To move or be moved…

After 2 winter nights in a room crammed with two dozen aging and restless women, rolling back and forth in a narrow, fragmented, fraudulent sleep on metal-framed bunks, my husband gave up his spot in our Queen back home and I took up all 360 delicious degrees, like da Vinci’s L’Uomo Vitruviano.


Similarly, but like a pinball, I expanded at Kripalu in 360-degrees, multi-dimensionally, dropping down under the fault line of my marriage, beneath the lush hills and clear pools of Love.

Established, 1986.

Simultaneously, I moved across and down and around a carpeted floor with high ceilings, 4 microphones, 109 guests, 5 fellow assistants and 1 NY Times bestselling author whose program I’ve tended from Still Writing to Hourglass to Inheritance while continuing to plug along on a single work of memoir of my own.


Sometimes, too close to the light, hers and other luminaries, like a moth to a flame of conflicted desire, I overheat and arrive or depart with a migraine, so afraid am I of surrender.


Afterward, I fling myself as far out as possible, repelling from consciousness to—caffeine or chardonnay or shopping—or as was the surprising overshot this time–to all of that, one upon another—followed by a margarita served while sitting on a swing.

La Casita.

~Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

I don’t know…
Maybe this life of mine is too small.
Always was.
Or has become.

~Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m gettin’ older, too.

While in the bright lights, big city, of Kripalu, in sharp contrast to my hermitage on 8-wooded acres in Vermont beside a woodstove, I move my bowels and brush my teeth and bathe in the dark basement beneath the hum of yoga mats and healers and seekers.

~I’m getting older too.

“Tender,” I said, on Friday night as the mic moved through 116 hands and arrived in my own.

The Stories We Carry.

“Questioning,” I said on Sunday morning as the mic moved around once again.

~I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down.

Though I departed the Berkshires in the early afternoon for the two-hour return north, it wasn’t until the sky grew dark that I found myself rolling up a dirt and snowbound road in the Green Mountains that I have these 14 years called home.

~Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m gettin’ older, too.

Mother. Wife. Teacher.

~And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills,
Well, maybe, the landslide will bring it down, down.


I can trace the lineage as far back as my great-great-grandfather and his daughter and her husband, followed by their son and his son, both surgeons.

“Born to Cut,” says the t-shirt in the old photograph of my father on his 40th birthday.

Like them, sometimes I think of myself as a healer, wielding the pen instead of the knife, but this month, instead of crafting, I find myself dissecting each of the previous drafts of the body of work I began 7 winters ago.

More than a dozen casualties are lined up, and I’ve heard that this many is a sure sign that the work is fatal.

Like the organs stored in separate containers on the shelves of the morgue where I worked the summer I was 16, I continue to sort parts by date or theme or person or place, like the plane accident that resulted in the largest jars that I looked at each afternoon, while I rinsed formaldehyde from surgical tissue, occasionally coming across a thyroid or a prostate, a fetus or a breast.

Cutting into the work like this makes me uncertain. Am I a murderer, a madman, a mortician? Or am I a doctor, an artist?

After the surgeon cuts, the lab tech dissects, preparing a specimen for testing–benign or malignant?

I’d like to think that no such test exists for art, but I’d also like to think that I might find myself, as my ancestors did, mastering craft in service to a higher calling.


Rehearsal for Dying

When all your desires are distilled
You will cast just two votes:
To love more.
And be happy.

Last Minute Diaper Laundering, Casey Deane, 1995

I remember the morning childbirth took me by surprise. My water broke just before sunrise, and my contractions came on strong–5 minutes apart.  No turning back.

Obviously, I knew my time coming; but I wasn’t due for another 2 weeks; and I had expected my first to be late. I felt robbed of time. And it didn’t matter that the diapers weren’t laundered and the meals weren’t frozen and my young nephew was here for a visit. Time was up.

I imagine death appears in the same way.

Too early.

Before we’re ready.

Without reasonable negotiation.

When I think back on labor, I dread the work of dying, knowing that it can last days, months, even years.

“Maybe you’ll die in an instant,” my husband suggests.

I think about that, but I’m not sure that this would be any easier.

I remember the moment when I almost died that quickly. In London. My junior year abroad.

I decided to walk across the city up to Hampstead rather than take the Tube.

I tripped.

Into an intersection.

With oncoming traffic.

I saw the cars that would crush me.

I watched the motorcycle rushing toward my head.

I wasn’t afraid.

I was simply… aware.

When I got up, and dusted off my pants, and picked up my Walkman, I was stunned–by the miracle of life–and the immediacy of death.

My fist still clenched a Kit Kat.

I sometimes experience  illness–as a “rehearsal for dying”–but sometimes we don’t get a rehearsal. My grandmother didn’t.  She was in the breakdown lane with her 3 best friends when that sixteen-wheeler came upon them.

Now that I’m approaching 50, I’m beginning to sense that aging itself is a vehicle of preparation, with its constant dance of resistance and surrender…

Holding on.

Letting go.

“I don’t want this.”


Though my body is clearly rocking its way toward ending, I can’t believe that “I’m” not forever. That my children aren’t. That this family which feels absolutely timeless isn’t. That the baby who took me by surprise is 17. That our days together are numbered–in yet another rehearsal for that final parting.

It always strikes me that flesh and blood and all the rich matter of emotion and story that makes up a life can be gone in a instant, while my mother’s zebra striped Emory board, which she probably picked up at the dollar store, is still around, a dozen years after her early death.

It’s those kind of thoughts which led me to the book, A Year To Live.

It’s not a book about dying.  It’s a book about living–as if we were dying–because of course we are.

From time to time, I place this book by my bedside, but the bookmark hasn’t moved very far in a decade.

I guess I prefer to live as if life is forever, as if bills and homework and calendars trump death.

As if I can wait for another day to live like I was dying.

As if this rehearsal  never ends.

Kelly Salasin, June 2012

I am Woman, Hear me Rest

Women Studies wasn’t a subject “of study” back in my day, at least not at my parochial high school or Jesuit college. Or maybe it was, and I never noticed. At the time, I pooh-poohed all things feminine.

I prided myself on my more masculine qualities. I wasn’t moody. I didn’t have cramps. I relied on rationality. I kept a few close women friends, but preferred the company of men, and their attention–not only for my looks, but for my strength.

Approaching 50, I’ve let all that fall away. (Mother Nature helps.) I have a growing appreciation for my stormy passion and my tidal shifts. I am developing a relationship with my belly. I wear skirts.

It was in my early thirties, as a new mother, when I began to recognize the power of “not” doing; and out of that precious surrender came the need for the company of women.

As a mother of two sons, my world continues to be defined by men, making it crucial that I carve out the feminine. I started out with baths and moods.  I added in cooking and dance. I became a gardener and a singer. An artist and a dreamer.

I softened into those aspects that I had long denied, ignored or refused.

This past month, I took my softer self out into the world for a spin at the United Nations for the 56th Annual Commission on the Status of Women. I sat in the same room with Madame Bachelet, the Director of the newly formed: UN Women. I stood beside women leaders and activists, as well as ordinary, every-day women like myself–from all around the globe.

In the twenty plus years since I left college, I have “become” nothing. Nothing that I could put on a business card or as a blurb in my alumni magazine. But I was there. I was among. And I felt at home. (Women are like that with each other.)

Today, I am on my couch, with a sore throat and a fever. There was a time when even this couldn’t stop me. I would have pushed through and had that party, gone to the prom, showed up for the conference. But today, I surrender. Even without data. (I refuse to take my temperature as an act of self-referral.)

Instead, I read and write and listen. I watch You Tube clips from the 2012 Women in the World conference in New York City. I am inspired. I am ready.

But first, I will rest.

Kelly Salasin, Spring 2012

Sweet Surrender

“Don’t be afraid to go where you’ve never gone and do what you’ve never done because both are necessary to have what you’ve never had and be who you’ve never been.” (

I fall asleep in sweet surrender–despite the fear that my life could be dramatically altered in the morning.

When thoughts of inadequacy appear, something revolutionary occurs.  Rather than attempt to chase my fears away or figure them out, I simply surrender them.

I find myself turning them over to whomever it is who cares for me–the ancestors, the angels, the common consciousness.

Instead of finding fault with myself for either being inadequate or feeling it, I allow it.  I soften into it.  And I fall asleep, dreaming of women.  Marrying them.

These dreams have recurred of late–which my husband blames on the episodes of The L Word, a series that I incessantly consumed while sick. (Beware of Netflix streaming!)  Given my obvious sexual preferences however, we both know that there is something more going on.

I am softening.

After a lifetime relying on the strong masculine aspects of my particular makeup, I have allowed myself to be vulnerable.

In fact, this whole revolutionary process began with a single act of vulnerability–sent in an email to a stranger.

It was her kindness or curiosity or mirroring slip of sanity which set this into motion.  On this particular day, I was faced with refusing or accepting a new position, and I was deeply conflicted. My mind said that it was a mighty fine fit.  My insides had something else to say.

Given my family’s financial needs and how long it was taking me to find “aligned” work, I was about tip the scale toward practicalities. In a last ditch effort to stay true to myself, I scouted the classifieds, and found hers.  I sent out a quick email, requesting a full job description, to which she promptly followed up: “Let me know if you’re still interested.”

Her response took me by surprise.  I had expected the standard, “Please send your resume, cover letter and three references if you’re interested,” and given the discernment facing me on this day, I didn’t have the energy for that.

After reading the very long and thorough job description, I replied that I LOVED the organization, but  found the responsibilities “scary.”  I wished her luck filling the position and thanked her for the ease of our exchange.

Once again, I was taken aback by her quick and easy reply.  “What about it scares you?”

Amused, I delved deeper into the requirements to answer that question for myself; and in the process discovered that I had done pretty much all of what was asked in some way or another.

Inspired by our playful volley of emails, I took a risk and sent her a full response: highlighting my experience and interests–and even going so far as to candidly share where I would be challenged and where I would be bored. I had nothing to loose.

Her reply was dismaying.  She needed to get back to me later in the day because she had some work to finish.

Now, I wasn’t sure what to do.  Do I let go of the sure thing (the job that was on the table) for something that was a big maybe? Do I tell her that I had something on the line?  Hadn’t I already trespassed her kindness?

In an act of even greater vulnerability, I apologized for taking advantage of the casualness of our email exchange and offered a brief explanation of my urgency.

I didn’t expect to hear from her before the end of the day so I enrolled my husband and my sisters in the quandary, out of which came this resounding message,  “A bird in hand is better than two in the bush.”

But did I want that bird in hand, even if I didn’t have another?

I didn’t.

But was that okay?

A prompt reply from the kind and curious woman ensued, assuring me that she had welcomed each of my emails, and that she would like to offer me an interview.  (She added that she would understand if I wanted to take the “bird in hand.”)

Bird in hand? Was it a sign?

In a delirious response to this tidal wave of movement, I drafted two emails–one refusing the job that had been offered, and the other accepting the interview.

Perched on a precipice of insanity, I resisted hitting “send” on either.

While my fingers dangled above the keys, the phone rang.

It was a friend offering some temporary work in the upcoming weeks.  As she went on to describe her needs at great length, I kept thinking that I wasn’t capable of thinking about anything else at this moment, though I didn’t have the strength to interrupt her.

When I hung up, I realized that I had just been granted a reprieve. I could turn down the bird in hand and  have some income to tide me over until another wave of possibility appeared.


48 hours later, I arrived with my resume and cover letter and three references to formally meet the woman who may have conspired to redirect “the current” of my life.

Afterward, I ate chicken wings–which brings me back to the beginning of this sweet surrender to hope, fear, identity, expression–and indigestion.

Kelly Salasin, November 8, 2010

To start at the beginning of the chicken-wing/life-work saga, click this link:  The Mask

or to read the previous post of my great surrender, click here: The Revolution–Inside.

and the follow up post: Salamander Dream.