Category: Personal Updates

momflowerSince adolescence, I have been an avid journal writer. I learned, over time, to go back frequently and read through my journals in order to get a feel for certain themes and patterns. I haven’t been doing that much lately and right after breakfast this morning, I decided it was the right moment. I open my current journal to the first page and am shocked that I had begun it over 4 years ago. I remember many journals that ended after just a year. Becoming a grandmother has been a rich and beautiful distraction.

The current journal begins with a quote from the Gospel of Tomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.” I do not remember how I came by this quote, but it still seems incredibly relevant. The next journal entry spoke of tumult I had been experiencing in one of the yoga classes, because of a particular student, who I considered to be difficult at the time. Looking back, I see that the problem got resolved, because I was, finally, able to “bring forth” my anger and speak truthfully about the situation….

I escape outside to do yard work before it gets too hot. This morning’s fog didn’t last very long. Living on over an acre next to a forest, there is always much to do. I consider fire clearance work to be a year-round effort, and this year I feel an even more urgent need to be diligent in the face of California’s drought. I recycle water from the kitchen sink to care for plants that have survived an unusually dry and cold winter. We have long given up on a lawn.

I like outdoor work, raking, weeding and hauling away dry grasses to our compost pile, not minding the lack of help. A long-ago yoga student, who in exchange for my role in his life as a “spiritual/yoga advisor,” used to come once or twice a week to assist me in the yard. I lived in Santa Barbara at the time. The garden was overgrown in spite of the professional crew who came once a month. My student and I talked yoga stuff and life stuff while we pruned and watered. It was great fun.

Near noon, more tired than usual from nursing a burn on my right hand, my glove was beginning to irritate the healing process, and I come inside ready to “bring forth what is within.” I treat my wound, have a well deserved lunch, smiling as I write this, because what is within is a sense of peace and contentment that comes from having worked hard, without agenda, without resentment, with enthusiasm and perfect timing.

 Gudrun

Personal Updates

 

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When it was suggested I address the alcoholism issue that is so much a part of the foundational background of Wife of the House, I was reluctant.

In the poem, “Dream,” I created an imaginary camel ride in order to release anger about the disease of alcoholism in my family:

…grinning he humps towards a steep bank
for a drink at the bar

I pull in reins urging
don’t leave the caravan…

It was a long time before I achieved the detachment it took for me to write the poem near the end of the book, “Song to End Estrangement.”

How private pain is
may it heal and and soften
the rough grain
of our lives…

…may I be freed from that aching need…
healed from that heartbreaking pause
before I depart.

When my ex-husband was on his death bed due to alcohol induced neurological failure and before he could no longer speak, I came to the hospital to visit him. He grabbed my hand and said, “I have always loved you.” Years of pain eased in this one encounter; still, it doesn’t mean I have forgotten the terrible damage the disease of alcoholism has caused the entire family.

My personal journey consists of releasing guilt, shame and regret to a power higher than myself. From the intention to surrender and to accept the things I cannot change, comes relief and the space to practice gratitude. Gratitude was not always easily available to me, but now that it is, I much appreciate its tremendous healing power.

During the time I was writing the poems in Wife of the House, I remember a water heater accident when my hair caught on fire. By the time I arrived at a twelve-step meeting later that week, I had accumulated a long list of complaints about how much misery I was experiencing. It was gently suggested that I might try to practice gratitude. My mind did not respond well. Gratitude? Gratitude? How can I be grateful for the terrible things going on?

It took years of persistent effort to realize how my judgments and opinions about my problems were the problem. For me, to be mindful, to be a yogini meant changing what I needed to change with wisdom and also finding a way to be with what I am not able to change, rather than losing myself to reactivity.

Gudrun

Personal Updates The Process of Writing

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It’s chilly today and very windy. The native sage bushes fling up. The English garden building comes alive with moving shadows on the siding. Lavender blooms burst forth purple from every stem.

Spring swings with constant movement, yet I am content to sit. I am happy to sit inside the house, and the house sits inside me. I am the house. The house is me. Walls feel porous. Ceiling are higher than they appear, and the floor tingles under my feet.

I am happy to swim this conscious stream. My father’s paintings do not make me cynical. The drumming angel from my daughter’s Mexican travels stands quietly overhead surrounded by the oldest living indoor plant I have ever had. This is the place to be. Here. Now. Strongly. Tenderly…so that a painful subject may arise and be healed.

I am reminded of the professor who said to me, “You are an immigrant. English is not your first language.” He looked at me skeptically. “You are an English Literature major? You want to be a writer?” He shook his head. He said worse, but my mind had already shut down. I considered changing my major to philosophy. In the end, I did not.

I finished my BA and MA; afterwards, I spent many evenings in the university library reading the tragic lives of numerous writers who rarely published during their lifetimes, or were sadly handicapped, or undervalued in some way. I worked as a substitute teacher during the day; eventually, I found a college teaching job.

I am partly retired now and can afford the time to contemplate the odd twists of life. Where does stubborn persistence end and creative inspiration begin? How is it that in a state between two languages I often find something strange and new and interesting?

I look outside, and the hills, the pine, the oak, the grasses and the sandstone do not name themselves in any recognizable language. They present themselves just as they are, unadorned, free, unencumbered by anyone’s judgment.
Gudrun

 

Personal Updates