“Surprisingly, this desert is not heartless, because the desert is where the lion lives. There is longstanding association of desert and lion in the same image, so that if we wish to find the responsive heart again we must go where it seems to be least present, into the desert.

According to Physiology (the traditional lore of animal psychology), the lion’s cubs are stillborn. They must be awakened into life by a roar. That is why the lion has such a roar: to awaken the young lions asleep, as they sleep in our hearts.”

I read this passage last week in The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World, by James Hillman. The lion is used as one of the metaphors for the heart and the unified, ancient, instinctive way that it loves, the powerful way that it desires; exists. And the ways that we exist as an extension of it.

The stillborn cubs and the roar to wake them was a powerful thing for me to read, since I have also given birth to a stillborn child. Except, at the time, I didn’t know that was what happened. I thought I was having a miscarriage. At the time that was the word I put to it. But at 20 weeks, miscarriage changes to stillbirth.

At the end of 2022, I met with an astrologer who read my birth chart and said that this still birth was the fate of this particular soul. Nothing I could have done would have changed or prevented it. But in hindsight I also feel there was a cost, a psychological, spiritual cost (and maybe cost isn’t the word) to withholding love and attention from myself during that time, those 20 weeks, and beyond (and before, for that matter).  

In thinking about love and what love is – a pouring into, a nurturing, a growing of the most vulnerable parts of ourselves and a sharing, revealing of those vulnerable parts – I realize I did not have that. The cost – if it can be called a cost – or the reality, I created for myself, the narrative, the world, felt like the exact opposite.  It was desert.

And, not to place blame but this reality was an extension of the desert home. Where I received and witnessed shame and betrayal; lived with an underlying presence of arid fear and anxiety that hung like an invisible cloud, and could not be vulnerable, could not project up and out, had to grow a tough cactus skin, sacrifice in order to gain approval, keep very still to keep the peace in an emotionally, mentally stressed home. It was an extreme ecology.  And what I learned was that I could not roar. I dared not roar out my love, my desire, I could not roar and be accepted entirely. I could not wake up the spirit of another with my overwhelming presence, with my fire, with my demand, with the depth of my love.  I learned this and so when I became pregnant, I inhabited this learning at the deepest levels, bodily, mentally, emotionally, and I recreated this desert world in my bones, in my womb, in my heart. And I could not roar.  

Even, and precisely, if that roar would mean: I do not choose this child, I choose myself. I love myself more. I want myself more. I want, what I want.

I could not risk saying this to anyone, I could not manifest what my heart desired. 

And so, I have been afraid of the desert and afraid to roar. I have been afraid of the deepest parts of myself – the depth of my love, my desire, cut off from them both, and have withheld that love from myself, and from others.  I project instead my fears out onto others, as a way to self-sabotoge, as a way to avoid the desert and the risk of loving someone deeply, fearlessly; risk shame, betrayal, criticism, failure. 

Though everything in my heart wants to.  Wants more than anything to love the way it loves – with a strength, with a power that feels dangerous to me, that feels too much – so I don’t trust it – because I don’t know it, in my head, I only know it’s potency as an unknown, in my heart. I’ve come to know it on this page, day after day, year after year, this the gift of writing. This the safe space to experiment with love writing has been for me. 

For so long I haven’t known “how” to write this story about being pregnant, about carrying a child and telling no one, about the split of going about my life with this secret at 17.  I’ve focused instead on the facts – the paper on Roe v. Wade I wrote, so I could research abortion clinics – the high school basketball game where I scored 43 points, the entire season I played, pregnant, operating on the memory of communal lore – another player had also done the same and her son had lived. The hospital visit in the night, my body pouring forth after contractions and the D&E I’d have the next day, the procedure I could only have now that the stillbirth was over, not before, not when I needed it, not when I wanted it.  These are all part of the story, but why have I struggled to write it? Known how to tell it? To admit it, maybe, give up the secret, open up and own up to my shame around this. Shame, not just that I’d gotten pregnant, but shame that I had kept it a secret, shame that I’d pretended nothing was wrong and lied to everyone, shame that I would wind up in a hospital room, delivering a still birth, shame that I could not roar for that child, and could not roar for me.  

Could not nurture, and grow, and tend to my imperfect self during those 20 weeks, could not risk liberating her. Was afraid – afraid of being seen as less than ideal, of being betrayed, criticized, afraid of not being enough.  Afraid that I would not be met with love. 

“Evidently, the thought of the heart is not simply a given, a native spontaneous reaction, always ready and always there. Rather, the heart must be provoked, called forth, which is precisely Marsilio Ficino’s etymology of beauty; kallos, he says, comes from kaelo, provoke. “The beautiful fathers the good” (Plato, Hipp. Maj. 297b). Beauty must be raged, or outraged into life, for the lion’s cubs are stillborn, like our lazy political compliance, our meat-eating stupor before the television set, the paralysis for which the lion’s own metal, gold, was the Paracelsian pharmakon. What is passive, immobile, asleep in the heart creates a desert that can only be cured by its own parenting principle, which shows its awakening care by roaring. “The lion roars at the enraging desert,” wrote Wallace Stevens.”

“The heart must be provoked.”

The gift in the man I have so strongly desired is to show me that deep pain beneath my desire. The pain of a heart that wants to love, completely, entirely, a heart that wants to roar life into him, into myself, every single day, but is still afraid. Is still afraid of how loud that roar is, of how my own imperfection would be met, of how beautiful it could be.  Is still afraid that it will be met with shame, with betrayal, with fear.  That it would not be met with love. Joy. So there I am still worried I’m not enough. Still needing to nurture and tend and love this part of myself, still working at it.  Still facing it.  Still afraid to show him this, in me.  

But this is the gift, in him. 

It is the beauty in him that calls forth this roar from me. I find myself here, raging in the desert, yet again. And it’s true – this thought of the heart, this impulse to roar, is not a given – he provokes this from me – and this time around, perhaps too late, I realize that it’s ok to be in the desert with this roar. It’s exactly where I’m meant to be. It doesn’t mean I’ve done something wrong, it doesn’t mean I won’t be met with love – it’s simply where love, where this heart, where this roar lives. It is called forth by what I desire and that desire is nothing to fear. The desert is precisely where I must parent, nurture, tend; these are intertwined. In the desert you can either wither from the blinding season-less heat, the am I enough?, the will this hold? or you can grow, nurture; reveal your spiny skin, your strange other worldly shape, your softest flower and be loved.

Back to the desert, back to the sage in her shop: this is intimacy.  Fuck generalities – this is the line that splits me in two, this Being. Baring. Growing something, nurturing something, hoping for something, living that ardent line. Walking that ardent line. I am still learning how to do this. And this is the gift in him, now that I’ve lost him, where I fell short. What I’m still learning; that “verily, this is love’s road.”

I am still also learning how to articulate boundaries that I feel comfortable with, boundaries that allow me to roar and allow me to love and allow me to trust. 

The pain of these last few weeks, the bodily pain, the soul pain moving through me has been overwhelming at times but it is also the feeling I need to feel and I’m grateful for it. Because beneath that pain is such immense love – love, a real thing – a nurturing, growing, tending love. A fire. 

It’s funny (well, funny is not exactly the word), every I Ching reading I’ve done for the past few days has said: Supreme Success.  And for the past few weeks I have felt like a failure; an unwanted, scared failure. Afraid to let him see how much I care, afraid to rush and wreck this beautiful unfolding, afraid that I was not good enough to be desired, afraid that yet again I’ve done something wrong, not measured up, messed things up. 

Supreme Success? Yes. There is gold here, beloved. But you have to give it away, it said.  You have to serve others with this, you have to transmute it, you have to make something with it, you cannot keep it for yourself. You must offer it. Trust the process. Trust your heart. Supreme Success. Things seem muddy now, but just wait, they will become clear.


Recently I read a poet discussing her writing process, who said that for her a poem begins with language, not an idea. Language is the hook, language is the beginning and she follows that language into the form it chooses, to or through whatever it has to say. Then she refines, refines, refines, and tries not to edit the thing into oblivion, into nothing.  For her other kinds of writing –  non-fiction, essay, or novel, I would assume – begin with the idea, not the language, and this writing requires another kind of process entirely. 

That line, that line, that ardent line arrived, insistently, and the rest unraveled. (Oz.)

Today I’ve waited a few hours for language but it doesn’t come. 

What came first is mind, idea, story.  So much that it filled up the morning and the early afternoon.

I thought today would turn out so differently.  

We all know these kinds of desperate hours, oblivion hours, void hours. We become master storytellers, shocked, cynical spinners of the unseen.  Sitting around the fire in our mind, the corner store, the grocery aisle, telling all who are gathered what happened, where and how it went wrong. Where they are, why they are not, what it means. 

I did that for awhile as I made chili in the crockpot and set the timer on my phone – six hours – which have been passing, passing, passing. Numbers flipping merrily along on an otherwise empty screen. Marking the time of a day that I thought…and this writing feels different because I have a problem, a fire to tend, but I don’t have language and I don’t have an idea. 

What keeps surfacing is the conversation I had with a woman that I’d wanted to share, with you, today.  

She said we are nothing, we are dirt.

There is no such thing as a soul, no such thing as love.  Everything was thought, everything has been said before and there is nothing more to know. I pressed her on love. Love is just thought in a higher vibration, she said.  No spiritual path is worth anything – stop meditating, stop your yoga and astrology, don’t write, no one needs your story. If they don’t get it from you they’ll get it elsewhere.  You could write a pulitzer prize winning story but it’s just mind, it’s just more thought.

But what about the soul of the world, I asked her, what about the heart? It’s nothing, it means nothing, it’s just more thought, she replied.  People don’t want answers, they want solutions because they still want to keep their problems, want to stay inside this framework.  They don’t really want to know the answer; they couldn’t handle it. 

I asked her if she’d read Carlos Castaneda – Journey to Ixtlan – she interrupted me before I could explain the shaman, the desert, stopping the world – more thought, she said.  She ordered curry broth for dinner.  I ordered chicken curry, rice and vegetables.  She set it up for me on a stool, with a towel, and I ate it from my lap. We dined separately; me in the front of the shop, her in the back. 

She told me that she could live with someone forever if they told her they didn’t love her and didn’t need her to love them.  She told me that she prefers to speak in generalities (almost our entire four hour conversation was in generalities) because when we start telling “My” “I” story, the story about “Me” it just becomes a boring performance, a back and forth. But what about intimacy, I asked? What about being with someone, in their physical presence and not needing to talk at all? That would be ok, she allowed. That could be a way to intimacy. It grew fuzzy here, became a little gray, as I’m not sure she knew either how it would go.  Can it really only be generalities, sex and going about the necessary tasks to make sure we have food and shelter? Can we somehow do this with another, while bypassing the “My day story” the “I was thinking” story, the “This happened to Me” story? The “This is who I am” conversation, again and again. 

We are nothing, she kept saying. And thought just wants us to keep thinking; keep thinking that yoga is doing something, that meditation is doing something, that we need that car, more learning, more things. Everything has been said before just in a different tongue. We are nothing. 

I wish I would have asked her about laughter, because we did laugh at times in the course of this conversation. Is laughter nothing too? I can probably guess at what she would have said to that question.

The afternoon passed into evening and when I left, the streets were filled with lines outside of bars, St. Patrick’s Day. And it felt like the passage I just read – just read. I’d walked into a shop, went into the desert, and talked with an old sage. Someone who has left the world and didn’t want to talk about the things I did, even though we talked (mostly she talked) for nearly four hours. I thanked her for the conversation. You drew it out of me, she said, as I left. We hugged.

I left her shop feeling a little sad. A little drained and lost and free. I left her shop and wanted to tell someone to please be careful if they were out, because I’d passed so many accidents on the way home, but I didn’t because I thought, no, that will be too much.

And why didn’t I, and where are you, and what happened – I’ve sat with this today. The you and the me. 

And I guess that’s my answer. 


I wonder if there will always be 

this ardent line

and if that line is a road 

hiding behind words

Like it or not they are 

On the road and

Doesn’t it feel free? 

So even though I have more years

more choices made

that line still splits me in two


Doesn’t it feel free? 

I can’t meet this with words, all day,

hiding fire 

this ardent line  

a road

with sparks

of the future was

buried in the sameness I’ve 

built instead of freedom – 

is changing. Is changed.

Is gone.

That ache, that line, that road

cuts me in two

truths, two sides

and everything is changing

Is changed 

Oz is now. 

Tall buildings, bright lights

rooftop views, glittering 

city of glass and steel, money green

don’t change

this music fits

Bleeds into blue sky

wraps round the rubber

burning road, distinguishes


these bodies from

what surrounds. Is 

future in the present. 

New music, same speed, same 

car in 1954 on

an Alabama road

What was Harper Lee’s line? 

That’s how they show their power

Now. Free

to feel the air anew, see cities

from above

bodies moving in space and time

differentiated, distinguished

Hold the world in your jaw 


Susan Terese

I am not there.  And I am not expecting you to wait on me. I’m afraid this will be a disappointment, but maybe there’s some way to understand this, or accept it.  I am with you, in my heart and you are there, transforming with each minute, each hour, Susan Terese. 

I tell myself that I will not replicate anyone’s life. Even if I marry, or have children, or fall in love –  I will do it differently. And as I say this I imagine maybe you said it too. 

I remember your brown hair, your cowlick, your turtlenecks, your gold rings and hoops. Your palette: olive green, burnt orange, pink, peach, lavender, rust red. These were your preferred shades of the equinox, spring and fall. It was always Susie and Al, not the other way around. But this is how the words are ordered in the mouth of family. 

It is spring in north Texas, winter in Indiana; beginning and end at the same moment and somewhere in these hours you are transforming from matter to spirit, again. 

All my saved tears come now.  All the tears I could not cry before, come now where you can’t see them, hidden behind a door.

In the middle of this ending and beginning. 

I couldn’t cry when I left your bedside, left the room to go on about my life. But you did, every time. Tears came to you so quickly, so easily. It’s like you knew. You knew I’d be sitting down to write, sitting on the porch, going for a walk, pulling all of you from inside me, realizing how deeply you go. How deeply we are connected. 

You knew what I didn’t, or wouldn’t let myself see, just yet. It’s the page that has brought me to tears each morning and this flood fills every corner of spring in Texas, winter in Indiana. 

You taught me softly, subtly, in the way you cleaned up the kitchen, or would throw back your head when you laughed, cheeks flushed when we played cards, drank wine. It’s your death that turns my attention, quietly, softly, to Love. 

Love, Carli Therese. Not because you needed my love, but because you know I need it. Because it will save me, not you.  Love in Death.

There is a deep chill in my chest so I wore my coat last night walking Miles while little kids with string bean legs ran through the park in t-shirts and shorts. 

I welcomed the suburban symphony: birds chirping above in trees, a crow’s call to cut the oceanic muffle of cars on the tollway, the wail of a siren. I welcomed the gray ombre sky and sounds to keep from sobbing down the street. 

Hair always cut neatly short and dyed some shade of brown. Nails filed to a point with just a hint of white tip. So much care you took to bathe and groom, only to dress in boxy shirts that hid your hips, pants that gathered in your waist, sneakers to help steady your gait from the kitchen to the laundry to the garden, the deck, the dock, the porch – out to the store to pick up this or that, out to some part-time job. 

You are tender and gentle and vulnerable. Unless you are mad.  You learned how to evaporate, remove yourself, even while your body, head, and hands were still right there.  You learned how to hold your face still and ask a question, even when you already knew. Sometimes you’d become a hallway, a doorway, for someone else’s story or sarcasm. You could be a whole room where anyone might sit down and stay. You just wanted us around. Eat, drink, look through a People magazine – trash – you’d always call it but you never stopped subscribing. 

Your loss will rip another gaping hole into my family and things will change. They changed after June died, they will change again. Death has now become the precedent that it was all along. How is it that you are the first, but my God, how could any of them be? 

Yet there is Love.  Love in Death.

I have few memories of just the two of us.  One morning we got into your little Jeep and drove somewhere in the snow. You were popping gum and wearing a down jacket, some 50s girl group was sha-la-la-ing on the radio station; I saw you in a new light, maybe how you were in high school.  Damn, you whispered, driving carefully on the ice covered streets. I almost wanted us to sneak a morning cigarette. 

Another memory I have is when I threw out my back bending over to grab a bag, and had to stay in Indiana an extra day.  Everyone was gone by then – the visit was over. With no more elaborate meals to make, we popped popcorn, sat on your couch and watched All the President’s Men together. I remember admitting to you that Robert Redford was kind of hot and I don’t remember us having a deep conversation, because it wasn’t like you to force it.  You weren’t like some of the aunts and uncles who have minds like me – who probe, analyze, judge, want to scour the depths of your soul, and self-disclose even while we hide – want to process about themselves, about others, about the world, the heft and weight of it all. Artists. Whether they paint, write, or not. Mad about the world, forces to be reckoned with, even if we take up a small corner; 1400 square feet, a studio apartment, a room; we have ideas to be shared, stories to swap, life we have been gestating and will now regurgitate. That wasn’t the way you self-disclosed and you didn’t seem utterly enamored with yourself the way I am, the way many of us are; or at least enamored with something we read, something we watched, something we learned – with Art, with God, with Life and how we know man, we know the juice, the stuff most people don’t. 

You were more likely to make a joke at your own expense, pull your shirt down to cover your widening hips. You taught me how to cut green onions, and knew secrets, magic, God in a way none of us did.  

I hope I’ll become more like you. It may not have seemed like you were carving a path – something I am determined to do – but you were living. I have to slow down enough to remember I want that too. 

I hope I’ll read books for pleasure, even if I think they’re trash. I hope I’ll go back to the nursery down the street and buy pots, buy plants, make friends with the cat who prowls their store, maybe even buy a lawn ornament, a bird feeder. I hope I’ll spend time with my hands in the soil and when I do laundry or organize the Tupperware in my cabinets, mop my floors, run through the never ending cycle of chores around the home, I’ll remember my aunt, my Godmother. And probably cry just like you would have done. Like I am right now.   

When I wear my gold jewelry, when I get a manicure, when I visit the colorist to dye my hair, sit on the back porch and watch the birds, I know I’ll cry a little, remembering you. Maybe I’ll start chewing gum, subscribe (ok, not to People) to the New Yorker. Slow down enough to binge watch a series. Remember that I do want to make a home with someone, do want to make them dinner, do want to hear about their day, play cards; share some gossip, a bowl of popcorn, a life. 

I am making this imperfect thing. And it will never be finished. 

In your Death there is Love. So much Love. Such an unfair, unwanted, sacrifice for Love. I should have cried sooner, I should have cried with you. But you are teaching me freedom in Death, freedom in Love. So I am making this imperfect thing, Susie, and it will never be finished. 

As Time Goes By

Cleaning the kitchen tonight I thought about my mother driving us out to Indiana. I was listening to the songs way, way back in my favorites – a mood – Carly Simon (Coming Around Again) and Whitney Houston (her very first album from 1985). 

Cleaning the kitchen is becoming a necessary pre-writing ritual, a time to let go of who I was that day, what I did, how I bitched and bemoaned my job, the property manager in DC, the rain. Having no one really to spill and vent this to – and I’m sure this ghostly other is thankful he missed out – I let it go. I lose it washing dishes, wiping down the counters, scrubbing the oil off the stovetop. Drying plates, glasses, bowls, letting those old, old songs work their magic.  I will tell myself whatever I need to: the cleaning ritual is important. When it’s done, a candle. I’m still dirty from the day and Miles snores on the couch. Ice drops onto the roof from the live oak limbs that hang above (thankfully those were trimmed back) and Carly Simon sings to me.  

We would sing her songs in the car on the way to Indiana, making the drive every summer for the month of July, and it always felt like we were breaking free. Now the songs are part of that journey out and away from home. After sleeping through the first three or four hours of the trip I would wake up inside the dark hooded mountains of West Virginia, knowing that this relative shade would soon be replaced by the flat fields of Ohio. Eventually we would all end up anxious and weary by that final hour, but at least we were on our way. All day we would listen to cassette tapes, no fast forwarding or rewinding allowed. The trip itself required endurance and songs helped buoy the hopeful beginning, the boring middle; by the end the car was quiet. I read recently that the mother is the matrix. This was astrology speak for the moon (one of the significations of the moon being the mother).

I thought tonight about how these tapes, these women and their songs became part of my matrix, but even more deeply, how my mother’s leaving, my mother’s freedom seeking are a part as well.  For her, freedom was found in these time bound trips to visit family. Always the weaker, lesser, half of my parents in our home, this drive to Indiana must have been a day to feel powerful and brave and in control.  Because we only saw her parents, brothers and sisters every summer (eventually also at Christmas) the family in the midwest became idealized. Concretized as benefic, secure, expansive; became connected to this freedom/respite dynamic, and for my mother must have been a welcome port in the storm from her life back east where she was small, insignificant, easily dismissed and discarded. A wise friend wrote that fantasy can be healing – and in a way, this fantastical midwest journey/family/home was just that. Without fail every summer they gathered happily with our return, so I believed they were always celebratory, always full of jokes and smart ass remarks, sarcasm, paper plates full of Fourth of July food, fireworks, trips to the zoo, slumber parties. How easily our lives collapsed into theirs for the month, dropping in to see the sisters, having dinner with the brothers.  And I’m sure we were bright, shiny and new as well – we started to believe this was really who we were. Witty, carefree, safer, saner versions of ourselves. Such a fun story we raced toward every summer, singing along to songs that are a complicated mix of melancholy hope. 

If the mother is the matrix, and I am a scorpio moon, then the melancholy and the sad, but also the realist, the sarcastic, the cynical, is what I sing to, smile to, when I clean the kitchen and remember the power and control my mother felt to be free; the healing power of my midwest family.  

During that long hot day in the car our family of four dropped to three and in my mind there was something right about this; how it could transform, shape shift, condense and live inside those sad songs, that long drive, a world unto itself. 

Will you love me? Can you love me? And always, because Carly, is Carly she answers her own question: I believe in love. What else can I do? I’m so in love with you.  

But it’s more complicated, naturally.  Some paradigm was created where that family far away was “good,” and therefore some aspect of what we were leaving was “bad.” I wish we had all felt more power and freedom and control where we lived, where we were, instead of having to leave to know those parts of ourselves. But this was not an actualized part of the matrix. It is the part I learn now, on my own. 

Now that my mother has moved permanently to the midwest the fantasy evaporates. As it must, and scorpio knows this best. Our family is human and so are we. Fixed in our ways, insecure, stubborn, same old hang ups, same old hope. Both good and bad. No more predictable road trips to feel free. Freedom tonight comes from cleaning the kitchen, remembering the sadness of my mother and remembering her fight.  Remembering my own heart. Thank God writing came to visit tonight, while the sky weeps, and sweet Miles sleeps. I don’t know what will come next but I’m grateful I have a mother and a matrix and a family who taught me the power of sadness, the power of ritual, the power of taking what comes and transforming it, with sarcasm, with humor, with tears, with words, with the stubbornness of our days: no fear of death and rebirth. That dark scorpio moon gets such a bad rap. She’s most definitely not for the faint of heart, but what can she do? Time goes by, and I know nothing stays the same, but if you’re willing to play the game, it’s coming around again.

Venus in Pisces

The kitchen has to be clean

The dishes put away

Music, first:


Miles to bed, then
he returns

-Where are you?-

I’m still right here.

How many nights have I 

 spent watching a game

wanting someone to ask

-What do you think

What do you know

What do you see

How does it feel?-

Later Stardust slip

slides the saxophone,

and the dining room table

drops away, 

swallowed up

by flashing waves, black sky

Crescent moon crossed

with a star.

This song knows what I did, love

and maybe it was wrong

But maybe it was right

-she takes a bite-

On time, like April in Paris, like

It Never Entered My Mind

the stars aligned

-So I offered him 

the Apple, So What (?)- 

I wanted us to leave the Garden,

make it personal, love, and

messy. Human. Let it be

a growing thing, a fumbling, 

breathing, living, with starts

and stops and flaws and flesh

Not unlike the way I 

write, while you and God

are out making the world,

I wait on my words

until enough time has passed

enough songs

have played and I’m ready

To say what stays 

close to my chest

The Garden and its Story

can only give so much 

can only paint the shape of 

a thing, and though words may 

Last long after we do not,

I would rather have what 

words chase, what 

no one owns, what can’t be bought

Or clothed or kept: 


In the act, the doing,

the making

of your art.

(Morality is sought.) So,

take this Apple

and this body after

the Fall. Released from the gates of Glory

Tell me love

What do you think, 

What do you know, 

What do you see,

How does it feel.

Moon in Scorpio

That wind outside leaves 


just as it wasn’t

Sucked up the black 

and white autumn, 

a scarecrow 

a scared little lion and the man 

made of tin

Picked up this city

spun it around 

and dropped it 

on Wicked old stories 

from the East

whose time had come to die

Will someone seek 

technicolor revenge? 

Like it or not

they are on the road 

to battle with

the Wizard

Ask their questions 

if they dare

Will the girl and her dog ever 

make it back from Somewhere

Over the Rainbow? 


he will leave

with a heart 

some courage, maybe even 

be made real 

She will not 

go back

quite the same

She will make her own home  

all the wiser,

softer, safe 

Not so rest 

less anymore

Perfumed, bejeweled, 

blood red

From the Witch 

she learned 

the power of water

and to write it all down

Jupiter in Aries

Recently I went back and looked at my morning pages from a year ago, reading through the month of October and into early November.  The job I had just started looms large in my writing, as a stressor in and through my days.  I gave it so much energy and power to dominate my mood; was enmeshed, concerned and carried away by what has now become a minimal part of my day-to-day.  The personalities, tasks and cycles of the year have become as mundane as washing the dishes. 

Somewhere around that time, in the early fall, prior to October, I had a dream that has stayed with me. It seemed to be an omen.  Since I’d just started the job in August, I was operating under the narrative that I would be looking for a place to live in this small college city.  There was a neighborhood somewhat close to campus, not exactly walking distance but very near, and the house I found was detached, brick. It had old wood floors, one or two small bedrooms and most importantly, no pet restrictions, no shared walls.  I called the real estate company and inquired about how to see the place when I planned to attend a meeting on campus.

In my dream, I was walking through this same neighborhood with one of my coworkers.  We were on the sidewalk passing small brick bungalows beneath trees that arched over the street.  It was still end of summer hot and humid. She approved of the area, commenting that I would want to live as close to the campus as possible, within walking distance ideally. I bristled a little at her suggestion that I be so accessible, (even though this was my initial attraction to the neighborhood as well) but I agreed, telling her that I had a dog, who I would need to make sure I could let out throughout the day.  It was just at my saying this that I realized Miles, who was supposed to be at my side on a leash, had bolted.  He’d taken off into an empty field after what I assumed was a cat, or a squirrel, and before I could finish my sentence I ran off and away from this woman to chase him.     

I was panicked, Miles is not a friendly dog with strangers and less than obedient when distracted, so all I could do was to catch him, I knew he would not come if I called.  I saw that he was chasing something large, a deer, not just a small neighborhood animal.  He cornered the deer in the middle of an open field, in what looked like a straw covered lean-to, open on all sides but one.  I ran under it’s shade, yelling at Miles only to realize I was now face to face with a massive stag whose huge branched out antlers towered over me in the semi-dark. I became afraid.  What if this animal, scared and cornered, lashed out at me? It came towards me slowly and I could see its soft brown eyes looking at me, just as shy and scared as I looked at it.  I saw how unsure it was, how it hesitated, how it meant me no harm, and hoped, just as I did, that it would not receive any harm from me.  The longer we held each other’s gaze the more I softened, the more I wanted to see.  But as it came toward me, it ran out of the lean-to, Miles was on the chase again.  

So I followed.  Followed and ran and this time, Miles was standing outside a strange structure that looked like a chicken coop, again in the middle of an empty field. The chicken coop was filled with wolves, brown, muddy, dirty wolves.  This seemed even more precarious and I quickly moved to the door of the coop, which was barely, lightly, latched shut, because I knew Miles would head there next.  The door opened a little, with a puff of air, and as quietly as I could, hoping none of the wolves would notice, latched it shut again. The wire, the metal hook, was as delicate as a feather.  Looking closer into the coop I saw that the wolves surrounded a white statue of a woman, a goddess.  They seemed to be pacing around her ravenously, crazily, like a whirlwind of tails and jaws and limbs.  The speed of their circular motion almost seemed to hold her up, suspended, as if this was some ritual or worship with the goddess at its center.  

The dream ended there and I woke unsure of whether or not the goddess was in safe hands, or if she had been stolen, was kept against her will. 

Over the course of the next few months, I would continue to look for homes near the school, but gradually, almost like it was growing underground the whole time, an alternate option presented itself. Remote work, full-time, and a move to Dallas.  When I asked my boss if he would be open to this he was completely supportive. So, when the weather broke, I packed up a rented car and drove west. 

At the time, this idea and this move was very uncertain. The drive was all I’d planned, what came after dropped off like a cliff with no discernible floor. Would I stay in Dallas or was this just a temporary holding pattern? How would it be to live here? Would I have to give up Miles? Was I really just moving him into a home that I otherwise could not offer him on my own? I remember being on the phone with a friend through much of east Texas and hearing myself describe with more faith than I really felt what this move might offer me in the way of freedom, but also the strange (pathetic?) fundamental reality, that I loved this dog so much and was willing to move to god-awful Texas if that was the best situation.  We got off the phone as I was beginning to enter the Dallas city limit traffic on the east side, bumper to bumper, snarly roads under construction, about 45 minutes away from my sister’s home.  As soon as we hung up I started sobbing, racing trucks on the tollway, and could not stop until I pulled up to the cul-de-sac.  I felt like my heart was breaking, I felt like I was losing this dog and would never again have him on my own the way I had for the past 7 years. Change (as a Taurus rising) felt like a kind of death. And though I’d prepared myself for weeks now to make this drive, this move, the feeling of what I was losing – what I’d actually already lost – rippled through my throat, my chest, caught right up to logic and rationale.  

I had driven all day from Atlanta to Dallas, and was exhausted. It was dark. My body hummed with the road and now I was in a completely different reality.  

The next day, I took Miles for a walk around the neighborhood of taupe, white and tan brick two story homes, ranches and live oaks. Quiet, clean, suburban; this is a neighborhood of landscaped lawns, very little foot traffic, politely detached neighbors and SUVs. The kind of quiet and remove Miles needed.  

So I was surprised to find, at the end of my sister’s street a neat little one story home with a smooth metal roof, and on it’s side, surrounded by a tall fence: a chicken coop with laying hens.  This neighborhood is old and established, not in a rural area, we are far north of the city but still in Dallas proper, so the last thing I expected to find was a yard with a chicken coop. I took it to be a good sign. 

“I need not say that what I am about to describe has no existence…’I’ is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being. Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping. If not, you will of course throw the whole of it into the waste-paper basket and forget all about it.”

-Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)

“All writing is a betrayal.”

-some writer, somewhere

Hoover Dam

As of late, I have spent far too much time on Instagram. Which in a way, is a cross between a high school lunchroom and a thousand year old bazaar, a marketplace where everyone is selling and hawking and drawing you in. Passing by to peruse. Catching your eye, meeting your gaze, or leaving you cold and unknown for the next stall, the next shiny thing.

I guess we also used to call these places malls, if they still exist.  

For some reason this story has been brewing like a storm today, clouds gathering, wind picking up, leaves skittering across the lawn of my chest.  I’ve felt it and written it before so I don’t know why it returns but it does. Maybe something new to be found in it, some medicine, some balm. Maybe I just need to hear it again tonight. 

Time, it has something to do with time, I think. 

When I decided years ago that I would leave my very safe job at a university, a job that seemed to line up neatly with who I thought I was and how others saw me, my father showed up unannounced at my office before I arrived for the day.  I worked in athletics in a building that abutted the football field; when I opened the door to my office at 8:30am he was sitting in my chair, at my desk. 

At the time, our relationship was fairly stable but only in a superficial sense, so this was not exactly a warm and welcome visit. We changed seats and I sat down (in hindsight I realize, for the first time, on this side of the desk). He stood, sat, paced and tried for the next twenty minutes to convince me that I was making an illogical, irrational decision to leave my job.  We were in the midst of a recession and why had I not sought his council (or that of my uncles, his friends, etc.), could I not see that this was a mistake.  Leaving a good job to go “be a writer and travel” was not in my best interest. I was surprised by this display (well not really, his tendency toward the dramatic is an understatement, mostly I was surprised at the hour) and then he pulled out a book he’d brought along, his ace in the hole: Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers

Which essentially presents and fleshes out the argument that it takes 10,000 hours, “to be considered elite and truly experienced in a certain craft.”

He kept referencing (to bolster his argument) a section in the book about the support of community and the contribution your network, peers and mentors have on this 10,000 hours. Both my parents had worked in athletics at this university in my hometown. He seemed to be saying that I was well placed in this current job to advance, and was surrounded by a benefic infrastructure. He wasn’t wrong. And neither was I.  

The work day was beginning, so on his way out of the office, for further dramatic effect, he tapped emphatically on my door, a note drawn by one of my students that read: We Love You Carli! 

“This is what it’s all about,” he said, before taking his leave. A man come to save me from ruin. From certain danger.  Save me from myself. 

Cape swaying down the hall. 

I did flip through the book here and there throughout the day.  And unfortunately for him, the book simply strengthened my resolve. If “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness” and I wanted to be a writer, then I would dig my heels in and do exactly that. 

I left the job a few months later. 

Five years pass. Summer in LA, with my sister and her little dog Miles. Palm trees. Beaches. Blue skies. My father invited me to Vegas for a weekend; he was there for work. I was reluctant but took him up on it. And on the first morning there I woke to an email from my old boss in athletics – she had an opening and was I interested?  I let the question hang. 

I quickly realized that this visit to Vegas was also a sales pitch for another job. My father wanted me to consider working for his company, the National Basketball Association.  We spent time with his colleagues, ate meals, watched games.  Mid-way through the visit he and I ate lunch in the Venetian as the gondolas passed and I told him I appreciated what he was doing but I did not want to work for the NBA. I was going to be a writer and though I had no idea what that meant, or what would happen next, I was not deviating from that path. 

I think he was both disappointed and baffled. What was I doing with my life? I didn’t have any real answer.  I didn’t have a pretty stall, or beautiful shiny things to show off. I didn’t have a nice car, expensive clothes, a published book. I just had me sitting across from him at that table, and my words. I was putting on a brave and optimistic face, and putting a little more wood in my voice because I didn’t know what I was doing – but I was doing it, and that was that. 

Probably feeling a bit deflated following this meal, and needing to fill the next few hours before games that night, he drove us in a silent car out to Hoover Dam.  We parked, walked through the blazing July heat into the visitor center to line up for the tour. And in the line ahead of us I saw that student – the one who wrote the note on my office door – the one my father had pointed out as a reason to stay.  I went up to her and we spoke briefly, I’d not seen her since I left the job and she had been one of my favorite students.  She was with her parents and they were far enough ahead of us that I only caught glimpses of them as we both continued on, in separate groups through the tour of the dam. Historic tunnels and elevators, a show of massive machinery designed to siphon off and spend the power of the Colorado. 

After the tour, my father and I stood out on the bridge that looks over the dam, over the river, over the drop to what becomes of the Colorado and I listened to him on the phone with some co-worker discussing office drama, politics. We had really nothing more to say to one another. I was not letting him save me, yet again. 

The jobs converged, the student at the dam, it all seemed so synchronistic that this was happening five years in to my ten thousand hours.  At the time I thought the dam was the symbol of what taking those jobs would have done to me, and that somehow by avoiding them, I would remain free.  But now, on the other side of those very hard years that were to follow, I don’t think that way. There is always a cost to our decisions and maybe time is not like a river that flows in one direction, vulnerable to dams, modern marvels, or men who think they can save you. Men who think you need to be saved. 

Maybe the present is constantly unfolding into the past and the future. My decision to accept neither job led to deep suffering and loneliness, excavations of sadness and shame. It led to failure, it led to loss. 

But I can put none of this on Instagram. None of the power I’ve gained. None of the grief. None of the grace. It doesn’t fit and it doesn’t sell. That woman standing on the bridge, sitting on the other side of the desk, sitting at this dining room table, tells herself this story again, to remember.

We don’t want to be saved, we want to be seen. And this seeing is also not a river that moves from point a to point b. From source to shore.  This kind of seeing is complex, passionate, steady, stable, sensual, whole – this seeing takes time. Something like 10,000 hours. It endures.