, colorfully clothed children in adult bodies came out in droves at Roosterwalk with only one common goal: living life moment by moment fully connected to the music and to the natural world.

After reflecting on my own three days in nature, albeit car camping, I can understand why they tend to live the way they do. Right now, Virginia is vivid vibrant green, soaked to the seams in rain and humidless sunshine. The air is packed with the perfume of life, fragrances I never really noticed before. Wafts of honeysuckle cloud move in warm drifts through the trees and tall grass, the flowers cast a veil  all around their wet nodding heads; the hay spread over mud mixes into a nutty earthiness which rises up from the ground as from a dark dough. Before this weekend, I didn’t really comprehend the value of fresh air before, of breathing with the plants in the elements, fully allowing the air and wet earth to engage with my own body. The value of an open window didn’t strike me as important as it does now. Sleeping in forty degrees and waking to sunshine and cows calling at dawn changes a person’s perspective. Simple exposure, reveals the Self. The weather changes so quickly that one HAS to be in the moment. I’d go down to a tank top and then in two hours, four layers, a sweater and mitts were standard attire.

These folk who travel festival to festival, live quite naturally. This urge to bind within a spiritual harmony of sorts…to nomadically drift, giving hostage to fortune and being completely who one is without shame is admirable. The sense of doing without the trappings of material culture is somehow appealing to me of late because to own an American life means to be tied to a great deal of nothingness. When a fire, a divorce, or an employment pause can take one to the brink of what seems to be the loss of everything, this way of letting go can seem the only way to understand that life and the Self are the greatest possessions the Universe loans us, for they are just as impermanent as the rest. In mud, tree, and moon, I found I just didn’t care anymore. This weekend changed me. When I was hungry, I ate. Body functions pretty naturally took care of themselves and I didn’t worry about brushing my hair or really wearing more than protective cosmetics against the sun. These people and experience in the elements taught me the real meaning of comfort versus necessity.

A group of free spirits erected a geodesic dome near my campsite, inside of which they hung a silk swing like Cirque du Soleil ala SWVa. I never traversed the field of mud to see inside it, but the laughter of children rang out from the white pendulum inside all Saturday evening.  I discovered that this troupe was  scheduled to perform fire dancing alongside the main band both evenings. Their Saturday night performance was most elaborate, each vignette a dramatic story of personified emotion. I was reminded of medieval morality plays, their characters, an allegory of the human experience. The dancers’ pantomime interpreted the tone of the music rather than song lyrics. Their small globes of fire left bright furrows of arching light and smoke in my eye. Likewise, colorfully lit hula hoops were spun by others in a ballet all weekend. Old or young, male or female, hoop dancing along the sides of the stages occurred spontaneously, some dancers so fluid and lithe the performance seemed choreographed.

One particular dancer caught my eye; a young blonde lad would mysteriously appear and then either dance or grab a hoop, and move in toward the music like a low rolling cloud, letting the wave of inspiration take and turn him in the airy surge. Every time he moved, the languid sinuousness of his body was beyond envy, his expressiveness a pure visual delight. But, as soon as my camera would begin to record, like sea foam he would let the wave pull him out into the ocean of others and the tide would calm. A lesson in his transitory performances revealed to me that this type of physical art, born of the moment and of human response to the symbolic isn’t to be kept or recorded, but merely witnessed. Like the Tibetan sand mandala the creative process and expression is the true beauty and revelation in the act.

Saturday night, several girls in faerie costume and wings flitted about the crowd, dancing together with a few lads in beach towel capes. Their playful innocence assured me that my own enjoyment of child’s play is not odd or in vain. Simply put, we were born awake and we still hear the call of creative abandon. Glow-in-the-dark bracelets were tossed about the crowd, several making their way into balloons to be batted around among the lot of us. A lad with a laser lit them up as they floated and glowed green like little eggs from Wonderland. Tiny pin points from his wand broke the leaves of the trees into shards of living light. In the midst of this playfulness, a point arrived where the dancing I had been drawn into all weekend, changed.

I let go.

I didn’t care who saw me or what they thought. I moved how my body wanted to move. That letting go created an openness in me but also, now that I think back, a vulnerability. To physically express so publicly opens a person to judgment of what is most precious within. It is still an intimate act to invite eyes into that sort of artistic baring of Self. And perhaps what I learned is that in areas of creativity, that which we fear to put to public view shows us our own vulnerabilities. For me, it is my body. And to express physically is something I know I need to do more in order to grow. Even though a gentleman behind me approached me after Yarn’s rendition of Simon’s Late in the Evening, thanking me for dancing, I was slightly embarrassed and instantly apologetic.

He laughed loudly. Don’t apologize! I’m complementing you.

Can I learn to simply say thank you as with the other forms of creativity in which I engage?

In the days that have followed this festival, I have dreamed in images of green rushing trees and banjos. Beloved is speaking again, mostly in poetry that I can’t wake up enough to catch. She left me with this line early yesterday morning.

In leaves and seasons, so it is with the music of the world.

And I think this means to keep moving…to turn and turn again, like the circular swaying of the hooper, like the swinging arc of the fire dancer’s flame. In the ballet of the symbolic, we turn like the earth, singing its song, leaping between this world and Neverland.

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