We Lost Her

The Women’s March, the inauguration of a misogynist and the death of a dear friend who supported his candidacy are woven into the fabric of this weekend for me.

My husband joined the march in Montpelier last year, alone, too consumed was I in grief to leave our home.

The irony is that this friend died the night before her President was inaugurated.

We fought about him intensely on Facebook, while in private messages we connected around her health and our sons, and in person we doted on one another with love.

On the day after the election, Laura was so present to my grief that despite her joy, she ached with compassion, messaging me encouragement about how #45 might give rise to even greater women’s empowerment.

Laura loved animals and was fierce in protection of them. She was a strong woman. Outspoken. Big-hearted. Even when we were girls.

Although we came of age in the same shore towns and danced at each other’s weddings, we both moved away, and the distance between us was magnified by the all-consuming responsibility of parenthood until a funeral brought us together, and she said, “Let’s don’t wait so long,” and we didn’t.

We were together at the shore on her last birthday and in the mountains on my 50th, and we had plans to be together outside Philly on the weekend before the inauguration, but Laura ended up in the hospital again where she remained until I received these words from our mutual bestie:


“Could I please take your photo?”

I was heading back from the bathroom when a woman stopped me to ask about my forehead. The bartender leaned in to listen too.

I had just returned from Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and I’d asked my husband to meet me in town for a drink, and I had forgotten about the tattoo until I noticed people staring at me (particularly this couple at the end of the bar, and especially the guy she was with.)

They were quite a bit younger than us and didn’t appear to be the Kripalu-type, but I sensed their kindness, and so when she asked, I asked:

“Do you really want to know?”

She nodded enthusiastically, and so I dove in… explaining that I’d wanted a henna tattoo to mark the upcoming 365 days without my menses (ie. MENOPAUSE!), but I had been unsure about how to do it, until I’d spent the weekend with a misogynist.

He brought clarity, just like #45 has done.

“I’d like an emblem of SEEING CLEARLY,” I told the henna artist at Kripalu. “Something that calls out the PATRIARCHY!”

The bartender turned to me and gave me a high five upon hearing this. She had her own bad ass tattoo (a permanent one), while my new friend at the end of the bar responded that she couldn’t have imagined a better answer—it was just what she hoped for!

Suddenly instead of a corny menopausal lady, I felt kind of cool.

After that we talked about everything–women and politics and art and Vermont, and before parting ways, we exchanged contacts; and then her companion who had been talking to my husband fumbled a bit–wishing me well “on this next chapter of my life.”

I was struck by his sincerity, which seemed almost reverant, and also joyful and expectant, and the whole encounter left me feeling hopeful about the world, just as the yoni on my forehead seemed to leave others feeling hopeful too.

(This photo arrived in my in box two weeks later.)

Mother Bear & the 2 Faces of Men

(art: Cathy McClelland)

~In my dream, I return to my neighborhood in Virginia, bringing my sons along with me, to see the small rancher on the cul de sac in which I lived for a single year at the age of 7, an age where I’d lay down in the middle of the road and on the train tracks, a block away, to prove that I wasn’t afraid.

We were on our way to see the tracks when I stopped at the neighbor’s place around the corner.

Somehow I’m not surprised to find that their house, no longer a rancher, is twice as big, with wrap around porch and a wide staircase.

Sloan’s mother steps out the front door and greets us, without recognizing me at first, and when she does, she invites us up, and I too have trouble recognizing anyone–her son (who never existed), her husband, and Sloan, the younger sister of my friend Holly–except for their smiles–I remember their smiles; which I recognize even in the faces of the grown children of the children who had been my friends.

Holly died in labor, her mother tells me–she bled out; and then she confides that she was told to access the spirit realm to come to terms with her loss.

I nod in understanding, and she continues in hushed tones, not wanting her smiling son or her smiling husband (with the perfect smiling teeth, false ones I suppose) to overhear her talking about this “stuff,” because it angers them.

I wake this morning, wondering about this anomaly, about smiling men, like my own husband, and father and father in law (and even my sons), who respond with hostility at times about religion–against it.

What is it about the interface of spirit and body that creates such volatility in men–say at an abortion clinic, or with a tax law, or with planes–filled with loved one–flown into buildings filled with loved ones–all in the name of God–no matter his name–even electing a pedophile and an Assaulter in Chief to govern the very people who they abuse.

Why do those who neither conceive or birth or nourish, claim with one hand to be the protectors of life, while the other destroys life and the planet upon which it relies.

And perhaps more importantly, why, do we, the life bearers–those who are steeped in the mystery of spirit and flesh–allow it?

Where is our fierceness?
Why do we smile and whisper?
Where is Mother Bear!

Step back Motherfuckers

(I Told, Part II)

Arriving in Paris was like arriving in a dream, like jumping into one of Bert’s paintings on the sidewalk outside the park, only Mary Poppins wasn’t holding my hand.

It occurs to me that I was living in London at the time, 1984, just after the IRA bombed Harrods at Christmas and just before the explosion at Heathrow Airport ahead of my flight back home to “The States.”

I knew I would love Paris, had imagined it forever, and even though I was arriving in February instead of May, with a few classmates instead of a lover, on a quick weekend instead of a vacation, I was determined to fall in love, even while the Yanks and the Brits were unanimous in insisting the French were rude.

My grandmother studied French at Douglass, dreamed of working at the United Nations, helped me with my homework translations of the Le Petite Prince, and spoke of the trips we would take abroad together, which due to her untimely death were never realized.

As a 20 year college student, my trip to Paris looked something like this—a steep walk with my backpack down the hill from the residence in Hampstead, a Tube ride with a transfer to Charing Cross Road, the train out of London to the White Cliffs of Dover, another steep walk down and a hill to the dock, an all-nighter on the ferry across the northern seas of the English Channel (the Chunnel had yet to exist), and finally another train from the North of France in Calais to Boulogne and from Boulogne to… PARIS!

I arrived in the early morning. It was cold, I hadn’t showered and I was traveling with women I barely knew (while I preferred the company of men for their simplicity), but I was in Paris, with francs in my pocket, having done the exchange of pounds before departing so eager was I to be at ease in this city which had long held so much promise for me.

Upon arrival, we crossed the street from Gare de Nord and my companions entered a bank, while I said that I’d take a little walk instead.

“Are you sure?” they asked.

“I’ll just walk around the block,” I assured them.

It was a dull, gray walk, without any romance at all, except in my mind, until an old man came out from a doorway and said, in a gruff voice, “Bonjour.”

“BONJOUR!” I replied.

So eager was I to practice my French with a real Parisian that I slowed my pace to his as he stepped in beside me, turning one corner, and then another together, when I wanted his company or not.

“Je parle seulement un petit peu de francais,” I explained, as he grew irritable about something I wasn’t quite understanding, something about money; and eager to part, I must have misunderstood or misspoken because before I turned away from him to join my companions, he reached out and grabbed my breast, which was covered by a puffy gray ski jacket that I’ve only just realized–I hate.

I’ve shared this Paris story throughout my life as comical testimony to amateur language skills and to my fervent devotion to this city. Baguettes. Cafe Au Lait. Eclairs. The Rodin. The Jeu de Paume. Le Seine. Vin Chaud. Shakespeare & Company.

“Zut Alors!” I screamed at the old man, retrieving the only expletive I knew in his language.

Now, I might say, “FUCK YOU!” but as a woman of 20, one is more accommodating than at 54, more of who we are “supposed to be” instead of who we are.

It must have been my right breast.

A month shy of 34 years later, I wake in the dark holding it.

I’ve had a dream, a nightmare really.

I am riding in the passenger seat as my husband drives us up Main Street. As we pass the vintage shop, I see a lawyer friend walking three large dogs (one of which isn’t hers.)  I smile when I notice that it is the dogs that are walking her.

I lower the window to holler hello, and when I do, one of the dogs lurches at me from the sidewalk—chomping my right breast.

(Even typing this makes me hold it again. Even editing makes me hold it. And now I recall the hours that the body worker spent circling that breast, asking me what was there, and all I could muster was outrage at her touch which remained silent inside like this memory had until now. )

Upon waking in the dark, the inexplicable sadness with which I went to sleep made sense.

“Sense,” is really important to me. I relied upon it as a child. Alcoholism. Affairs. Divorce. It’s how I digested the world around me. Viet Nam. Nuclear drills. Starving children. Sense is how I avoided being swallowed up by fear or grief or hopelessness.

When did I learn to let thoughts override feelings? My mind flashes over the years in Colorado, the way our father challenged us to stand in the deep snow in our nightgowns, barelegged.

I never lasted.

I so wanted to please him. To warrant his attention and praise.

Becoming less emotional was the route I chose. It turns out that this lent itself well to success Managing at restaurant at 18. Magna Cum Laude at 21. Classrooms. Non-profits. A family.

All along my body persisted, aching like it had in the snow.

Headaches began in my teens, rashes in my twenties, two miscarriages before 30.

I was 36 (and the mother of two) when my own mother died, and I suppose this is when I truly surrendered to the journey back to the feminine.

Baby steps.

Yoga. Bodywork. Women’s circles. Therapy. Singing. Dancing. Art.

Yesterday, two women flew up from my Mid-Atlantic roots to meet me, to interview me, to question me, to write notes on a yellow legal pad in pink ink. There will be no recordings, they said. We all agreed.

The night before I had put myself in a chat queue on the National Sexual Assault Hotline only to close the browser just as my turn came. (1-800-656-4673.)

Next I opened the page to our local crisis center and discovered that I could send an email. (advocates@womensfreedomcenter.net)

It’s easier for me to be vulnerable with my fingers than it is with my voice. It’s what led me to journaling at 18, and to publishing after my mother died.

The Women’s Freedom Center in Brattleboro emailed me back and suggested I put a call into an advocate the next day which I eventually worked myself up to do, just ahead of the interview. (802-254-6954.)

“I’m not in crisis,” I told the kind woman on the other end of the line. “It happened 3 years ago. Mild as far as the range of assault goes. I don’t have a career at stake. But I’m having these really intense feelings, and I can’t shake them.”

Facebook messaging was how I coaxed myself into first reporting the incident to the large organization 300 miles away. Fired up by the #meTOO movement and convicted in my response-ability (as a white, educated, middle-class woman with a platform), I spoke up on behalf of other women.

I wanted to dismiss what happened to me because I was embarrassed by it, ashamed that I had agreed to hug a man who then slid his hands across my ass. Appalled that at 50, I was still vulnerable to accommodating.

“Can you tell us exactly what happened that day?” the Human Resources Officer asked thirty-minutes into the interview. “We don’t want to trigger you, but we’d like to hear it in person.”

“I don’t mind talking about it,” I said. “It’s the reporting part that’s left me feeling oddly vulnerable.”

They nodded. I proceeded.

Was I standing?

Why do I remember standing?

I had spent an inordinate amount of time that morning dressing for this meeting, falling into the cliche, ie. I wanted to look professional, not like someone who wanted her ass rubbed by a stranger, but I also wanted to have an ass that said that someone might want to rub it. (In the end, I just dressed how I wanted to be dressed for the events after the meeting.)

We were all sitting at a long table in a hotel conference room. Of course, I wasn’t standing.

Was I performing?
Why do I feel like I was performing on a stage?

How is it that is it already feels like a dream? It was only 24 hours ago.

As I relayed the incident, time slowed, and I was surprised to find my eyes filling with tears.

“This isn’t a big deal,” I told myself.

My self wouldn’t listen.

When did my emotions get the upper hand on my mind?

Menopause and #45 have definitely played a part in changing me.

I hadn’t thought much about the ass-assaulting incident until his campaign… the video… the debate stalking… Jessica Leeds and more than a dozen other women’s stories of assault.

I should have been pleased that this organization responded so swiftly to my report rather than dismiss it. In fact, they dispatched two administrators on a plane in my direction the very next week.

I wanted to say, NO Thank you, it was enough to do the telling once, but I told myself that this wasn’t fair to other women.

My body had something else to say about my courage: headaches, dizziness, swollen eyes.

I’d met with my therapist the previous week. She immediately noticed my eyes. She sent me a note after our appointment:

“These processes of going public with violating men ask you to be so reasonable and reasoned. Where do the anger and vigorous pushback go? Is it expressed in a safe place for you? Is it getting stuck in the windows of your soul, around your eyes? Such dilemmas–wanting to be of service to move consciousness along but… where does our vigor go? …STOP to the violators or stopped up in us?”

Just before the interview, I began to lose my voice; while after the hour-long session was complete, I felt completely relieved; but then noticed that I was wheezing.

I’m still wheezing today, unable to take a deep breath.

I attended two events after the interview, relieved at the distraction, except in those moments when I stepped into the silence of a restroom, and I felt a great sadness sweep over me.

On the drive home, up Main Street, past the vintage store, I asked my husband, “Why am I feeling so sad?”

This is what woke me at 3:30 this morning, to a dog biting my breast; and this is what brought me to the kitchen table to write about the City of Lights on this dirt road in the woods of the Green Mountains of Vermont on this rainy winter day.

I never knew that I felt sad about the old Frenchman who grabbed my breast when I was 20. I didn’t know that I felt sad about the man who dragged his hands across my 50-year-old yoga butt.

It would be easy to continue grieving today with all this water, threatening floods, but I feel completely sober.

What I can see clearly now, is that even though I didn’t let these assaults define or disempower me, they lived on inside.

They said: Whether you are 20 or 50, you are ours to grab.

They said: You do not possess the dignity of bodily sovereignty.

They said: Your humanity is less than ours.

Until I felt the depth of that injustice–inside my body–I couldn’t claim what needed claiming:



(Click here for I Told, Part I.)

MLK & me

dark of the moon…

Kelly & Lila

a long winter’s nap…

oh, that i, capped in my knit hat, could in this cold bed, sleep and sleep and sleep, until spring

until that day when this long dark night of democracy, so strangled of breath and warmth and light, finally flowers in fulfillment of its promise.

but wouldn’t i, in my sleeping, neglect all this sewing of love; and don’t i want to be a seamstress of our democracy? like the stories of Betsy Ross my father told, hoping to lend some icon of inspiration to his eager daughter in a world that offered her none

we lived just down the block from the liberty bell and independence hall where the declaration of our equal nation took flight without a single woman or man of other recognized

how too might i have lent my voice to jefferson’s pen?

my people, also called Jefferson, settled in this nation…

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Women writing their own stories

#meTOO #timesUP #goldenglobes

Journey with the Chakras

I’ve been leading these Writing through the Chakra Journeys for women for a handful of years now without being entirely clear of the purpose, even while sensing it somewhere deep inside, particularly as women continue to enroll each season and even return, again and again, shaping their own meaning.

I feel such gratitude for each voice.

This morning, I searched for some clips from last night’s Golden Globe awards because I had heard that the #metoo movement would be front and center.

Although I have never read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale for fear it would be too chilling, I deeply appreciated Elizabeth Moss’s character in the series Madmen–as the secretary who became a copywriter–and so I leaned into her voice as she quoted author Margaret Atwood:

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print.”


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a woman’s journey through winter

Journey with the Chakras

I cannot tell if the day is ending, or the world, or if the secret of secrets is inside me again.

~Anna Akhmatova

art: Emily Wagner

Bright Solstice Greetings!

I wish you well this Solstice and invite you to join a circle of women journeying through winter together.

This online writing journey through the body’s energy centers opens mid-winter, with Brigid’s Day, the Goddess of poets and healers.

Each week brings a new invitation–a new chakra to explore inside you–on the path to the Vernal Equinox.

Each week also brings an opportunity to reflect on other’s voices, which is a gift of presence that blesses and informs the giver as much as the receiver.

You need not have any writing (or chakra) experience to participate and participation is flexible from week to week–you decide when and where and how much time to share.

The alchemy of women and the chakras…

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