I awaken. I arise each morning. We all do. At first seeing, what is not seen — is the blank page. Upon it are wisps, remnants of elusive, felt dreams from sleeping. They haunt the unseen blank page like vivid watercolor drops that fade as they dry. Each new day, when we arise, pages have already been written… in dreaming, and other days, and then we awaken again upon a new page where we write our lives by living, breathing and being.
Blinking eyes, happily taunt-stretched limbs, the loud yawn of awakening, the guttural bellow of the flexed stomach releasing…
we may wake up with expectations and a schedule. We may be woken up by interruptions and demands. We may arise alone or crowded, or something in between… and we may want it, or not want it. We may wake up peaceful and content, afraid and worried, or neutral, or excited, or confused.
Still we wake up living and so we write upon the blank page of morning. Each blank page becomes filled with feelings, thoughts, actions, words — the seen and the unseen, and by choice and by no-choice — consciously and unconsciously.
For me, in the past year and three months, ever since a kitten was unexpectedly adopted… every morning, my blank page begins with the most persistent shower of warmth and affection — a cuddle like no other on my tip-top upper area of the chest with a complete nuzzling-in of a little face deep into my neck, where he purrs… and then sleeps, if I let him there long enough. He is soft as a marshmallow and just as sweet. He is a being who comes to me like a patiently timed magnet instantly attracted — upon my awakening. I do not write this on my page exactly, it is a repeating miracle shining upon me by a little mysterious being of love, brought here by my life partner. So, our pages can change in certain ways that are beyond us alone.
This young cat’s constancy, his persevering affection and gratitude changes my page of awakening. He softens and warms my voice and has been applying a medicine to my heart each morning that it has not known in this way and sorely needed at this time.
The unseen blank page and what I write upon it is up to me… because it is me… living and breathing. No one else can actually write it. Though others may influence and affect it. A life partner doesn’t write my pages for me but he writes beside me, and I with him. We fall asleep holding hands, waking up we are next to or near each other. Yet, everyone too… because everything and everyone are connected to all that is. We are all connected. If I forget that… my page can lose its strength. And if I forget that I am writing my own life by living it and that no one else can… then my page can lose its magic. That has happened before. That was something I wrote on pages of my life at one time. And… it is not happening anymore. Today I am writing a poem, as the silence holds my breath, writing, and being in spaciousness. That, for now, is all there is in this moment upon the page.
There is one more thing to say about all of this… shining sunshine upon others may not write upon their pages exactly, because it is our own pages we write on. Yet, what it does, is it uplifts and warms, it comforts, relaxes, and inspires, and can help to welcome in all kinds of goodness and healing.
I originally wrote this piece for Mother’s Day, but I don’t want to limit this thought and action to one day. This is for everyone, and for every day.
This is a time of emergency on many fronts, and I have found myself returning again and again to the spiritual and mental/emotional aspects in order to remain well, so that effective activism is still possible. Consider the following:
Mother’s Day (just a couple days ago) is a painful day for many people. The reasons why are numerous: a mentally ill and/or abusive mother, a mother who died too soon, wanting to be a mother but not being able to, a cold and distant mother, and many other complications and tragedies related to “mother”. And many have wonderful experiences with mother, the woman. Yet, the mother energy may also have taken the form of a sister, grandmother, aunt, friend, or single parent father.
I want to make something clear: it is necessary for us to reclaim healthy mother energy for ourselves — no matter what the actual mom and motherhood has been. We need to realize how we may have found healing and understanding of the healthy and loving mother energy from others — regardless of their age, gender, or relation to us. There are many ways that we can now welcome and honor the positive, life-giving love of healthy mother energy and being, which this world needs so badly.
Giving birth is sacred. And, there is no real need to literally give birth to a living being in order to be a mother to someone. This is also sacred. And it crosses imaginary lines of gender and species. Everyone is capable of mothering, being a mother, and providing mother blessings to others. We need this energy now. We all have the capacity to provide fierce and healthy mother energy to ourselves and others — and the Earth as a whole.
This is sacred, mighty energy that is the foundation for everything that is real and good in this life and world! This is a way of being and sharing that teaches, nourishes, protects, guides, sustains, and risks all to protect and promote health, growth, right action. This is the energy of both unconditional love and transformative love. Together they provide wise and fair discipline, while weaving inspiration and practical goodness throughout — in the midst of both hardships and ease.
At this time in history, women and girls require a special acknowledgement, protection, and respect. Women and girls are under attack at this time. Honoring and wielding this healthy mother energy for all who need it, is more important than ever.
This is the mother energy that refuses to cling, smother, or treat her children as something to live through or own. This is mother energy that refuses to rule by rejection, manipulation, or cruelty. This mother energy is a truly radiant energy that promotes and sustains: health, sustenance, and a consistent presence. The true mother energy can be terrifying in its knowing and seeing, and an absolute life-line in its ability to comfort, teach, persevere and instill goodness in her children — while respecting their unique expressions, needs, privacy, space, and paths.
Mother energy is also the planet, Mother Earth — Terra Mater, and all of her ecosystems, biodiversity, diversity, and balance of beings. This energy is also under attack and in great danger at this time. We are called now to hold in our minds, hearts, and actions ways in which to honor, act with, and preserve healthy mother energy.
It is essential that we stand up for and take concrete and practical actions to protect female rights, so that they always have say over their own bodies, and to honor females as equal — with equal rights and equal birthrights. In truth, mother Earth gives the birthrights to all beings born here: free, clean, accessible, and healthy air, water, and soil; shelter, quality of life, well-being, abundance, balance, space and freedom to be, live and grow; and health. Corruption and greed is what pollutes, destroys, monopolizes, and monetizes it. Just like females, the Earth requires our concrete and practical actions to ensure protection and preservation of her biodiversity, biosphere, balance, and health.
Mother’s Day and healthy, loving, strong mother energy is for everyone. The potential for this mother energy is in everyone. We all carry the capacity for true loving mother energy that has the power to sustain and nourish life, and encourage it further: with love, wisdom, and natural magic. Men and boys just as desperately require this energy and the preservation, respect, and protection of it. Men and boys also have the capacity to respectfully and positively wield the healthy mother energy.
I have posted two pages on my website that support the mental/emotional and spiritual aspects required in order to face these challenges, and to wield the healing and healthy energy of mother for self and others.
Speaking personally, I need to practice mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in order to be more effective in my activism. It helps me, and stands for what I believe and seek. This is why I share, in hopes that it will welcome, help and support others. Here are the links to these pages: Heart Mantra and Loving-Kindness Mantras.
May my mother be free from bondage and suffering. May my mother be well. May your mother be free from bondage and suffering. May your mother be well. May the mother within be free from bondage and suffering. May the mother within be well. May our Earth mother be free from bondage and suffering. May our Earth mother be well. May all that is be well.
Adaptation of the Metta Meditation (Loving-Kindness mantras)
I wrote the narrative below, Give Up, at the end of September in 2014. It is about a dark night I went through that I will never forget. It wasn’t the first hard time I have faced, but it was a pivotal one, different from other times.
It was August 11th, 2014. I experienced a deep depression that washed over me quite suddenly. I was to find out the next day, that it was the same day that Robin Williams died. He was someone who had been a bright light for me in a rough childhood — him and The Muppets. Finding out the next day about his death, I realized I had probably felt a “disturbance in the force,” so to speak, that had affected me. Robin was such a great presence on Earth, dear to many, and missed. I am sure his death was a real energetic part of what I felt that night. But there were personal dynamics at work too.
Before that night, I had already gone through some devastating loss. My oldest sister had died four months earlier, after a long battle with a cancer that had turned quite brutal. A few months before that, our elderly dog had also gotten a brutal cancer, and had to be euthanized suddenly. Simultaneously, I had come to a point in my self-employment where I knew I had to make a change. I had been doing holistic spiritual care for over a decade, and didn’t quite know where I was headed, if I were to stop and change.
The story you are about to read is about facing inevitable change, loss, past traumas revisited, and grief. It is also about the life-giving transformations we are able to experience while in relationship with other beings, for instance, a cat. Reciprocal positive relationship with animals, and other beings, can be profound and important in so many ways, if we are open to it. I recommend being open to it.
Perhaps one of the reasons that humanity finds itself facing so many crises and ongoing-history-repeating-itself serious problems is because, we are not in active, consistent, real relationships with the countless other living beings we share this planet with — not in a way that is ongoing, respectful and more selfless than self-serving.
The trees, plants, aquatic life of all kinds, rocks/crystals, land animals, creatures of the air, and below ground all have knowing of various kinds in their being. An openness to cultivating conscious, caring relationships with any of those — choosing to be present for it — could be the transformative change we need at this time. It is important to note that any committed relationship within or between other species needs to contain: consistent presence, kindness, honesty, consideration, and mutual respect.
The following story is evidence of the deep, long-resonating, lasting rewards that come from: a balance of giving and receiving, helping and receiving help, listening and sharing, asking and telling – true friendship. I have Boris, the valiant cat, to thank for the real presence and wisdom won during that dark, hard night on August 11, 2014:
There is an escalating pressure mounting around and within me tonight. It presses upon me like an ominous darkness of massive storm clouds, which contain a sharp cold front set against the air — stagnant, oppressive heat, humidity and no wind. A violent storm is looming.
Am I wearing rose-colored glasses, not facing reality? Not usually. I do love being practical and realistic, as much as positive and dreamy. Am I the eternal optimist made of ideals? Yes, that is true. There is a tireless, sleepless affinity in me for honesty and ethics…awake in my heart and mind like an atomic clock.
On my bed this day and evening, a powerful depression intrudes, and disrupts my true nature. I cannot continue. I want to give up, for real.
It is painful, blind, anguish.
It feels like that sucker punch in my solar plexus, from the mean boy in 4th grade. I was taken by surprise, robbed of breath and air, with that sudden punch of pain, that dropped me to my knees — sucking tears out of me without permission. He had walked away without a word.
This swell of sadness tonight is too dark, and overwhelms me beyond reason.
Boris, the cat, is by me now. He is the one who always comes running to see how he can help when it sounds, from somewhere in our house, like someone could be hurt, in trouble, or sick. If he were human, he would be a First Responder, a nurse, counselor, and/or healer. I tell him quietly and despondently that I am giving up. At first I am not sure if I mean my life. The darkness was so overwhelming. I ask myself, and feel deeply: No, not my life. My purpose and work — like a spiritual death, it seems. Boris tells me a surprising thing — with his wise eyes and being, Boris says, “Good. Give up.”
Startled into a sudden alert surprised awareness, that breaks the dark spell, I ask, “What?! Why? Don’t you care? You always care. Why don’t you care, Boris?” He answered with nonchalance, “Give up. I gave up once. After I gave up, good people found me, helped me, and then you found me. And now look at me.” He is beaming strength and love, smiling, eyes happy.
Astonished and awakened, I remembered what he meant. I thought of Boris’s story. Boris had been abandoned by a previous family, along a freeway, that had a tall fence separating it from the countryside. When he was found, the shelter workers told us, he was dirty. The kind of dirty, they said, that only happens when a cat gives up. A cat giving up is a starkly tragic thing. Cats take pride in their self-care and stealthy ability to survive. He had been brought low by the trauma of being abandoned and then trapped near a highway, with bad weather/storms, and no food. He suffered PTSD for a while after we adopted him. He needed antidepressants for a few months, to remember what normal feels like, the vet said. And he did, he got better after those 3-4 months of medication. (Actually, his example back then with needing medication for a while, helped me to address my own needs during a health crisis, not long after his.) It took us a few years after adopting Boris, to fully earn his trust and full affection. In his elder years now, after 11 years with us so far, he is well and happy, fully loved and loving. We know he is no younger than 17 and could be as old as 19.
I paused, and took this moment in.
Maybe the thought to give up wasn’t as bad as it felt at first. It is simply hard to let go of work that I have given all my heart and effort to, along with sitting with the layers of grief. I am loyal. I am a hard worker. Yet, I need to let go of some big things, and adjust to a changing reality and changing needs. Boris is right. I looked over at him in awe. The four-legged, hairy, mahogany-red with white, tall, thin, elder fellow is right. I didn’t expect that from you just now, Boris. Thank you!
King Boris, or Chewy Bill, as we sometimes call him, gave me a jolt of understanding that allowed me to release the fear and illusion of failure. Boris helped me to boldly take up courage, and be okay with letting go — even if it feels like dropping off a ledge on a tall building with no net or cushion below. Boris has an intimate, expert knowledge of major endings that are like deaths, and how rebirth is on the other side of it, waiting for us — something much better, and really right. A really wise cat, that Boris. What a gorgeous guide! I scratched his cheeks and massaged his head and chest in thanks. He smiled his open-mouthed smile with twinkling eyes, that reminds my husband of Don Knotts. That makes me chuckle. What I see is a cat who blazes and shimmers, a noble being, who commands his new life with joy — a new life, that found him. He knows — he gained all of it after he had given up.
Back to 2019. What I didn’t know yet, when I wrote that story, was that we would yet have to face the death of our elder cats, first Abigail, and then Boris in the following year. Living with, and processing all that grief, led me to shift and channel it, and the love, into practical, tangible work for healthy sustainable living (toxin-free) via Recipe For A Green Life, which took up nearly three years of my life, from start to finish. It was a big leap, and a big risk. It certainly didn’t pay well. Yet, it is and has been important, honors what and how I love, and speaks of our collective, interrelated, priceless connection to all life in totality.
Boris was such a strong presence in our lives — a magnanimous, extraordinary spirit, even for a cat. He always knew that humans are too often so slow to catch on to what animals know, and try to communicate. He was always persistent, and maddeningly so. I actually gained so much respect for his persistence — it can be an endearing, admirable quality. He never gave up on trying to communicate with us; helping us to understand what he needed or wanted, in quite obvious, when his subtle gestures were missed by us.
Pawing At My Heart
For a time before he died, he kept pawing at my upper chest, like he wanted to climb inside my heart. He did it so often. In my distracted, clueless, human way, I thought it was cute, yet strange that he kept doing it. Then, I found out that he was terminally ill. After a while of processing the two things, I finally understood what he was saying to me. He was saying,
“Keep me in your heart.
Don’t forget me.
I love you.
I will always be there.”
When I finally realized what he was saying, it loosed my tears, along with the enormous love grown through a positive, loving relationship with another being over so many years. It still loosens my tears of love, years later.
I picked him up, hugged and assured him that I finally understood. I told him that I would, always. He never did it again, so I know that he knew the message was received. I am so thankful that I was able to drop my human distractions for long enough to truly hear him before he had to leave us.
We are convinced Boris was a mighty spirit that took on cat form for a time, someone we were lucky to know and love. I could tell many stories about Boris’s ways. Like the Easter morning that he jauntily brought in a baby rabbit for me to cook for the holiday. Or, the nap we took beside each other, and the dream that we had — where he taught me to make healing balls of light (it was hard — he was really good at it). Or, how he always came to everyone’s rescue, never once afraid. And, how he wanted a dog so badly, and how he fell in love with her, when we did finally adopt a dog. And, how he had a soul mate, little Abigail (ginger cat) — and how they had an actual impromptu wedding ceremony in our back yard one Spring.
Yet, for today, what I will say is this: The time, love, and presence of Boris, that strong bright being, lives on and is in my heart always. That alone, gives me courage and the warm action of love for this life — no matter what.C
Please Note: The article below was originally written and posted on a former version of this site. This article from 2012 has been edited and re-published in honor of Dr. Mary Oliver, who died earlier today.
Before you read the following article that I wrote after meeting Mary Oliver back in 2012, I would like to say a couple of things about her now, for today. Some of her childhood consisted of neglect, sexual abuse, and loneliness. Her life as a poet was the truest self she could be in this life, and the best. When young and throughout life, she found comfort, life, and what is sacred out in nature and with animals. She was a contemplative poet, with a naturalist’s passion for nature and simplicity. Every part of that encapsulation of her has given me hope and saved, affirmed, and encouraged me—as a survivor, poet, human, and naturalist soul. I send her well wishes on her soul journeys that begin today, and so much love and gratitude for all she shared with us. Shine on, dear Mary Oliver, holy voice for this earth—and what is so precious in this life.
Nov. 13th, 2012
Did you happen to feel a big bliss vibe yesterday? It could have been from me. I got to meet my favorite poet of our time, an inspirational goddess of poetry–Mary Oliver–yesterday. Because of this, I have residual Mary Oliver bliss that I know must be radiating out into the rest of this place. *big smile* Read on to learn what it was like to: see her, listen to her read her own poetry, get writing advice from her via the Q & A, how it was to meet her, and what it all meant to me.
I went to Marquette University with some of the best poetry loving friends, in order to witness Mary Oliver receive an honorary doctorate there. Mary Oliver’s smile, in reaction to the donning of the Doctorate robe, was such a revelation to me! In general she has a serious and drawn face. And quite suddenly, it burst open like a shimmering flower of tropical sunshine. It was a jolt–an amazing joy to behold. We then listened to Dr. Oliver read her poetry to us. It was an hour, which passed like a few minutes. After, there was a Q & A, and then a line formed for book signing. My best poetry buddy, Marci, and I got to speak with her briefly together, when our turn approached for signing—more on that later.
The main and briefly summarized impression I had from the poetry reading itself was of: Mary Oliver’s affinity and compassion for nature, her dog, and for the real connections of this life that she expresses in ways that soothe, affirm, and stir my soul. This is why she is beloved–her poetry is transpersonal and deep, yet accessible. The whole experience was holy.
In person, Mary Oliver is small, and she is older now, so she has a cane and white hair. She was very much like a fairy-godmother presence, especially while delighting in choosing which poems to read to us. She seemed to me to be mostly: witty, cute, wild, rebellious, tender, open-hearted, bold, wise and magical. Also, Mary Oliver’s heart and mind seem to have beams of focused energy, clear and strong, that are able to shine out upon the world–wherever she may be sitting, standing, or speaking in the moment. There is an air of serious concentration about her. And, it is clear, she adores the natural world, and has a passion for it beyond simple observation—she is in deep relationship. It is also clear, she deeply cares about people, no matter how humble, shy, and introverted she is. She made a tremendous effort to transmit her love and appreciation to us with grace, humor and oomph.
During the Q & A, a fiery passion came forth as she responded to a question, giving advice about how to be a successful poet. I can’t quote her word for word, but it was something I can paraphrase as this:
Forget about being successful! Spend every day caring about your writing. In this economy, forget about the nice car and nice apartment. Focus on doing the best you can, writing every day!
She did answer my question, which was something like, “Does poetry flow from you in the same way it did 10-20 years ago?” She revealed, in not these exact words, that inspiration doesn’t hit as hard as it did once; that things have slowed. And yet, there was a new book in front of her and she mentioned another was on the way. She told us that she never had trouble with writer’s block. That if there was a little of it, she knew the answer was always connecting with the earth and being grateful, and it would come back, and flow. She also mentioned that, if anything, she wrote too much. I could tell that having inspiration leave her would be like an athlete suddenly becoming immobile with no hope of future mobility. It would be devastating. But I don’t really think that will happen. Her very being has become poetry, just as Whitman had described.
Her eyes are full beams of mystical presence…they struck me as powerful, yet gentle–a concentrated energy that I really haven’t ever seen in someone before. Her eyes are full, with presence–that is it—fiery, grounded, watery, elemental. Her life has been a discipline of not only presence, but deep relationship with all presence.
Speaking of those poetic goddess-like eyes, I had a chance to look right into them, across a table, at the book signing. I was feeling extremely shy and in awe, but I managed to say awkwardly, but honestly, “Thank you Dr. Oliver. I love you.” There was a significantly silent pause as she looked down at the book I had given her, before she wrote in my copy of Swan, then she said quite slowly and deliberately, “Well…I don’t know you, but…I love you too.” Then, she looked up and gave me the gift of presence, looking intently into my eyes–really looking. All I could do was smile at her with love and gratitude. It. was. awesome.
What I have always known, since I was 12 years old—was presented to me in the flesh yesterday, as pure and utter gift: A great poet speaks for and to the soul, as much as to the person. She is voice for the soul, for presence. She is also the medicine.
”For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ~ Mary Oliver
Those words of Mary Oliver’s came to me as we all listened raptly to her, reading her poetry to us.
I felt, indeed, that I was hungry and cold, and maybe even a bit lost, and that she was feeding me (us) and my deeper self–like a mother bird feeds her babies. Yes, I felt that yesterday with Dr. Mary Oliver, and it was bliss.