Returning

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Returning

Mountain headwaters
Course through spaces
Over rocks and roots
and dirt.
Pull at me
Sweet gravity.
Movement
Space
Time
Dilute away
Milky clouds of
Pollution
Surplus elements.
Refined,
Sustained
As liquid,
Formless
Shaped by environs.
Again,
Earth-force,
Irresistibly
Draw me
To that other place
of origin -
Salty,
Sweet,
Cool,
Primal.
Sometimes
as white, turbulent currents,
Acrid with runoff.
Other times
as dissolved particles
Diluted into
Sweet water
cleaned with
Time
Movement
Lessening of concentration.
Ever ebb and flow.
Wild
Rush
White.
Flat
Calm
Dark.
Absorbed
Evaporated
Contained
into smaller banks.
In the dry expanse,
Meander past
Tan dry grasses
Pungent sage
Warm pumice dirt
Gatherings
of busy beings.
Then expand
Into the immense fluidity and
The westward drive
Towards
a merging.
Just be:
Micro-exist
Macro-exist
Not resist.
In
the cooler place
the potent place
the older place.
Then suddenly
Squeezed
Constricted
Expanded.
More buoyant
Floating
In immense amniotic salt and sand.
Teems with danger and peace.
Tastes of salt and life.
Returning
And Returning
To this communion
To this solitude.
I am this.
I am home.

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3 Times in the Chapel

Candle in my bedroom

What can I say? It was the middle of the night and we’d gotten restless. It was our eighth day in that smelly, joy-forsaken place, and we were on the prowl, like teenagers with nothing better to do. Okay, “on the prowl” is a bit of an over-statement, as would be “walk” or even “stroll.” Let’s just say we—shuffled, or he shuffled, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, and I moved my strong healthy legs in slow motion, matching his labored gait. I nodded my encouragement when I’d catch his golden eyes making a sideways glance. He’d sweat and shrug and concentrate in order to keep his well-earned, forward momentum. Carmella, the night nurse, had covertly given us directions, whispering behind her hand, like she was telling us where we could score some illegal, mind altering substance—like he didn’t have access to enough already—from her no less! So, we descended in the elevator from the fourth floor to the second, and emerged outside the entrance to the hospital’s chapel.

The modern chapel’s dim interior was lit in those early morning hours from the ambient light filtering in from the hallway, and from the gray night sky filtering through the foliage of the Lynn Griffith Memorial Garden, and from a skylight on the high ceiling. As we entered, we heard the trickling water of a fountain, which cascaded gently through the spaces between the rounded rocks, which were covered with ferns, whose hairy roots clung to the gray smooth surfaces like fingers. I ran my index finger along the roots. They were surprisingly course, stout and sturdy. Dry moss and some deep green foliage with spade-shaped leaves, nestled in rock crevices, their green-ness smooth to my touch. I glanced over to him.

“All these days and nights at St. Charles and I’ve never stopped in this place.”

“It smells like life in here.” I nodded in agreement and breathed in the damp smell.

“This is like another world…” I added, “So full of life, compared to the death and sickness that surrounds the place on every side.” I watched him drag the three-foot tall stainless and green oxygen tank, cradled and strapped into a compact wheeled dolly, made of metal tubing and fitted with a black plastic handle. He laid it down like a baby and noticed me watching.

“My link to life here,” he said as he patted the cylinder. I nodded as he adjusted the clear hose of the cannula, running under his nose and around his ears, then removed it and blew his nose into a tissue in his pocket. He smiled when I noticed the dark stain that was apparent even in the dim light.

“All that O₂ blowing up my nose dries out my sinuses.”

“Crap, boy.” I shook my head.

“I know. Right?” he shrugged lightly at the fear I was trying to keep out of my eyes. I watched him tentatively sink onto his knees and close his eyes. As I watched his lips move in a silent prayer, tears burned behind my eyes. I lowered myself onto the slate tile surrounding the fountain. I imagined my yoga practice as I reclined into Sivasana, aka “corpse pose.”

How many people come into this place, to pray, to meditate or just find a quiet moment in the midst of their own private storm of worry? St. Charles is a Catholic hospital, but all of us certainly aren’t Catholic, or even religious—maybe not even spiritual. I wondered that night what kind of prayers, pleas and plans had been spoken beside that fountain, through the years.

I let my eyes open in the dim light of the chapel. Above me there was a tremendous octagonal skylight, divided with steel structures. Its glass panes both reflected light from the room, and gave an obscured view into the dark sky above. Where all the steel and glass converge hung a linear, stained glass sculpture, and from the sculpture, attached with an s-loop—a constant burning oil lamp. What was the intended meaning? Constant: The presence of the Divine? Possibly the circle of life? Maybe the goodness of love? I bet the designers never had this in mind: The constancy of human doubt each of us carry about our own sufficiency?

Am I enough for this? That’s what I wondered in the middle of the night, my body supine on the hard slate floor of the chapel. I wondered how much would be asked of me, as I helped this man on his road to wellness. I wondered how well I really knew him.

Earlier in the day I had sat at the edge of his plastic covered, adjustable hospital bed with my hand curled around his blanket-covered calf. We were going over the options—places for him to heal after the hospital ordeal. The question rose in his eyes, and though I knew what he was asking, I let him speak the actual words.

“Can I come heal at your house?” At least by then he was out of the derriere-revealing-tie-at-the-back, cotton hospital gown. He wore the dignity of his own clothes. I looked back and forth between his golden eyes—searching. Did he really know what he was asking?
I knew.

“Okay,” I whispered slowly, tentatively—an act of faith; an act of love and friendship; …an act which no matter how long I pondered, I could not know the outcome. I had no idea if our budding romance, our on-again, off-again soulful connection could survive every day intimacy, or move forward afterwards. I didn’t know what I might find out about him, though I did have an inkling. I knew however, that I WAS going to make a place for him to get well—both in my home and in my heart—regardless of the romantic outcome, or what else he brought along with him.

The second time I visited the chapel, he’d been healing in my house (and in my bed) just a couple of weeks. That particular warm Sunday in September, I’d left him and his teen-aged daughters fashioning some breakfast that didn’t require the stove’s natural gas flame—so they wouldn’t blow the place up with the volatile concentrated oxygen he constantly breathed. After I parked my car at the hospital, I jogged through the parking lot and waved at the greeter who sat at the front desk, who simply nodded as I breezed by. I then bounded up the stairs from the hospital’s open, atrium area to the second floor where the chapel was always open. I plopped my backside into an upholstered chair under the skylight. (Being the middle of the day, I chose not lay on the floor.) I sat for a moment with my books and laptop stacked on my thighs, and absorbed the chapel in the light of day. I looked up past the oil lamp and stained glass sculpture, through the steel and glass—into the clear blue sky. What a couple of weeks this has been, I sighed.

A Hispanic woman and her three young children walked in. When she saw me, she shush-ed her little tribe, then led them to the alter area—a thick rectangular, white marble slab about waist high, that in the bright light, I could imagine small animal sacrifices being performed on. She caressed the marble surface, then pointed to the hairy fern roots, foliage and round rocks. A pony-tailed, dark-skinned girl ran her finger along a burry root then giggled and brought her hand to her mouth.

Later, a wounded, white-haired man in a neck brace and a tie-at-the-back gown wandered through the chapel. He was on the arm of a young beautiful woman, and he leaned into the woman, wondering if he should be out in public.

“I might be frightening to young children,” he whispered to the young woman. She gently patted his arm.

“You aren’t frightening,” she smiled and rolled her eyes, then added, “Besides, there are no children here to frighten.” The wounded man smiled and nodded at her comment, then resumed his slow shuffle through the room and out the swinging metal doors, into the garden and the warm autumn sun.

The chapel emptied and as I rose and I moved closer to the water, I noticed a guest book. I wondered: Who has been here since we ambled in, that last night he spent in the hospital? I opened it and flipped through its pages, reading through pleading, block-printed entries, neat cursive narratives, and then scrawled single sentence statements—each dated and written with a different color ink.

I dug through my pack and found a pen. I wrote about our own rocky path—from his critical illness to his current improved health. I imagined what life has looked like since that last night in the chapel. It looked like creating a partnership, with love and intimacy and shared responsibility. It has looked like his oxygen rich healing; his ever-deeper lung expanding breathing; and our long walks around the neighborhood. It has looked like cooking and doing dishes and scrubbing toilets and making a cozy family space for us and our daughters—his two, my one. Then, surrender—my giving in the next moment, and the next. Then maybe, possibly entertaining the idea that I may be enough, no matter what the outcome.

After writing and pondering all the ways my life had changed, I sat and I did what many come to do in the chapel: I prayed. I spoke softly both my brave and enlightened prayers and my very human uncertainties.

“I breathe in the vibration of life; the gift of our love; the presence of Creation—and all the ways I fear I’m not enough… I do feel the solid ground beneath me, and I breathe deeply all the way into the stratosphere—for you and your healing lungs (I spoke to my lover); for me and for all of us—that we may each know that yes, we exist as a mere speck in space, a tiny blip in time—yet somehow we are also more than enough, that the doubts and the love collide into some beautiful combination and that in spite of ourselves: We DO make a difference.”

I sat a while longer. I watched souls wander in, then wander out, and as I did, I wondered about their stories. Were they going to heal and spend a little longer in this world? Would they leave this existence sooner, rather than later?

By the time I headed towards the chapel the third time, the days had become brief and cold; the deciduous leaves yellow-brown and blowing in the street and tumbling around the hospital’s parking lot. I ponderously ambled through the lobby without speaking to the attendant, and I slowly climbed the stairs. By the time I got into the chapel’s chamber, the burden of my pack dug into my shoulders and my feet ached. I slid my pack onto the carpet, kicked off my shoes and knelt on the tile—just like he had a few months prior. Yet, this time I had no enlightened prayers. There was no hope that somehow I might be enough—because there’s no being enough for some situations.

There on my knees I pictured what waited for me at home. The cannula and clear hose sat coiled and useless on top of the four-wheeled oxygen concentrator, the technician had pushed across my wood floors months prior. (I imagined at the time, the noisy apparatus looked like R2D2 of the seventies film Star Wars.) My master closet still housed the green and stainless oxygen tanks, where they seemed huddled together like soldiers trying to stay warm, on a day as cold as that day. There were boxes of Albuterol nebulizing fluid, stacked neatly next to a pile of hospital discharge papers. There were empty script bottles of Lorazepam anti-anxiety medication, Prednisone steroid, and empty red bottles of codeine cough syrup—all in crumpled white pharmacy bags. His clothes still hung in my closet. The bed empty for days—was cold as stone.

Was I enough? Some days I think so. I used to profess a certain personal truth: No act of love is ever wasted. As my knees ached on the slate tile, I brought my mind back into the chapel. The trickle of the fountain found its way into my ears. The smell of wet green foliage filled my nose with its life, and when I opened my eyes and lifted my head, I gazed at the constant burning oil lamp. Okay…I nodded, sighed, then stood and gathered up my pack, which was not as heavy as I remembered. I slipped into my snazzy German Mary-Jane shoes, which I thought would change my life when I bought them, and I started for the door. Before I walked across the threshold, I looked up and caught the eye of a vibrant, handsome, white-haired man on the arm of a young beautiful woman—who winked at me as he walked by. I glanced back, thinking: He looks very familiar.

As I made my way out to my car, the wind whipped my long, dark hair across my face, and in spite of it all, I smiled… and—I refused to regret. Not one single decision. Not a single exhausted moment. Not a single caress.

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Meditations on Hope and Hopelessness

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Hope: It’s a good thing, right? Necessary even. To have hope, is to not be discouraged, to imagine something better, to be continually improving personally and imagining better days for others, maybe even for our country. Hope sounds noble. What a worthy endeavor—to create hope, to hold a hopeful place for others. That’s all good, right?

The cancer patient believes, as New Age ideals suggest, that he’s going to live. He just has to desire and believe ENOUGH, say his positive aphorism “I’m getting healthier every day” and voila—he’s a magnet for all his desires to be cancer free. He might even be healed, all via his belief and desire and hope. If healing doesn’t happen, we move on to some other route, but only after the battle and hope is “lost.” Hope is the supposed lifeline we spiritual ones cling to. Then, there’s the woman whose husband is lost at sea. The hours turn into days. The days turn into weeks. Still, she has “hope” and that hope proves she’s a good woman and that she loves her husband, right? We’re taught to hope, and that hope is our salvation and that having hope speaks of our goodness, but is that really true?

Some of us want God to save us, or some substance to ease the pain, or someone to tell us it’s going to be alright. Is it possible we cling to hope, to anesthetize ourselves from our life? Buddhist nun Pema Chodron suggests just that, in her classic book “When Things Fall Apart.”

What is hope really? I wonder if hope is simply imagining some future outcome. It seems hope resides in some other time than now, sometime in the future. Hope is somewhere that is not here, but out there. We believe God will save us; and we try to find rest in an imagined future, which we can never know.

We applaud those who never “lose hope” like hope is something that can be misplaced, then later found under a couch cushion, like loose coins that fell from our pockets.

What if being without hope—say, hope-LESS—was the way to enlightenment and being fully in the present moment, which would allow us to be fully engaged with the person in front of us—and be more fully ourselves. What if being without hope added immeasurably to our joy? Sounds crazy, right? It’s not how we normally think of hope. What if embracing the heart breaking truth of: There is no hope, was actually the path to a more starkly beautiful life—a life that actually exists, rather than one simply wished for?

That cancer patient needs to believe he won’t die—and we need to agree with him. The woman with the missing husband needs to believe he will eventually be found—and we nod in agreement with her too. What would happen if we didn’t agree? What if instead of giving a platitudinous pat, and saying “it’ll all work out,” we helped our dear ones explore the present moment and their own unique, sometimes heart breaking experience, in order to live a deeper, more meaningful experience?

Here’s one for you: If we believe that there is nothing but now, as many us say we do—does hope even exist?

We are all going to die—some sooner than later. Some will not be found—not ever. Everything is NOT going to be okay. There is only NOW.

We are all taught at an early age to crave hope, to believe in the doctrine of hope. We were steeped in it, like soggy tea bags in amber colored hot water, by our families, our society and our religion. Add to that “hope” sounds so enlightened, so positive, so loving and kind. We have to have hope, right? Where would we be without hope?

So, one day I “lost hope.” Like a tub of soapy bath water, it all just drained away, and I sat there in the filmy, emptiness, seeing what I really had—which was still a life, I decided—cold and water logged, but life. I shivered and cried. I pounded my fists like a baby. Then, I stood up, rinsed myself off, and… I started laughing—suddenly grateful. I hadn’t really lost anything after all, I thought. Whatever I had, I still had. Whatever I was afraid of losing, was already gone.

It’s different than cancer, right? Different than being lost at sea. Maybe. All of us hold onto “hope,” a hope that things could be other than what they are; a hope that our salvation resides in a future time, when the other person changes; when circumstances shift; when a health condition is cured. When times get tough, is hope really a lifeline we can to cling to, or be saved by?

What if “abandoning hope” is a good thing? What if instead of “losing the battle” we lay down the sword of our own resistance and pick up instead our glasses—to better see what’s really in front of us? What if by refusing to hope, we gain life, and with it we experience more fully whatever arises—the joy and the pain; the coming together and the ripping apart; the delicious and the distasteful. What if in the process, we learn to love it all?

Maybe tuning into experience and the present moment, or the present person, or the present sensation, and abandoning hope might be the way to become the gift we were created to be, or might be the path to experience the life we didn’t even know we were missing.

Maybe there is no hope. Maybe there is only NOW.

Hopeless in Bend… and loving it all,
Kathryn

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A Prayer to a Friend

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In my mind’s eye I’m imagining.

I imagine you walking and working in peace, growing stronger every day, finding your voice, refining your focus, and working your way towards you own unique balance. Even though your grateful heart naturally flows with gratitude, which is a major part of your strength and your success, your heart is now opening and curious to another type of abundance: margin and steadiness.

I see you standing ready on resilient legs, bare feet grounded on Mother Earth, while your outstretched hands open to receive from your Higher Power. You’re noticing what is for you and what isn’t. Obsolete ideas and deep-rooted perceptions just fall away, like dried mud from your work boots. Stomp your feet. Take a long-bristled scrub brush and whisk away brown, crusty debris. Look! You’ve come so far. Kick up your clean boots, and notice the new lighter way you’re walking in the world. You are free, sweetheart.

What used to make sense, you’re questioning now, and parts of your life that seemed immovable are starting slowly to dislodge, like a spring thaw has brought a warm and gentle wind through your life. You’re now viewing what’s been obscured from your vision—maybe for a long time. You’re sizing up the situation, pondering, then nodding, saying to yourself, “yeah, I’ve got this.”

In spite of it all, you’re embracing all that life is and moving forward: The big wisdom of no way out. You have grown beyond the need for simple comfort and survival—a way out. Instead you reach for the truth of your existence. You know why you’re here, on THIS earth, in THIS place, with THOSE particular beautiful and complicated souls. With open-eyed acceptance, you see all there is to see, in your immediate world, in those around you and in yourself, and again you nod: “yeah, I’ve got this.”

In this life, we rejoice and we grieve. We love and we let go. Sometimes we even momentarily turn away, then with brave hearts, we COULD boldly take another look—humbly view with unwavering directness whatever presents. Baby, it’s like that for all of us. You DO have what it takes. Simply move forward into inspired action, or do it even if you aren’t. You know what you need to do.

To looking anyway. To deep creativity. To inspired action. To doing the right thing even if we don’t feel like it.

A toast: to the days we know why, and to the days we don’t.
Kathryn

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Chop Wood, Carry Water

Zion 2010 159

The slider is open and the yellow-white sun is warming my back and a soft breeze gently rustles my dark, rumpled, half-pinned hair. Sarah’s still asleep in her bed, mouth open, arm flopped over her face. Birds chirp and flutter in the junipers outside my living room window. The big white refrigerator clackety-hums, like it’s not quite as young as it used to be. Cars and planes whoosh and sing their engine noises, like their drivers really do have somewhere they need to be. Maybe they do.

Today, I am looking towards content, and fully into the grateful territory. I have all I need. I have all the kombucha and kimchee I desire. All my body’s parts seems to be in working order. I am as free, as anyone I know. I am loved by a couple of super choice people, and I completely dig them right back. And, here it is: I have been granted THIS day. THIS day seems to matter. Do you ever think, yeah, today is THE day?

I think there’s a discovery to be made… somewhere around here. I know it. All I have to do is find it. First, I have to put on my big girl pants, pat my brave and faltering heart and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep earning my stay. Keep tying down those un-tethered, flapping in the wind, ends of… whatever they are ends of. Keep mapping it out. Keep learning. And, keep an eagle eye out, scanning the horizon for what is actually for me.

I think it was the Buddha who said: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. So, whether it was the Buddha or not, and while I’ve got my eagle eyes scanning the horizon, I will keep getting it ‘going on’ over here–getting the wood stacked for the winter, which I know will come, and hand over hand, drawing up clear, cold water up from my deep, pure well.

Wood and Water,
Love and Lettuce,
k.

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First Kisses

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First Kisses

Suzy Nobless’s dad was a famous shoe designer. We were in the seventh grade, when she and her little brother and her mom and her dad moved into Sabrina Epperly’s old house by Pine lake. The lake radiated tranquil beauty, but at that end, the muck and mud left a kid wondering, what is in this foot sucking ooze anyway? Soft. Too soft. The deep slime held pointy sticks and sharp rocks, which laid in wait, under the brown slime, ready to jab a kid’s instep or scrape an ankle. When we were bored enough to venture in, we imagined we were walking in the all the excrement pouring from pipes from quaint old houses, plumbed before codes disallowed such things, so for us: muck = poop.

That particular sunny day, Suzy and her new boyfriend Steve Storey and I decided to walk home from school. We went to Pine Lake Middle School, and when the last bell rang, we decided it was too nice to ride the stuffy old, yellow school bus home, with its blowing diesel, grinding gears and old lunch smells. I had just met Suzy, but I knew Steve when he and his family moved to Pine Lake the year before. We had been in Mr. Valenta’s sixth-grade class together. He’d always been so understanding when I’d shared my boy trouble with him, explaining how I’d been roped into saying I’d go steady with David Hassinger, you know how Doug is, I had told Steve. Steve had nodded, like he knew just what I meant.

“You want to stop at Sadler’s for ice cream sandwiches?” Steve asked, shifting his back pack on his shoulders.

“I spent the last of my money at the school store,” Suzy replied, glancing quickly over at Steve, smiling sweet and coy, like some Southern belle.

“Yeah, me too,” I added.

“That’s okay, my treat today,” Steve smiled at Suzy. So we got our ice cream and Steve sprung for Suzy’s favorite gum, some bright green apple-flavored stuff that blew the biggest bubbles ever. Suzy slapped my arm, signaling me to what how big she could blow.

“That’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen,” Steve shook his head in amazement, like he himself was blown away, just like the gum.

“Stunning,” I said looking from Suzy to Steve. So we teased and meandered, and we playfully shoved and laughed our way down the two lane road, that wound its way around the lake. The sun was warm for April and fruit trees bloomed. Each twist in the road brought a new smell and we got quiet for a short while, ebbing and flowing, in and out of ease and awkwardness, as kids on the verge, do. Just before the road wound sharply to the left, a grouping of alders stood with roots soaked in mud and decaying leaves. We breathed in the sweet, earthy odor as we passed.

“I kind of like that smell,” I said absently, sleepy from the ice cream.

“Me too,” Steve nodded. “I don’t know why. It’s kind of a rot and dirt smell… kind of good in my nose.”

“Ewe. You guys are gross,” Suzy let out as she looked into the stand of trees. Steve and I shrugged. We continued past the Hamm’s house, both my dad’s friend Jerry and his brother Bob lived down that drive. I’d met Bob’s daughter Karen, when she invited me over to play when we were in Kindergarten. Karen had yelled at me to come in when I knocked on the front door that day. There was a lot of barking, big barking behind the door, but I opened it as directed anyway. A gigantic pointy-eared Doberman jumped and landed his paws on my shoulders and her cat attached itself to my thigh, before she could get to the door. I looked down their driveway, as I walked with Steve and Suzy, and I wondered how Karen was. She never seemed like a girl who’d be happy any day soon.

Steve looked at Suzy as we neared her house. He often looked like he had something up his sleeve, so I ignored his sideways glances at Suzy, and she seemed genuinely oblivious to all his in-drawn breaths, where he looked like he ready to say something then thought better of it.

We came to a rock. Steve simply plopped himself right down on it.

“I need a kiss,” he declared smiling at Suzy. Her eyes widened and her face reddened, and she didn’t say anything for a moment.

“I don’t know how,” she finally breathed, then looked to me for help. I just shrugged. “Show me how Kathy.” Right then it was time for my eyes to go wide and my face to redden. I shook my head.

“Eh…” I stammered. I had kissed a boy before, but it hadn’t gotten good reviews. Kurt Holtzingner had run into my face outside my parent’s bathroom in the summer following the sixth grade. He had looked perturbed and he instructed me to open my mouth when kissing. Humiliated I obeyed and we tried another kiss. He went home and never called me again, though I was relieved because he wasn’t even nice, I also felt inadequate in the way twelve year-olds sometimes do. After that I practiced with my friend Sabrina and on the bathroom mirror at home, so I’d be ready for my next kiss.

So, that day I looked at Suzy, with her pleading eyes. I knew I wasn’t any sort of expert, but I also didn’t want to look lame.

“He’s your boyfriend Suze.”

“I won’t be mad, I promise.” I let out a big breath. I know I’m going to regret this, I thought.

“Well,” I start, “you make sure he’s looking at you, that he’s paying attention. You don’t want to waste your kisses on some dope who can’t even look you in the eye.”

“Yeah. Okay.” We both look at Steve, who’s just smiling and waiting. What’s next? I pondered.

“Well, you move closer to him,” I stepped closer to Steve, making both he and I redden. Suzy nodded. I looked at my scuffed keds and knew I had to keep going.

“Well, you just kinda kiss,” I stammered, then continued, “You know? Right?” I was aware of Steve now, but not looking at him anymore. I thought he was kind of cute, especially since he’d gotten taller than me. I’d hoped, for a while, maybe he thought I was kind of cool too.

“So, just kiss him already, Kathy,” she blurted, then paused. “I’ll watch. You guys teach me, yeah?” she rattled off in rapid succession. I ventured a glance over at Steve, who was smiling. Then he shrugged all neutral, like guys do whether they’re twelve or forty. I swear its part of the male DNA to know when to be quiet, a sort of self-preserving mechanism or something. Good ole Steve, Mr. Switzerland over there, just sat on a rock with two girls, grinning and waiting.

Then we heard an older male voice boom into the cooling air of early spring.

“Suzy, come in for dinner,” the voice called. She shrugged her apology and off she jaunted down her driveway, waving without even looking back.

“Wait,” Steve called, seeing his grasp on the moment, slipping away like a wiggling, slick fish.

“Um,” Suzy turned and smiled, “see you guys tomorrow… in geometry,” then added, “Bye.” Steve rose and we walked to the end of Suzy’s driveway. I turned and he pointed the way to my house.

“I’ll walk you home,” he said. “That’s what any gentleman would do, right? …and I’ll even pay attention,” he added wryly. We glanced briefly at each other and walked through the blueberry bog, jumping across puddles in the trail, teetering across an old, thick, slick board which spanned the trickle that emptied into the lake. Quietly we made our way down the road in the fading light and in short order arrived at the end my driveway.

We talked about nothing I can remember. It started to get dark. He swung his hand towards me, but fell short of a touch.

“Good night, see you Monday,” and off he went.

“Night,” I smiled and turned and ambled down the zip of green, flanked by gray gravel. I hopped up the concrete steps of our house. I looked out into the air, across the Szuba’s yard, and through a stand of trees and blackberry bushes, and just caught the last glance of Steve moving from foot to foot as he found his way down the road, back to his house.

“See you Monday,” I shrugged and smiled.

A toast, Beauties, to learning to kiss. To kissing it all. To kissing boys. To kissing girls. To kissing children and puppies. To kissing ardently, both love and life.

Kathryn

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Cooking Humbow and Remembering Home

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For Melvin

恍然大悟

Pronounced in Chinese: huang ran da wu, which means “suddenly see the light or suddenly realize what has happened.”

My nine year-old daughter Sarah and I, on occasion, make humbow. She thinks they are the greatest thing since Jewish Challah, the sweet, egg-rich bread I make on Christmas.

So, we make humbow.

Chinese Humbow.

1. A few cups of white flour—the Chinese like it bleached—utterly consistent.
2. A couple of teaspoons of dry yeast, to leaven.
3. Some granulated sugar, to touch the heart.
4. A dash of salt, for balance and auspicious travel.
5. A splash of sesame oil, because everything is better with sesame. Sesame seeds are considered good luck for the Chinese.
6. And some warm water, both for dissolving the yeast and for making the dough.
7. Pork filling stewed in a soy reduction-barbeque sauce, made ahead of time.

First proof the yeast: liquefy in a quarter cup of warm water and a teaspoon of sugar. When the yeast reveals its vitality with frothy bubbles and a yeasty fragrance, add in the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.

Then knead on a floured board. To knead use flat palms and flatten and roll the gluten-elastic dough, until smooth and springy. If there are children present “pat its bottom” and give it a smooch—like it’s a baby.

Then let rise. This is where I sing “Let it rise. Let it rise” to the Beatles melody “Let it Be” which isn’t very Chinese, but my daughter even at nine understands The Beatles.

Here I take the opportunity to fashion a little science/biology lesson: I tell my nine year-old the yeast eats up the sugar and “farts out” carbon dioxide, which makes it big and airy. She giggles at the idea of the yeast “farting” in our bread.

We smoosh out palm-sized rounds and plop sweet saucy pork into the center of each flattened disk of dough, bring up the edges, pinch them closed and cup them into nice rounded forms.

After a rising, we sit the little morsels in a bamboo steamer. Humidity saturates the air and runs down the windows, as we steam batch after batch.

Humbow, on the way back home.

Be Very Well.
Kathryn

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Going Out to a Healthy Lunch in Bend, Oregon? Salud!

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Looking for a delicious, healthy, unique dining experience right here in Bend? We were looking, and found it: Salud, a raw foods lunch spot, lives right on Franklin, towards town, next to Brook Resources.

My nine year-old daughter and I were scoping out the downtown’s offerings for a little snack while we were waiting for Les Schwab Tires to finish changing out our winter studs for some more kind-to-the-road all season tires.

“Ha! Salud,” I pointed to the restaurant, then glanced down at my little walking companion. “Let’s try it.” She’s always game, so in we went. I vacillated between the falafel wrap and the tacos – all raw, wrapped in delicious, dark green leaves. I could have chosen from a myriad of salads and wraps and desserts, all loaded with nuts, veggies, greens and seeds. I chose the falafel and was pleasantly surprised at the rich and satisfying experience. Sarah had the fruit pie. (She’d eaten her healthy breakfast just an hour before.) Her chosen fruit laden slice sat on a crust fashioned of nuts and dates. The next layer, a nut cream. She smiled quietly and nodded when I asked her if she liked it. No words from the nine year-old = very good.

Give it a try!

Be Very Well,
Kathryn

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Finding the Way Home

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I need to find my way home again. To remember.

I closed my eyes and I was on the boat again—the boat my family motored around the Sound in, when I was a teenager. In that memory I am probably about sixteen, the oldest of three. My youngest brother Mark snores softly beside me, in the queen-sized stateroom, aka cozy-cubby-under-the-stairs. Mom and Dad are asleep in the v-berth. My brother Al, he’s on the tarp covered aft deck. He doesn’t know it, Dad certainly doesn’t know it, but Al’s the lucky one, up there with the morning’s natural light shining on him, and fresh salt air wafting in from the leaks between the snaps of the vinyl tarp. Here, in Mark’s and my little den, I hear the water of Puget Sound lapping at the side of the fiberglass hull. I feel the gentle side to side rocking, which makes some people nauseous, but just lulls me into a satisfied state. We’re likely moored at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, or maybe Westbeach on Orcas. It doesn’t matter. Here I am, held by the boat, surrounded by my family, rocked like a baby, in the bobbing waves of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This I remember.

Be Very Well.
Kathryn

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Learning to Sleep Again

Kathryn at Crater Lake 2013
Sleep is the slimming, happy making, fountain of youth sort of activity. And, for some of us, it’s easily disrupted.

I’ve written about getting good sleep before, but what didn’t occur to me was how sideways I could get and not know that sleep deprivation was the culprit. I knew I hadn’t slept well in a while, but I was getting SOME sleep. It all started with the Flu a month or so ago, then I just kept feeling bad. I thought it was some secondary issue. You know how I figured this out? One night I went to bed feeling vaguely crappy and I didn’t wake up until the morning and I woke feeling decidedly happy!

Some of my symptoms:

Depressed, flat, tired, and yes – seriously whiney
Irritable, aggressive
Spacey
Unable to concentrate
Dizzy
Nauseous
Emotional, weepy
Anxiety
Weight gain
Old and negative

Some ways I make sure I sleep well:

Eat 4 – 5 small meals of protein and veggies with just a little quality grain like quinoa or millet and add some quality fat like avocado.
Ridiculously reduce sugar, caffeine, alcohol and refined foods.
Before bed, take a hot bath in the evening.
Drink a relaxing herbal tea before bed with herbs like mugwart, skullcap, valerian, chamomile.
Get vigorous outdoor exercise. I love to cycle.
Do vigorous yoga in the morning.
Practice gentle yoga in the evening.
Meditate to relax and stem obsessive thinking.
Journal with honesty and candor.
Take responsibility for your part.
Stay well hydrated until an hour an a half before bed.
Use self hypnosis with positive suggestions.
Kick your child out of your bed, no matter how cute she is.
A friend of mine swears making love is the answer.
Reduce stress: make those hard decisions and let go.
And, you got it: Love like crazy!

Sweetest dreams dear ones!
Love, Kathryn

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