Thursday, June 30, 2011


Steep thyself in a bowl of Summertime!  

- Virgil

This Being Alive is going up to the old farm to pitch our tent, swim in the pond, pick blueberries, sit around the bonfire, and celebrate Dad's 85th birthday with... 

Sunny's Sunday Sundae Social (Jesse's brilliant idea!)
1 pm. Sunday under the pear tree
BYOT (bring your own topping!)

We're going to steep ourselves in summertime.

I will be un-plugged until Tuesday, July 5th!

That said, I've been doing my usual mulling about all kinds of things, so come back for more conversation after the fireworks have sizzled out. 

Go gently. Be safe.

peace and blessings!

xo b

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Easy Season

Ease is action without effort.

Ease does not mean doing nothing. Rather, it means that what you do flows from your core and does not require effort. What takes effort in your life? How can you find the ease in that activity?

-Judith Hanson Lasater (A Year of Living Your Yoga)

Summer = easy season.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Your Road

I am blessed with compassionate readers. When one of you writes a comment, or drops me an email, the act itself is a gift. But the messages you share are always day-changers. 

Even life-changers. 

I received this note from Lambert on Monday morning, after my post about *not knowing and work and pensions and worry. It was exactly what I needed, maybe you too, which is why today's This Being Alive is courtesy of Lambert; wise and compassionate reader. He is a generous spirit. I trust he won't mind me sharing.

with deep gratitude ~

Betsy: I like your thoughts and writings. Don't fret over which road to take. As Lewis Carrol said in "Alice In Wonderland"- ( late 1860s & 70s). - Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" remarked the Cheshire Cat. "I don't know," Alice answered. Then said the cat - "It doesn't matter." Robert Frost took the one "That made all the difference" - Which one??? Don't lose sleep over it- Just do it and it's your road.  


* read "Even If I Don't Know" 
          June 26, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Definite Lightness

I never thought I'd get married again. 


"I am never getting married again," I'd announce to my mother. 
"You will,"she'd say. 

It began with a phone call on Thanksgiving day, 1996. 
Michael was driving from Los Angeles to San Diego to visit his mother. For some reason, Jesse and I were not with the rest of our family.

Because I was supposed to be home for the call? 

I was sitting on my bedroom floor when the phone rang.

"Well, I'm sitting here wearing lipstick and pantyhose,"I confessed. "This attire is highly unusual, but my daughter and I went to one of those buffet things. I was trying to be grown-up. We went to the noon sitting. It was very weird. We've eaten, now home. It's been an odd day."
"Well, yea," he said, "I can see why you might feel that way."

This is not the exact conversation. 
For a pair of strangers, we covered a lot of territory in a forty-five minute phone call. Family, work, books, how he came to call me. 
(a friend of a friend gave him my number.) 
He had a deep voice; a warm, gentle voice.
He lived in Santa Monica, California.
He practiced law, 
rode a mountain bike, 
loved the ocean. 
Played the saxophone.
He visited his mother often.
"And where do you live again?" he asked kindly.

On the morning of our wedding, after a dreadful week of humid, stifling heat, the air shifted. I remember walking with Michael around our neighborhood; the air was cool and clean to the skin. The sky, a clear blue. The air change was a sign, a lifting-up of something heavy. I'd been worried about suffocating in my dress, having a claustrophobic attack in the middle of it all, stripping down in front of everyone. All those pretty buttons down the back of my dress had me nervous. I do not like to be closed in, pinned down, buttoned up. But that morning, just like today, there was a steady breeze, the kind you pray for when you're heading out for a long sail...

A definite lightness.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Even If I Don't Know

Rose gave me a green card (years ago!) with a quote from Thomas Merton; writer, monk, teacher, ponderer.

On the bottom of the card there's a tiny sticker with Mary holding baby Jesus and I'm guessing it's Joseph standing behind her, looking over her shoulder. Even with my glasses, it's blurry. I keep it on the fridge. Every so often I stop and read it. It begins:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me. 

I nod, I have no idea where I am going! while I put the kettle on for another cup of tea. 

I'm fixated on knowing where I'm going which completely contradicts yesterday's post, I can rest in life as it is. All fine and good, restful too, but I'm way too busy ferreting-out the exact location of my going-ness to rest. 

But the more I ferret, the worse I feel. 

This no idea where I'm going knot has been tied very tightly to my work life for a couple of years now. After leaving a teaching career eleven years ago, I joyfully embarked on a second round of motherhood along with writing, workshop leading, yoga teaching, artist-in-residence freelance-y work while Claire grew.

But all the panic over pensions and the economy, caring for an aging Dad, worry about money has grown a fear worm that's been eating my joy and trust in huge gulps. 

I've convinced myself that people who have full-time work (with an actual job title) know exactly where they're going and feel really good about it. That if I want to know where I'm going and feel really good, I should do what they're doing. 

This artist's life feels  too hard. I need a real job.

real job = steady pay, pension, health insurance

Can I send you my resume?

Brother Merton goes on to write Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I'm actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you...

More stuff about desire and pleasing, then, 

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. 

Is he still talking about knowing nothing?

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost...

I'm thinking Thomas is my long-lost twin...

Some days I seem to be lost. Others I feel very found. My quandary, as I write this, is that I make one out to be the good guy, and the other one, not so good

It's a mystery, the whole God thing and who exactly you is and why should anyone trust God, The Universe, Spirit,*Ethel, themselves.

Without trust, I'm screwed. 

Just for today, I will trust that the road I'm on may be the one less traveled, often foggy, crooked and unclear. 

But I'm on a road, 
or trail, 
or a wooded path with sunlight, 
even if I don't know I am...

*read: Call It What You Will 3/29/10

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Time Slows Down

I was thinking about 
how fast time goes, 
this day, 
a life. 

Feels like just last night that Mom had me and my brothers in the tub, red plastic soldier's bayonet poking into my chubby thigh. Dog sitting on the bath mat watching us. My mother's hand running over my wet hair.


Mom's been gone ten years.
Aunt Nip eight.
Dad will be 85 on the Fifth of July. 
Jesse's coming up on thirty.


It was just yesterday when Mrs. Stewart, my second grade teacher, made home-made butter with our class. We spread it on saltine crackers. 

My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Tonight Claire and I  played a funny game involving Disney movies where we give each other a clue and hit the timer ~

tick tock tick tock tick tock

and you need to answer before the clock runs out. 

I give easy clues, Bear with a honey pot...

During the game I kept thinking, 

It's late and I still need to blog, 

when Claire said, "I wrote a poem, Mom."

I said, "Will you read it?"


You can't see it
You can't feel it
But it's there
It will always be there
Time makes it hard
to stop and stare
Time makes it hard 
to even care.
Time goes fast, like
the human mind.
But if you try time
slows down. 
You close your eyes, 
hear every sound
and breathe.

by Claire Collins

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wonderful Moment

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


There are so many ways I squeeze myself, 
like pulling on pants that don't quite fit?
This act of squeezing and jamming is painful - 
physically [ see neck and shoulders]
worry mind [ see obsessive] 
self-criticism [see often] 

All for not fitting? where?

I've written about this before. 
This underground not fitting theme stream is not new. 

It's not, oh I'm such an oddball, though I may be...

it's more, this doesn't feel right ~ 

Get me out of here! 

Here might be hospitals, correctional facilities, schools, football stadiums, elevators, funeral homes, board meetings, a thirty-story office building with cubicles, Thanksgiving dinner, airplanes. It could be the color of the walls or that the windows are sealed shut. There's a certain air-less quality I feel as soon as I enter a building or a room; my inner sensor says one of two things.

this feels okay or run for your life.

Lately the squeezing thing is all around work, or shall I say, career issues. Can you have more than one? Issues? Careers? What comes to mind when you hear the word, career? I've been fretting that until I nail down my career, I will not be okay.

Nail down? Ouch.

I am okay. As a matter of fact, I am fantastic. So are you. Just for today, I will not spend another minute engaging in the painful practice of 

squeezing myself into tight places. 

The rubber band effect, sproing! may snap me back to my old, familiar suffering place [see painful], but I refuse to hang there. 

This Being Alive is a no squeeze zone.

ps. Blogger won't let me download my photo (ugh!) so imagine a very light, expansive place you love; the ocean, a mountain top, kayaking, your bed with lots of pillows. breathe.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Let Us Be Ourselves

Let us dig in our gardens
and not be elsewhere;
Let us take long walks in the open air.
Let us bathe in the rivers and lakes.
Let us indulge in games.
Let us be more simple;
simple and true in our gestures,
in our words,
and simple and true
in our minds above all.
Let us be ourselves.

-Robert Linssen

Thanks for BEING YOU, dear readers!

Happy Solstice ~

xo b

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ignore Everything

I need a break...

From emails, telephone marketers, television, newspapers, and even from This Being Alive.

I need to shut up and quiet down.

I need to un-plug.

I will be away from my desk for 2 days. 

That's it. 
Just 2.
Back in time to celebrate the first day of summer.

Join me for this un-official Un-Plug Yourself thing.

Tuck your cell phone in your underwear drawer.
Un-check your email. 
Use the newspaper for kitty litter box only.
Tape a big heart over the television screen.

Turn the volume down long enough to hear what you're thinking, feeling, wondering about, needing. 

For 2 days. 

I'm gonna give it a whirl.

Completely ignore everything I just wrote. 

[more noise?]

See you Tuesday.

xo b

Friday, June 17, 2011

Are You Sure?

Driving back from our morning errands we came up behind a young guy in a small, black car. As usual, my eyes dropped down scanning for bumper stickers and saw


dark silhouettes of two naked women draped around poles with legs splayed in amazing feats of flexibility.

"That's a lovely bumper sticker," I said to Claire.
"What is it?" she said.
"It says, I love poles. You know, when women..."
"Yea, Mom, I know" she said,"but are you sure it doesn't say pool?"


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Through Our Dreams

Through our dreams we feel the pull of the inner self - that center we each have which knows our needs, our talents, our proper course and destination. We need to nurture the tie to the inner self; we can be grateful for our dreams.

- from Mom's meditation book, Promise of a New Day

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Believe It Or Not

Claire came home, 
went up to her room, 
and wrote a poem. 

Trust me, this is not a daily thing. Most days, she heads straight for the tv and the big green chair, hoping to catch a cooking show or if I'm out of the room, Housewives of Orange County. 

Why?she asks, when I say change the channel.
It's interesting, Mom, she tells me. Great characters.

My kid knows I'm a sucker for great characters.

But today, the notebook won out. 

She came into the kitchen.
"I wrote a poem,"she said, "Do you want to hear it?"
"Absolutely,"I said,"But I'm curious?"
"Did you just decide to come home and write a poem, or had you been thinking about it?"
"I was thinking about another one while I was in school but it didn't turn out, so I wrote this."
"That's pretty neat. Okay, let's hear it."

War by Claire Collins

War is ugly
War is bad
It's starting to make
me very mad
I'm getting sick
of all the pain
I must stop the
tears from falling like
rain. We need to escape
all the guns and the bombs
All this hate, all those lies
No one lives, everyone dies
God, please cure
the bad and the mean.
This is war. Believe it or not.

On this Flag Day...

Remembering our service people far away from home and all people everywhere who are in the midst of the bad and the mean.

Monday, June 13, 2011

In The Long Light

Claire and I sat out in the yard, tossing the baseball backwards over our heads for Chewy, resting after a full afternoon of playing with Elizabeth, more weeding and mulching, and then a frenzy of let's rearrange the house. 

More restlessness?


Claire had her 5th grade end of year celebration which means come September she'll move on to middle school which is probably why I came home and had to move more feelings so...

When Jesse came to get Elizabeth I enlisted her to help me move my writing table BACK upstairs into Dad's room/my old writing room and vacuumed and tossed things. Claire and I managed to muscle Dad's chair into her room (until he wants to claim it) it was a moving things, clearing the cobwebs, re-claiming space day.

And then, a sit in the long light.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Whole Bunch Of Feelings

When in doubt 
(and feeling restless)
get your pitchfork, 
& personal John Deere driver, 
I don't have to mulch, do I, Mom?
and pile up five wagon loads 
full of fresh wood chips, 
courtesy of thoughtful son-in-law
spread around yard. 

Move a muscle, 
Move a whole bunch of feelings ~

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Here, Have Some More

Giving is receiving
Giving is receiving
Giving is receiving
Here, have some
Here, have some more.

- from BE GENEROUS by David Marell

Friday, June 10, 2011

Without Even Knowing It

I wasn't looking for another book. 

Scout's honor. 

Actually, I'd been practicing not reading as much because it felt like there was stuff stuck in my neck, between my head and heart. I was jammed.

"Maybe you need some time to digest," Neeny gently suggested, "maybe read one meditation book a day, instead of three. And then there's all the other things you read. Pick one."

This was not easy for me. 

I've always believed that books drop into my lap just when I need them, like today, when Elizabeth and I went to the library for a quick look. Nothing caught my eye on the shelf and then, The Fifth Agreementa small book, easy to hold, the cover all golds and blues and greens. 

I checked it out. 

Elizabeth and I came home and ate walnuts at the kitchen table.  We sorted through the bag of smooth, round stones I'd discovered in the back of my car. 

Magic Martha's Vineyard stones.

"Would you like these?" I asked, eyeing an amber stone.
"Yes, Bean."

bag of stones + Elizabeth = contented child 

Then, this gift, from page 30:

Who is talking in your head? You make the assumption that it's you. But if you are the one who is talking, then who is listening? You, knowledge, are the one who is talking in your head, telling you what you are. You, the human, are listening, but you, the human, existed long before you had knowledge. You existed long before you understood all those symbols, before you learned to speak, and just like any child before he or she learns to speak, you were completely authentic. You didn't pretend to be what you are not. Without even knowing it

you trusted yourself completely; 

you loved yourself completely.

-from The Fifth Agreement by don miguel ruiz and his son, don jose ruiz.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I liked All Of It

Dear Ms. Jackson,

I liked all of it.


Simple and to the point...Thanks, Sal!

- a student evaluation from a recent artist-residency

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One Evening

"The solution to my life occurred to me one evening while I was ironing a shirt."

- Alice Munro

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kicking Up My Heels

Yesterday I said, no more sadness. I’d felt the familiar throbbing pain in my shoulders and said, That's it. I’m done. 

The sadness reprieve lasted until late afternoon when the show Claire and I were watching was interrupted for a special news report. There was the congressman from New York, confessing to sending a photo of his bulging penis in a pair of grey boxers to a young woman in Seattle. The week before he said his Twitter account had been hacked. He was crying during the confession, but not overly so, not a steady stream of tears down his face like the current Speaker of the House. 

Claire and I were momentarily transfixed by this man speaking about his lies, I take full responsibility for my terribly destructive actions and want to apologize first and foremost to my wife. Cameras flashing. He didn't flinch; he looked straight into the faces of reporters and continued confessing. 

"Gosh, this is sad,” I said. 
"He was sexting," Claire said. 
"I guess you're right, sexting."
"But at least he's admitting he was wrong."
"Yup," I said.

It's sad how people make such a mess of things. Everyone does, at least once or twice, or a hundred times.

But it was the ancient-looking woman, with the see-through skin, at the community acupuncture room who got me. I watched her, eyes closed, resting in her chair. When her daughter came in and gently pulled white tube socks over her mother's old feet, I felt it rise up.

It = tender connection to other living things?

I'd hoped the acupuncture treatment would poke holes in my sadness but all I could do was twist and turn in the chair while the guy with the Jerry Garcia beard snored, blissfully. I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting at him, must you do that? Here? Another man came in and sat in one of the leaning-back chairs. He appeared to sink quickly into a peaceful state. His eyes were closed. Mine kept opening. People were resting. I was restless. A Herb Alpert song kept looping in my head.

I keep thinking that my sadness can be massaged away, or needled away, or therapized away. If I slap it around enough, it will leave. But this would be like asking my child to go, nice to know you, kid, but time to move on! My constant attempts to disown this part of my nature, which showed up, a stray dog at the back door, when I was around nine, is a bit like saying the earth is not three-fourths water. It’s dirt and rock, there can't be that much water! There is. 

I thought, what's the big deal? You're watery, fluid.

Which is why by the time I'm done this, I could be swinging my arms out to my side, kicking up my heels.