Monthly Archives: July 2011

Miracles of Life & Death 2: Waiting

Nobody can control life or death. But we can try. We can will certain things into being, just as we can will certain things out. But we can’t control everything. Like timing.

I remember planning for my daughter’s birth. I had planned and envisioned many things, wrote them down. I had dreamed of a new way of giving birth:  I wanted to give birth at home, with midwives, and I even thought I may want a water birth (though I wasn’t sure).  My son was born in a hospital the usual way. I was young and inexperienced, and it was the right way for me at the time. He was healthy and strong, and all was well. This time, I wanted the freedom of roaming my own gardens, relaxing by the big maple tree outside, being with the dogs and family, and just being at peace with everything.

I got exactly what I wanted. Except the time. As most pregnant women who are in a hurry to get to the finish line, I waited and waited. I wrote down braxton hicks contractions. I formulated charts to predict when this baby was coming. I imagined the date it would happen and wrote it in my calendar.  I had it all figured out. Except this baby was not coming!

The midwives arrived one night when I was sure “this was it”. We gathered in my room and began the procedures. I walked the floor and talked. I soaked. I lounged. I did everything I was supposed to do. Nothing happened. Everybody went home.

The next day I slept in. I lounged by the tree, just as I had imagined. The irises were in full bloom and the dog was sleeping at my knee. I was in full bloom too!  The day went on and the contractions increased. Everybody came back. Everybody waited outside on the deck. My son, who was now 5 was still in school. By 5 o’clock, the grandparents went for a walk to go get him and take him to the park. In that span of 15 minutes, Heather was born. When they returned, they had a granddaughter and sister they had never seen before.

Ironically, she was born June 11, 9 months after 9/11.

The same holds true for death. (I have many stories to tell about this, and I will get to it.) But for now, my grandmother waits in the hospital, counting her days. She is holding out for her own “birthday” so to speak.  She has her ideas, hopes and fears like everyone else.  Others wait by her side counting as well. Hoping she will pull through, or hoping she will go in peace. Whatever she wants, she will get it. Just differently.

I only hope that in the waiting, the miracle of living comes first. And in that  is all time.

Miracles of Life & Death 1: Preparation

Today I am writing because I want to prepare. I want to prepare for my grandmother, who has just announced that she is ready to go and will no longer take her meds. (She is prepared.) And I want to prepare for the radio show which I will be on in about an hour and a half. Copious notes and preparation are my steadfast friends. And then I let go…

Much with life and death, preparation is the key to everything. How do we prepare? As I learned with Actors Exercises for Everybody, you learn to be with yourself first.

You learn to accept your own feelings, dread, fear, mistakes. You learn to sink deeper than you ever have before. You shed a tear. Or two. Or more. You let go. Of the confines of space, of time, of expectation, of wandering. You let go of other people’s opinions, fears, expectations and bothering.  You let go of the voice which tells you that you have to.  You let go of convention – shoulda, woulda and coulda, too.

You learn to be here.

It’s ironic that we have to learn to “be here” while others are choosing to depart. But it’s true. We have a mission to detect. We can’t afford to miss a day on the job. And by that I don’t mean the 9 to 5. I’m taking about the reason we are here. Each person’s reason is different, unique. And each person’s time will be different too.  We have to respect when it’s someone’s time to go.

Part of my learning and preparation has been to enjoy the good stuff while it’s happening. Our last visit to my grandmother was a joy. I brought the kids. We did not dwell on “why” we were there – that she was sick, or weak. Instead, we focused on her joy in seeing my son and daughter; in giving her the opportunity to hear him play his guitar right there in her hospital room; and in allowing the kids some fun at the relative’s playing pool and swimming in the lake (chasing off garter snakes!). A time they will never forget. Along with her.

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How do I learn to “be here”, to prepare?  I take a walk. I take a break. I breathe a little deeper than I’m willing to. I go somewhere. Like California. I come back and re-group. I connect. I ask myself questions and go a little deeper than before. I delight in what I know so far, and I enjoy the journey. I don’t live in the future anymore, or the past.

What I love about death is that it brings everything into focus. What is not important fades, and what is still vital remains. That is all we need to remember, and all we need to go on.

I love my grandmother. I will always cherish her and keep her safe. She has given me so much – stories to tell, mysteries to solve and puzzle over, people to build a bridge with. I will miss her voice. I will miss asking her questions. I will write everything. Nothing will be lost. Not while I live. And, even after that.

P.S. I think I am ready now. There is nothing more to do but wait. And live. And talk. And write. Everything I prepared is there. And then, I let go. To the moment, to whatever lives, whatever asks to be said. Whatever asks to be born.

“Miracles of Life & Death” New Series

I’ll admit: “life sucks.” Sometimes. We can pretend that it doesn’t bother us, work around certain bothersome situations. But there are moments, times, days, even years for some, where it doesn’t seem to get better. That is not how I feel right now. But I’ve been there. I have faced down death in its myriad forms and come back to Life.

This theme was suggested to me after a visit to my grandmother in the hospital last weekend. Some of you know I have been visiting and writing about her a lot lately (see Let Sleeping Lions Lie & Keeper of the Flame).  She is 93. That is no big feat, she’ll tell you  – I’ve had great grandmothers and grandfathers who have lived two or three months shy of 99.  My grandmother believes there is a time appointed for our birth and a time appointed for our death*, and no one can escape this.

*“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  Ecc. 3:1-4

She would also grin and nod to Bettie Davis:

“Getting old ain’t for sissies.”  

Why am I writing about life and death? Because I want to see what I think. That’s write. I learn by hand. For me, writing is an education. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops. I am here to right the truth, not make everybody comfortable.

I also believe this subject touches us all. It’s what lies at the heart of all our thoughts and actions.  We may not know it, but the fear of death drives our behavior and deepest desires.

Learning how to handle it, see it differently, is the true liberator.

I put “Life” before death in the title of this new series because that is the purpose of my blog. Mentioning death does not make me an advocate. Fearing it is what brought me to this new understanding.  Overcoming it is what compelled me to share my story.

Miracles deny death. They evolve us and grow us beyond “the counting game.”

Miracles are the ultimate turn-around.

P.S. I realized later that I reversed the words “right” and “write” twice in the above post. I decided to leave it. Maybe it has some meaning that will come. In the meantime, “Life is Good”. 😉


Haley Flies Through the Mountaintops

1400 miles. 6 days. Up the Pacific Coast and down the interior of Southern CA.  What does it matter where we stayed and what we did? This isn’t a travel blog. It’s a “course” in miracles.  What did I learn? Let me attempt to recreate.

Every time we got on the road I had an “anticipation”.  A deliberate expectation that formed in my mind unconsciously, but undeniably formed like  a phantom waiting for me at the next gate.  When we stopped to search, we inevitably found a new way. Our “radar” was on, our GPS loaded. We had a destination, after all. But the in between was unsettling at times.  I had to let go.

The long stretch of road, the flowering weeds, the smell of wheatgrass and mountain air. There was a wide openness out there. Something that couldn’t be seen or controlled. The road may wind one way, but our minds go another. We “think” we know where we’re going, but we never do.

Sometimes I would drowse. Sometimes I would take the wind in my hair. Sometimes I would eat and fidget in my chair, sometimes I would take the driver’s seat…

[slideshow]

Video of my mountaintop drive coming soon…

We were coming back to the coast after a long trip up and through San Fransisco. We had barely stopped for a rest. We found this little way back unexpectedly, not the highway, but the bi-way through the mountaintops. The  most scenic route on the map.  Steve asked if I wanted to drive. I hesitated.  Something in me knew. When I took the wheel, my lazy, numb-brained “along for the ride” self suddenly shifted into full awareness, out of the dream and into the bright landscape of trees, dust, and curves. I felt every bend, my eyes fully fixed on the road. My breathing controlled and smooth, my mind entranced with what I could do, elated at my sudden rush of power, confident in my handling at the wheel, amused by my “passenger” squirming a little in his seat, amazed at my ability and nerve.  This excited me further.

I had changed from nervous passenger glowering over mountaintops, to fully-alive, fiery Mountain Woman toppling the great unknown.
 
Slow cars pulled over.  I was riding with the Harleys.
 
Adventure was in.  Fear was out.  All hats were off!
 
The mountain which had previously threatened me now held me perfectly.

Haley was flying through the mountaintops*.

* See Haley Sings to the Mountaintops and Special Edition: Haley’s Comet Anniversary & Me .

How did I assimilate this experience into the rest of my trip? Every moment was a new moment to let go. Let go of expectations. Of what hotel to stay in. Or what tomorrow will bring. Let go of “I want it this way” or “I can’t do that”. Let go.  Every day is a day to take the driver’s seat. That doesn’t mean you boss the world around or know exactly what to do. But somehow, in the moment, as the road presents itself, and the general destination looms over the mountaintops, you know what to do.

Just drive.

P.S. The last morning as I was lying in bed thinking about what I still wanted to do, I roused my partner and ordered him to the car. “I want to swim in the ocean.” I said powerfully. He listened. We drove in our bathing suits and parked on Venice Beach, a few miles away from our quiet sanctuary in Marina Del Rey. The water was too quiet for me today. I needed the ocean to stir my appetite.  We bounded into the waves. It was cold. I didn’t care. It was 8:30AM and the only other person was a surfer in full body suit. Our skin was naked against the salty air.  I wasn’t satisfied until I soaked my hair. Crazy gangly sea-things washed up against my leg and I shivered and jumped.  I went farther, dipped down, then up and away! riding the last wave…

How can I push the envelope this minute? What can I do differently? What will scare me a little and make me wake up? That is how to stay ALIVE.

Thank you California, and Marina Del Rey. Highway 33, 105 and Tulare. Marilyn Monroe in Santa Maria, and the elephant seals in Morro Bay. There is so much more to say. Maybe I’ll get around to it, maybe someday.

In the meantime, I’ll drive my way.

 

P.S. Here’s the video of my mountaintop drive, for those of you who aren’t too squeamish!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvKxA7Ifo44. Enjoy!

 

“Who Knows, Dos, Tres, Quatro…!”

Honest to God, folks, there is NO WAY I can keep up with this trip. I think it is like what Hemingwaysaid:   you can only write about Paris when you are in New York, and you can only write about New York when you are in Paris, or something like that.  So, while I am in California, I am too busy LIVING IT!

But I will not complain. I will endeavour to catch up with myself, which is absolutely impossible, because I am so ALIVE with it right now. (And I confess, I did have one really good cucumber and Tabasco martini served by the incredible Karen Seeley….)

our host Karen Seeley at the Santa Maria Inn

Here is an in-the-moment rendition of my roadtrip today, taken from my notebook:

Went to Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Garden, at the advice of Claudia who I will tell you about in a separate blog because she deserves it ;).  We were coming from just above San Diego travelling North, hoping to hit just above LA.  In our handy-dandy TomTom GPS, I entered our goal: Ventura, CA. Street: Anywhere….
 
On the way…
steve the morning of
Marine corps practices in the desert, rescue helicopter, hovering above ground the size of a tank.  Several tanks line the ground against the brown dirt, smokey air hanging over clouds.
Mexican music popping, tuba players sounding through the air…
5 N to LA N
Close eyes and feel and smell…
cool still
smokey dusty
mexican fire
& pigs
like cuba
tank trucks going by
yellow
forearms cool
hair whipping behind
my wrap against
the back of  my head
rumbling under the car wheels
“Spanish polka!” steve says
slapping his thigh
rolling by…
hazy sage green
ocean hanging
under cloud.
a hawk finding
prey & freed soar
up ahead.
“yo amigo”
San Diego goodbye, though we never met
met your blood (Claudia)
and grew warmer.
“Adios”, he said.
“Hasta luego!” I called back.
“Vaya con Dios” she said.
I will. Thank You God.
I Am.

Where to stop?

1. Ventura? Coastal. Lots of swanky shops. Gorgeous. Nah, let’s keep going.

2. Monecito? hills, hidden little spanish villas in lushly lined laneways.. Nah, we need a wireless connection. Nearest? McDonald’s.

3. Santa Barbara! Aha! a bit rougher than New Orlean’s. lush but run down, busy coastal waterfront, hidden dusty alleyways, with junkyards. No thanks. What?? No McDonald’s?? Outta here.

4. Funny little Goleta. Maybe… no…. maybe. Energy too stagnant. Not enough going on. Not even still in a good way. Just small. ON we go.

5, 6, 7?  Found McDonald’s wireless pod.. Aaaah..  Barefoot into the bathroom, run back to the car. Top down. Found a place: How about:

Santa Maria… a little place just north east of here. Close to Luis Obisbo.  Close your eyes. Throw a dart. Santa Maria Historic Inn for 89.

YES!

We are at the AMAZING Santa Maria Historic Inn at… you guessed it, Santa Maria, CA.  This is what happens when you let go of  “the plan” and just ARRIVE….

[slideshow]

Highway road into the hills and ranches of Central Californ-I-A.  Wineries on a hilltop. Horses grazing nearby. The POP of life going on inside the car.

Life breezing by.

Here’s me in the car. Who needs sunglasses and a floppy hat in the side country.

Let the Woman Drive.

Day Who Knows….  We drive the coast. Steve takes me into the not-so-foothills of the Pacific Highway 1, rounding about and entering into tree-lined lanes that smell like Eucalyptus.  We stop at Morro Bay and take in the big rock, the clam chowder and the sea salty air. The air is damp and hovers, not hot, for most of the ride, leaving a film on your hair. Until you reach the desert stretches and true foothills of mid-CA…

We stop at Harmony for a wine tour, population 18, the red Zinfadel peppery and great; the white not so much but the label says it all.

By the time we tire, we are just below San Fran, and  make it only as far as Monterrey.  Gambling with Priceline, we find a Marriott at half price, and get upgraded with kindness to an Executive suite. Perfect.

Why plan when you can just Land?

Self-realization fellowship meditation garden (ie., zen wahoo!)

Here is the actual quote, though different than I remember:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
Ernest Hemingway

I imagine it is the same with California.

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

Carlos & Claudia in Del Mar…

Carlos & Claudia

Oh my sweet friends, Carlos & Claudia. We had such a good time with you in Del Mar. I had to reserve a spot on my blog just for you 🙂

Here we are at the “Poseidon” in Del Mar, our oceanfront restaurant where we first met “in the Flesh” you said, after a year of knowing you Claudia, through our Evolutionary work and sisterhood.  I was so thrilled to see you and look into your eyes at last!  And to have sweet Carlos smiling on us the whole time. And our wonderful Steve joking and absorbing our “kookiness” (that’s a good thing), while taking pictures of us.

And our beautiful walk on the beach… the rock you chose for me, and the one you found.

Here we are… “Claudia & Carlos in Del Mar…”

[slideshow]

And here is the poem you gave me, Claudia, tucked away in your beautiful book, “Becomes Her Vision”, and the CDs of the music you play with Carlos as part of  “The Celtic Ensemble”.  Carlos reminded me of the Ensemble page of the book we just put out  (as he held up five fingers outspread with beaming smile), that your band members are an integral part,  not just the instruments, the people who play.  Thank you for serenading us in the moonlight with your drum. It was a magical night!

“Changing Arrangements”      by Claudia Poquoc

There are no new problems that fill our days,
as lizard’s tail twists at my door freed of claws.
Only ancient human struggles arranged in new ways.
 
Old Woman of the World stirs her brew in a cave.
She loves life, the mess it makes, no matter the laws.
There are no new problems that fill in our days.
 
“Spinning nature and culture, makes sacred”, She says,
as She threads an evergreen cloak leaving flaws.
Only ancient human struggles arranged in new ways.
 
Old Woman feeds our myth-mind where eternity plays.
She weaves a new tapestry when lifes edges are raw.
There are no new problems that fill in our days.
 
We are ever on the fringe in search of the next ray,
when all looks forsaken and death lies in the draw.
Only ancient human struggles arranged in new ways.
 
The Story, there all along, that our soul portrays
Our merit to creation awakens us to awe.
There are no new problems that fill in our days
only ancient human struggles arranged in new ways.
 
Bless you, my Friends.
 

P.S. I’m sure we will see each other again. In San Diego next time!

California Dreamin’

This is the first post in a series I will be writing “on the road” in CA. I am sitting here at our first landing spot in Del Mar, south of LA, north of San Diego. But let me take a step back to yesterday, our first true day on the “job”.

I awoke feeling a little sick. Not how I wanted to feel on the day I would be boarding a plane to California, a state I had barely seen in my moment with the Mojave nine years ago. I still had the lavic rock I had scooped up there, and the memory, but I wanted to experience so much MORE…

I had been dreaming of this trip for a very long time. Through my acting life, of course, but also as a person just wanting to “go there” and “be there” in that light, that beautiful garden space coastal beauty ride. We had also been dreaming of doing our Pacific Highway 1 coastal drive for over ten years. And now, here we are….

BUT FIRST!

ugh

I boarded the plane, praying the nausea would go away. I had been up the previous night, too excited to sleep, as usual, before a big trip. And with so much to do that day, my mind was buzzing with it. I had gotten the Book out, finally! And I had completed my 30 days of miracles the week before.

I was buzzing with Life.

I also realized before I even got here, that what I imagined of LA (or any other place) would be different from the “Dream” I held about it as a kid growing up mooning over  the “Oscars”, or as an aspiring actor hoping for the “Big Break”. That “LA trip” long anticipated for auditioning and film work has been preempted by MORE. (MOORE?! 😉

I HAVE ARRIVED!!

Here I Am

We rented a Ford Mustang convertible for the trip, which awaited us in the blazing hot sun of an LA parking lot. I was grumpy as usual when hot, and made no apologies for it. I gloried in my crabbiness, my post-flight crankies.  The Diva had arrived!  Ah, it was hot in a jet black car. But thank God for cloth seats!

wohooo!

Where is my Big Floppy Hat and sunglasses?…  I’m working on it!

There is so much more to say about our first day and last night with our new friends Carlos & Claudia, but my big black car beckons, and a fidgety husband who has 6 days to show me all of Southern CA.

Gotta get trippin’! on the big ride to “Who Knows Where …” 🙂

TO BE CONTINUED…..

Universal Language

I felt inspired tonight to write about a not-so-big moment that had a big impact on me and  my daughter.  After a long and wonderful weekend with family, I was walking my daughter and dog to a local park up north where we were staying. It so happened that an Eastern European community of families was picnicking in the park, though it was still open to everybody.

My dog was pulling like a madman to smell all the sights and sounds. My daughter was riding her bike precariously over the bumpy grass, weaving in and out of late afternoon lunchers with blankets, the late day sun shining on their faces. An old Eastern European woman looked up at me curiously.  Her eyes squinted in the sun, her hair tied behind a brown kerchief.  I smiled, but wasn’t sure if she smiled back. I continued on, transplanted in another timezone, hearing the brushings and sweepings of a foreign tongue all around me, shaking my usual sensibilities.

understand me

I watched the people’s at-ease body language, admired their communal play, and heard their spontaneous song.

A very pretty young woman with a baby jammed a melody while her cohorts softly played guitar. Her voice sent a high anthem across the park. Stunning. I wanted to say something, but was shy at first, remember?  I felt like we were unexpected guests at an intimate party.

But, something in me spoke:  this was an opportunity to teach my daughter, and me, something important.

I sat at a bench near the playground, controlling my wayward dog. A young man and his mother-in-law sat beside me. His wife was off with three lovely daughters on the swings and monkey-bars.  My daughter eyed them uncomfortably but with longing. The other little girl eyed my daughter with a similar stance and a silent invite to play.

I finally spoke to my daughter, “Go, Play”.  She held back, waited. “No,” she said worried, “she speaks a different language.” Inspired, I told her, no…

“You speak a universal language:  smiling, saying Hi, and laughter.”

She seemed to take that in, but still didn’t move.  The mother-in-law admired my daughter and in a secret language seemed to encourage her to go.  The other little girl came closer, holding herself shyly with the sweetest of smiles.

“OK, that’s it” I said sternly to my stubborn one, “Now GO.”  She finally gave in and went. We watched them slowly come together and play.

Before we knew it they were jumping and swinging together on a shared landscape.

I slowly approached the group of musicians.  I smiled a couple of times to no effect. They were completely absorbed in what they were doing. I wanted to join in, or say, “Wow, you are so good. Can I listen in?”  But I seemed to lack the language, and the nerve.

I went out of view for a moment. I said internally to myself, and to the universe…

We are all one. We belong together. One day we will all know it. You hear my intent. You know what I am saying.  All is well here.

Although they didn’t seem to respond to my “words”, I felt a calm acceptance of what-is. As I walked back to get my daughter, I watched a grandfather pushing his grandson wildly on a swing. The little one squealed in delight. And the grandfather laughed, too.

“See.”  I said to myself and them. “I understand you perfectly.”  In that moment, there was no war, and all was happy.

P.S. As my daughter climbed back on her bike, she told me how she met a girl today who speaks a different language, but they became friends. She said it matter-of- factly, and with hidden sadness, that they would likely never see each other again.  I told her you never know. She told me of other friends she had met for only one day whom she later forgot about. I reminded her, “But you do remember them. You are still friends. You are remembering them now.”

It seemed she had not only met a foreign friend she could understand, but remember too, and maybe even love. (But that is for another day). She smiled, satisfied with herself, and rode away.