Pulling ahead of the Patriarchy

I was fourteen, ”14 and a half,” to be precise, at the cusp of everything—body, mind, emotion, soul—coming together—in full expression.

I aced each of my Regents exams, had friends from the Rockies to the Hudson to the Atlantic, cultivated a deep connection to not only my “personal savior” but to nature, and self (all of which I now call Spirit); and to top it off–as I walked by the deep end of Delafield Pond in my bikini on my way to the high dive (which I’d done countless times the previous summer)–the cadets, face down on their beach towels, lifted their heads.

Cue: Tragedy.

Not mine, Silly. I was only heading for the 10-foot dive (to jump no less.) The 30-foot dive isn’t even there anymore which is something I discovered two summers ago when I returned to the base for a visit. (And let me tell you, returning to the place where you used to live isn’t easy in post 9/11, USMA.)

But back to Tragedy.

Enter: Stage left.

Have you ever noticed how Mack Trucks dominate the road? They’re either going too fast or too slow, or they’re crossing the line or coming too hard into a steep curve that’s icy with snow; or they’re tearing up the backroads because the highway is closed after another one tipped itself on its side; or maybe, it’s simply a gorgeous summer day, like the very one when I was at Delafield Pond with the cadets lifting their heads, and 150 miles south a Mack Truck is climbing a bridge while the sun is high in the sky, and the visibility is prime, and still, the Mack Truck, being a Mack Truck, doesn’t even notice a broken down car up ahead with 4 women inside.

Come to think of it a Mack Truck is a good metaphor for something else that oppresses and destroys.

To this day, I grip the steering wheel or I hold onto the handle above the passenger seat or I press my feet up against the dashboard.

This was especially true in those first years, and exponentially so when crossing over a bridge; and then again, in the past handful of years once I began time traveling to rescue that 14-
& a half year old girl whose soul was left behind in the debris spread the length of a football field across a multi-lane bridge outside the city of Philadelphia.

Come to think of it, those guys from my highschool days, the ones who have been trolling my Facebook wall with their support of #45, are a lot like Mack Trucks.

Spreaders, is that what they’re called on public transportation?

“What? What’s the big deal?” says the Patriarchy, “This is how it’s always been. It’s never been a problem before.” or  “I was just joking. Don’t be so serious.”

What the Patriarchy fails to understand, doesn’t even begin to understand, and is apparently uninterested in understanding is that it’s always been a problem for the rest of us. We’ve just been too afraid to say too much or to say it too loud or too often, because. Mac Trucks.

I stayed up too late on the night of the Mid-Terms. I over-used my eyes and my heart and my brain and my patience, but surprisingly I fell to sleep with ease.

Still, I must not have slept well or enough because I dozed off on the mat this morning, and each time the teacher spoke into the savasana meditation of air and bliss, I stirred, wondering where I was, only to fall back to sleep again before I fully came to, until she said those dreaded words:

“Make small movements with your wrists and ankles before coming up to a seated position.”

I could hardly move off my mat but I had to move because the class was over and my mat was partially in the doorway because the class was unexpectedly relocated to the basement where there wasn’t enough room for so many women, all of which I took personally on behalf of women, given the election.

I mean the whole reason I drove an hour south into the Berkshires for this series of 4 elemental yoga classes (earth-water-fire-air) at the Clark Art Institute was the glass room upstair with the stunning view. Still, last week the water pool had been emptied and filled with rocks so that was already depressing.

But the basement? Relocating a group of aging women to the basement for the “Air” element on the morning after the election is hugely symbolic but I’m too tired to figure that out right now.

I got off my mat and dragged myself to the bathroom, where I noticed that my eyes were exceedingly small and puffy. They’ve been this way for days. (This happened once before, didn’t it? When was that?)

My mind flashes to something my therapist wrote to me last winter. We were talking about #metoo and the report I was making about a man who rubbed his hands across my ass in a public setting. She noticed my eyes that day right away, and I received this email from her when I got home:

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?

I postponed my post-yoga working lunch in the Clark café, and dragged my weary eyes outside into the woods and up the hillside.

Mack Trucks.

I left home for the Berkshires early this morning so that I wouldn’t get caught up in election news (particularly Texas or Florida or Georgia) or be distracted by volleys with the Jersey boys from highschool who were gung ho about their guy Trump.

The drive through the Green Mountains was surprisingly trafficky for Vermont, but then I remembered that my earlier departure meant I was traveling during the morning commute.

Just after I passed a utility truck and returned to the right lane to prepare to climb one last hill before turning south into the Berkshires, I saw a Mack Truck in my rear view mirror.

Crap, I thought to myself, and then I sped up a little, wanting to avoid any proximity, particularly with the high winds we were experiencing as the morning temperatures rose.

The Mack Truck sped up too.

I looked in my rearview mirror once more, prepared to let the Mack Truck pass me, but then I noticed that it was losing ground in the climb.

My small car, so low to the earth was less buffeted by the winds, and my engine remained steady and strong.

I watched in the mirror as the Mack Truck lagged further and further behind, and for the very first time in the 40 years since my grandmother and my aunties and their golf clubs were crushed under 18 wheels, I felt something else instead of consumed by fear.

More than 123 women were elected to Congress last week.

40 Days, 40 Angels

Burne-Jones, visipix.com

I’m a spiritual junkie so I feel left out when there are holidays that I don’t know how to celebrate. Take Mardi Gras for instance. I’ve never been to New Orleans so I just don’t get it. Then there’s Ash Wednesday. For the three years that I went to parochial school, they put ashes on my forehead, and I liked it, even though I wasn’t Catholic.

But Lent is the holiday observance that I just can’t let pass me by. It’s such a cool club–40 days of abstinence from something you love–with participants all around the world! Thanks to Facebook friends, I’ve been inspired to think outside the Lenten box.  After reading the posts of those who have given up “sobriety” or those who have decided to “add” something rather than giving up, I’ve  decided to create my own twist:

For Lent, I’m giving up “self-reliance”

and I’m adding:

Communing with the Angels!

Due to self-reliance, I’m not very familiar with communing. In fact, I typically commune only when I’m feeling especially good, never when I’m down and out. So I put a challenge to myself: What if I communed with a different angel for each day of Lent:

40 days, 40 angels?

Even better, what if I let those angels come to me–in an even greater display of forgoing my characteristic self-reliance. And so I’d like to honor each of those arriving angels with you here. Each day, I’ll add another, enlarging the circle of love.


I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. ~Michelangelo


On the first day of Lent, I stepped up to my dresser and was suspended by the tiny oval photo of my mother. Her eyes locked mine, and held my gaze for minutes, until I felt her presence, and realized that she was:


My Mother Bonnie

The Angel Bonnie is renown for her gentle nature. Like Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion, Bonnie brings grace and softening to any struggle. Her kindness is legendary as is her place by the sea.



Just after midnight, I heard my own voice saying, “Ow, ow…”

“What is it?” my husband asked, disturbed from his own sleep.

“Charlie horse in my foot,” I replied without fully waking.

“Stand on a cold floor. That’s what my grandmother always said.”

And despite my own dreamy state, I realized that my next angel had arrived:

“Grandma Annie”

Anna Wesolowski

The Angel Anna is a companion of Mount Greylock in the Berkshires.  Bringing surprise to each day, Anna shows you that you can even excel in that which you don’t understand.  And if all else fails, she adds laughter and an Oreo cookie.


Angel #3

The roads were wet and I was rushing to make it home from work for a meeting. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly woman with several bags waiting to cross the street. I didn’t want to, but I stopped, and painfully waited as she… ever…so…slowly made her way across the road.

What I hadn’t seen were the three others on the opposite side of the street who had also been patiently waiting to cross in this downpour. Just as they passed in front of my car, the one with the cane stopped to look me in the eye… with a beatific smile of gratitude.

“The Stranger”

Goya y Lucientes, visipix.com

The Stranger’s timing is no doubt a “Godsend,” offering a smile or some other unexpected gift of sweetness just when you didn’t know you needed it. Each of us is this kind of Angel for the other, never knowing when our good nature serves as healing balm at just the right time.


Angel #4

Despite my decision to let the angels “come to me,” I began to anticipate the arrival of my next guest.

In the afternoon, I went for a walk down our mountain road to see what the rain had washed away of winter. Soon the chatter of my mind was silenced by the awesome current of the stream. My thoughts turned to Japan as I stood transfixed by the force of the water rushing through the dam, carving away the frozen banks of snow. And then I turned…

50 feet away, a dog stood starring at me…

“The Dog”

Tiepolo, visipix.com

I don’t have a single pet, but over the years other dog “angels” have appeared to me–usually near water. They serve as companions for a short while and then are off again to grace others. Dog angels serve as protectors, keeping us connected to the earth and focusing our attention on the “now.”


Angel #5

Who can make any sense of the tragedy striking Japan?  How will those who survive ever relate to earth or sea or fire again with peace? Nothing makes sense at times like this. Until everything does…

“The All That Is…”

(Photo: REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak)

The “All That Is” Angel presents herself in the face confusion and despair and fear. Suddenly everything makes sense, the kind of sense that transcends the mind and surrenders to all that is.


Angel #6

“Mother Mary”

Madonna, detail, Gentile da Fabriano

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be.  And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me… And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer.


Angel #7

Apparently Mary isn’t finished with me yet which shouldn’t come as much surprise given our history.


unknown, visipix.com

“Mother Mary, Madonna, Lady of Mercy, Holy Mary, Our Lady, Blessed Mother, Mother of God…”


Angel #8

In light of recent Earth events, this angel is a welcome sight, even if I do question her ways.

“Gaia, Earth Mother”

detail Raphael, visipix.com

“We have such a beautiful Mother. Look around you. Open up your eyes and sing Her Praises,”

Praises, Deva Premal


Angel # 9

“Top of the Morning to you, Kel,” that’s what my Gram would be saying today. She’s the one who taught me all the Irish ditties, from Tora Lora Loo to Just a Little Bit of Heaven to Oh Paddy Dear, they’re hanging men and women here for the wearing of the Green…



The Angel Loretta pours you a pot of tea and tells you stories that’ll make you laugh until you cry.  She’ll check to be sure you’re wearing your green before she sends you on your way, Tora Lora Loo, then she’ll climb back into bed with her reading glasses and a delicious pile of books.


Angel #10

Each time the anguish of Japan rises up inside of me, I bathe myself in Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem, and I am softened and soothed into our shared grief.


Klimt, visipix.com

The Angel of Music is fluid enough to find us in our most hidden places, smoothing all that is rough inside.


Angel #11



Klimt, detail, visipix.com



Angel #12

As the March winds begins to below, I am reminded that each Season is associated with an element. Summer with Fire. Autumn with Water. Winter with Earth. And Spring with Air.


Serusier, visipix.com

“I envy the wind, that whispers in your ear, that howls through the winter, and freezes your fingers, that moves through your hair, that cracks your lips, chills you to the bone. I envy the wind,” Lucinda Williams


Angel #13


Hodler, visipix.com


Angel # 14

At an women’s gathering on the Equinox, a friend surrounded this small garden statue with paper cranes she had folded for Japan.

“Kuan Yin”

Kuan Yin photo: Luanne Marie

May the Goddess of Compassion be with all those who suffer.


Angel # 15

This may be the most unlikely angel of all…

“The Teenager”

Watts, detail, visipix

Some angels require greater discernment to fully appreciate their gifts. This angel offers tenderness when you least expect it.


Angel # 16

The first time I felt my son move inside was at a performance by locals clowns Gould & Stern.  I felt the same quickening inside on the Seine in Paris when a street mime had a entire cafe in stitches.

“The Clown”

Fouquetm, visipix

Perhaps there is no greater angel that one who brings us laughter.


Angels # 17-34

The promise of color…

Degas (visipix)

The movement of women welcoming spring…

Giometti/detail (visipix.com)

Feeling the growing sun on my skin…

Being Aware of the Awakening beneath the Earth…

Greuze/detail visipix.com

Remembering to pray…

Macke (visipix.com)

Opening to the path of dreams…

Bonnie Kelly Salasin Bradley, December 25,1942-September 8, 2000

Softening into the spirit of my mother…

Hodler (visipix.com)

Showing up for the work we need to do…

Dore, "Dante & Beatrice" visipix.com

Transcendent time with my partner…

Photo: Robin Salasin Cramer

The gift of an embrace…

photo: Bonnie Salasin


child sea scene, Keller



Fuessli, visipix.com
The ending of winter…
Hodler, detail, visipix.com

Surrendering to self…

Last Minute Laundry, Casey Deane


Moderhsohn, detail, visipix.com

a soft spring snow…

Angels # 35-40: are all yours. Add them & more in the comments below!

Kelly Salasin, the 40 Angels of Lent, 2011