New Year Outtakes

New Year Outtakes

Welcome Center, Tennessee

EPIPHANY

Like a dog, at my feet, beneath the table, my mind begs, shamelessly, after each & every meal, even breakfast:

“No dessert?”

After a display of disgust, I pat it on the head, and say:

“Let’s go see what we have.”

~

MID-JANUARY

To say nothing seems wrong. To say something, just to say something, seems trite.

What I felt as I drove through a snowstorm in the Blue Ridge Mountains was shock.

“Mary Oliver has died,” said the announcer on NPR, without asking if we were all sitting down.

And just like that a window shut, a door slammed, a page turned, a poem…

Her words came at a time when I was finding myself, and like she did for so many, her way of seeing lit the way, and made it softer and sweeter and whole.

~

MLK WEEKEND

“Friday is the Day of Detachment. Today we tell our children: Enjoy the journey.”

Another dreary day of winter weather, blocking my view & my mood. But after two full days of driving, I am waking up in a place I’ve never been before, to the sound of a bird I don’t know, in a stranger’s bed in Knoxville, Tennessee where my youngest and I have journeyed to celebrate the most powerful thing in the world.

Love.

~

VERMONT BOUND

The Smokies were covered today and we extended our stay to avoid the weather up ahead.

As the sun set in the west and the full moon rose in the east, we drove through the Tennessee town in which Dolly Parton was born, on this very weekend, 73 years ago.

What struck me most about this time in the “South,” almost immediately, was the pause people take, even when passing by, even when brushing shoulders with strangers, to say something kind or to smile, which we’re happy to reciprocate only we didn’t know and so we kept on going or kept it short or turned away too soon, respecting individuation & time instead of the gentility of connection. (I wonder if the North is more heavily populated by introverts.)

“Southern women are nice to your face and then talk behind your back,” our Airbnb host said.

The anomalies & attributes of another person or place are easier to see than one’s own, and so here’s what else we noticed:

Cheap gas! We filled up for $1.89 today (almost makes us want to stay and drive around some more.)

70 mph speed limit. With signs that tell you to stay in the right lane if you’re going less than 70.

BILLBOARDS. (Thank you for banning those Vermont!)

GOD: in the bathroom, on the coffee table and everywhere else along with GUNS & SEX (aka. “Adult” establishments), the bedfellows of PATRIARCHY & OPPRESSION, partnered with fireworks, bbq, knives, moonshine, distilleries & and a string of extravagant Christmas-lawn ornament light stores.

Other EXCESSES: Pedicures & sundaes–at the same time. (I was tempted.) A hunk of cornbread & 2 huge biscuits with your small order of chicken & dumplings. “You won’t starve here,” the waiter said. Price: $5.95

Loads of Arby’s & Hardy’s & Chick Fill A (as well as Waffle Houses & Krispy Kremes.)

Angular mountain ranges & ridges.

“Yes, ma’am.”

~

IN-SERVICE

Today my husband, a highschool social studies teacher, spent his half-day in-service learning how to stop the bleeding. Legs & arms mainly because apparently there’s less success with torso wounds in the classroom.

 

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First Storm

First Storm

We lost the ”Grandfather” tree soon after we built the house which was quite a blow to all of us, but the “Grandmother” Pine, so named for being almost as tall as the seed tree just beyond her, is still with us, a dozen years later, though we fear not for long.

Still, this morning when trees fell across this mountain town–upon houses and roadways and cars–She, Ever-Wise, sacrificed an upper branch which in its tumbling cleared the lower branches of their burden of heavy snow so that she remains, sturdy, high above the canopy, facing West.

I can’t help thinking this some kind of Wisdom Teaching—about aging and letting go and most of all provision—but I’ll wait to ponder that until I’ve had supper and a shower, hoping electricity & running water will be restored soon.

(November 2018)

Chrysalides

Chrysalides

I look past the needles that line my belly, the lowest just above the rise of my pelvis, an inch deep, and further still past the needles at my ankle to the plant circling the room where the walls meet the ceiling, the same ivy-like, heart-shaped-leaf that I have in my house, a plant which was once among several left on a small round kitchen table with the words: “Free,” which despite the absence of a green thumb I brought home after a yoga class or was it a birthing class, both brand new endeavors  after leaving the mid-Atlantic for the Green Mountains in 1993 where I discovered at my first staff meeting at Deerfield Valley Elementary that everyone ate something that I’d I mistakenly pronounced as another word for soil.

A Long Slow Color is Green.

These are the words that were carved into thick medallion of wood that hung above the entrance to a place smack in the middle of Main Street, beside a classic Vermont Inn. The oddly named: Klara Simpla housed the bookstore which is what brought me inside the strange smelling shop filled with something called herbs and homeopathics and tinctures, not to mention the yoga and birthing classes (among other offerings) on the second and third floors. There were also two huge chests filled with household and clothing items that were giveaways. 25 years later, I’m still the plaid blanket that I found in that pile is a family classic when we picnic beside pond and I still wear the black, water resistant wind pants when I snow shoe.

A long slow color is green.

Those words from the wooden medallion which hung above Klara Simpla were spoken out loud to me once by the founder herself, the woman who offered her plants to women like me just beginning to find our way on the path to wholeness.

“There is so much to know. How do I begin?” I asked Faye, at the end of an interview she’d surprisingly granted me when I’d first began writing for the Cracker Barrel.

But what really brought my attention to the plant circling the ceiling in the acupuncturist’s office, beyond the fact that the old period building with its hissing radiators reminded me of my husband’s grandmother’s place in the nearby Berkshires (which is how we ended up leaving the southern New Jersey for New England), and beyond the surprise that my surname was all over the building because in addition to housing the acupuncturist’s office, it housed an organization called the Salasin Center (so named for a distant relative that I found on Facebook) was that its dead leaves were left hanging among its healthy ones, and if not a shouting sign of neglect then some kind of statement which I had plenty of time to ponder as I lay on the table week after week for an hour at a time–from sandals to long pants to scarves to wool socks and hats.

With nothing to do but remain still so that the needles in my belly (or eye socket) wouldn’t move, the story–my story–about the neglected ivy-like plant–began to shift, somewhere beneath my personal anxiety around neglect.

When the acupuncturist returned to the room to remove the needles of which there were a total of 8 on this particular visit–including one at the top of my skull, and one at each of my temples, as well as one between my toes and another placed between my bottom two ribs, I finally said aloud what I’d been thinking for so many weeks in a row (hoping to silence it in my head):

“Has anyone ever said that those–(I pointed toward a particularly long line of decaying leaves)–look like a chrysalis?” (I wish I knew then the plural.)

Surprisingly Dan said, “No,” and nothing more.

But my therapist picked up the thread, the very same week, which is something I try to avoid–more than one appointment in the same week–but which has been unavoidable during this health crisis that has so depleted me (while serving as a boot-camp for letting go.)

“This is a very inward time for you, more so than ever,” Carolyn said, as I sat across from her in a room perched above the Connecticut River in downtown Brattleboro; something I had been doing about once a month or so ever since my mother’s death, a span of time easily measured by the age of my youngest son, 18.

“It’s time to retreat, to be unseen, to rest under the covers,” she said, “To let your work deepen inside like the spinning of a cocoon.”

My mind immediately protested with all that had to be done in that particular month–December!–not to mention the day trip I’d imagined to the sea the very next day–on the occasion of my 55th birthday. (I had arrived in Vermont at 29.)

“Does this resonate for you?” Carolyn asked, seeing past the veneer of my capacity, into the grievous depletion of chi.

I nodded begrudgingly.

There was one last appointment scheduled that same day, which is something I never do, but it was the only opening my friend had to trade massage for the work I’d done on her website.

The afternoon though brightly lit, was bitter cold, and I arrived at her house chilled, and even so, I removed each and every layer, until I stood in my underwear and slid, belly up, under the single sheet on her table.

“Are you cold?” she asked, turning up the temperature on the heating pads beneath me.

Elaina dangled the pendulum over the center line of my body sensing the ongoing obstruction of the second chakra–digestion, letting go, family, finances, overextension.

“How is mothering going?” she asked, knowing that my youngest left the nest this very August, a day upon which this sweeping illness presented itself in absurdly symbolic fashion.

“There is a burden on your left shoulder,” she added. “A responsibility that you’re carrying, that is not yours, which means it’s stuck there because it has nowhere to go.”

I told her about the Ritual of Resignation that I had concocted just before Thanksgiving. My therapist had suggested the ritual as an accompaniment to the potent antibiotics to which I planned to surrender, something I hadn’t needed since I moved to Vermont and began using herbs. I filled the prescription bottle with tiny pieces of paper upon which I wrote all the ways I was ready to let go, particularly with regard to my family of origin who I’d begun to carry as a girl.

“So many of your joints are blocked,” Elaina said, as she massaged my shoulders and elbows and wrists, my hips and knees and ankles.

As I write this morning, on the day after my birthday, my hands take turns leaving the keyboard to touch my shoulder tips again and again. The skin there is so strikingly soft, like a baby’s flesh (or what I vaguely recall of a baby), the result of a salt scrub I offered my joints yesterday morning while the sun rose brightly through the trees on another bitterly cold day, on the anniversary of my birth.

So too was my time on the table with Elaina sensual, accompanied as it was by her cat, black, like my own Licorice from long ago with whom I shared a soul connection as a girl in Rockies as my mother disappeared in the bottle. Licorice would drag her paws down my face, and once when recalling this in my therapist’s chair on a guided journey forty years later, I was certain I smelled Licorice’s milky breath.

As Elaina worked on my neck, “Kiki” brushed her whiskers against my left cheek, purring in my ear, and then she pranced across my belly, tenderizing the second chakra, while on the Elaina’s small cd player, a classical version of “Danny Boy” softly played, a song which once eulogized my mother who named her only son Daniel.

After the sunny birthday morning shower with the salt scrub around each joint, my husband drove me to the sea, where I watched from the passenger’s seat, light, moving across frozen lakes and rivers and marshlands and fields, even as my head ached from yet another migraine (a fourth since Thanksgiving week; since the antibiotic?) until I arrived, at the hour of my birth, sensing into the pain of separation–skull crushed by pubic bones–at the open, endless, embrace of Return, understanding in that moment, that the title of my book would be something much larger than I had conceived, could conceive, of the story I’d been spinning several years around a tragedy.

When instead of turning south, we continued along the coastal road deeper into Maine, we passed a tiny pond beside the woods upon which a single skater glided skillfully in tighter and tighter circles.

“He must be professional hockey player,” I said to my husband.

“Such a small pond he’s on,” my husband replied.

“Such elegance,” I said.

And now I recall the moment when I’d fully surrendered to Elaina’s touch on the table, and she asked me to turn over onto my belly, layering heating pads and blankets atop my back, until I grew so hot that I imagined melting, after which she removed the layers, which had grown sticky, peeling them one by one, until I found myself unburdened and light, nascent and raw, like the first unfurling of new life.

The moral consequence of acceptance

The moral consequence of acceptance

Uncertain of our place, but standing with my sister and husband nonetheless, shoulder to shoulder, for others. Brattleboro Rally for Trans Justice. 2018.


I don’t feel safe to be a part of any community 
outside my own.

Of all the words spoken at last month’s Rally for Trans Justice | Brattleboro, these are the ones that most pierced my oblivion.

How affronting my hubris. How careless. How dangerous even. To dismiss another simply because he/she doesn’t look the way I expect she/he to look.

Acceptance is protection, declared one of the rally signs. I nodded my head in sobriety.

I have a responsibility here.

Hate is a choice. Trans is not, expressed another.

I felt that inside.

“Do better,” the speaker offered to those of us who identified as the sex to which we were born. “Talk to each other. Educate yourselves.”

I am and was so grateful to all those who were courageous enough and vulnerable enough to gather with people like me who want to be allies, but who have so much to learn.

I hope there are more and more spaces where people who identify as Trans feel safe and accepted and most of all feel that they—belong.

At one time I felt awkward around “them,” and then confused, and over time curious, and finally accepting, but now my heart is made glad when I see the woman at the register who kinda looks like a man but who is clearly a woman inside.

She’s always been warm and funny with me even when I accidently use the pronoun, He.

A budget is a moral document.

A budget is a moral document.

I guess it’s been said before but it landed in me for the first time when I heard it spoken last month at the Rally for Trans Justice | Brattleboro.

I jotted those words down in a tiny notebook that I keep in my purse:

A budget is a moral document.

Over the weekend, my husband and I revisited our budget which has long been neglected. Years ago, as my hormones began to change, I turned it all over to him; and as our kids came of age, I looked at it less and less.

We began budgeting when we became parents. I didn’t want to do it, but it was 1995, and it was the first time that I didn’t earn a substantial income. I was home with a child, which is where I discovered I had to remain, but I couldn’t figure out how to avoid credit card debt with my husband’s salary as a new teacher at $20,000 which didn’t include health coverage for the new baby or me.

A budget is a moral document.

I felt so ashamed when I reported to the State Office to arrange for supplemental food and medical care for our son. “I’m not taking this from others am I?” I asked. “I’m a teacher. This is a choice for me. I know it’s not for others.”

A budget is a moral document.

I learned to track every penny then so that we might afford to provide our children with a parent at home, and unpoisoned food, and health care and education that was integrative and whole.

Fuel assistance and the Reformer Christmas Stocking (providing winter wear for the kids each year) helped us get by.

A budget is a moral document.

It was a long haul. There were no true vacations. No dinners out. Not so much as a coffee at a cafe. Our clothes were second-hand. Our gifts were re-gifted. Even the presents under the tree were recycled from the previous year as long as our kids were too young to notice.

“Why don’t you ski?” my father asked, when he came with his doctor friends to ski in Vermont. “You live here. Why don’t you have skis?”

Years later, after my husband’s income climbed, we built our first home, and then he went two years without a teaching salary.

A budget can shrink and expand. We didn’t accrue any debt. I’m so proud of that time. We pulled together as a couple and as a family. The kids gave up their allowances.  The community supported my husband with side jobs. We got by with the unemployment provided by the state.

A budget is a moral document.

Last week I read that the United States is second among developed nations with credit card debt. Close to half of us carry that weight, while in say France or Germany or Australia, less than ten percent do.

With more and more education, and more and more experience, and with the opportunity that comes from that, my husband’s income grew exponentially and we neglected our budget more and more; while simultaneously my opportunities exponentially shrunk, as did my willingness to do just about anything for a buck so that my life could remain shaped around the home.

Instead I’ve began shaping my life around writing.

Is a budget immoral if it provides for an aging woman?
No one wants to sell the house.

Not only did our first-born put himself through college, but he makes more in a summer than I can scrape by in a year.

He called last night from a rally in Burlington–Bernie, Christine, Zuckerman. He was coordinating volunteers. I put him on speaker phone.

“Dad and I are working on the budget,” I said, a phrase which no doubt is a trigger for him given the financial struggles of our family’s early years.

He told us about the inspirational speeches and the enthusiasm, and then he had to go to the next event.

Turning back toward the budget, my husband and I were reminded about what’s at stake. How we provide. What we prioritize. And how spending time with the budget allows us to question this.

A budget is a moral document.

I’ll never forget the cartoon I saw when I was a young teacher. It made me question what was always taken for granted–that money was meant for “things” while “lives” went wasted.

Understanding TRANS

Understanding TRANS


I was alarmingly reluctant to find out more about VT’s Democratic candidate for Governor Christine Hallquist, simply because I was uncomfortable with her appearance.

After she won the primary, I made a mental note to lean in, but my discomfort persisted. When I heard that she would be in town, I put the event on my calendar. I’ve learned that seeing a candidate in person is the best gauge of whether I would trust them with my vote (which held true for Bernie and Obama.)

When I heard that the Trump administration wanted to remove ‘gender’ from United Nations Human Rights documents, my attention sharpened.

Simultaneously someone who I cared about shared their unfolding transgender journey.

This was the last push I needed to realize my response-ability to be engaged more fully; because I know first-hand what it is to be marginalized, degraded and physically threatened.

On Thursday night, my husband Casey Deane and I participated in the Rally for Trans Justice | Brattleboro (for which I shyly made my very first rally signs, imagining what I might want to feel/see if I was trans: SAFETY. BELONGING. DIGNITY. ALLY.)

Students from Brattleboro Union High School appreciated seeing my husband there, as did the manager of the Latchis Hotel; while I delighted in seeing one of our favorite grocery store clerks from the Brattleboro Food Co-op with her family.

Trans people and allies from all walks joined together, including a 5th grader who identified as non-binary and a grandmother who came with her family to support her grandchild.

Where had all these people been hiding, I wondered. Why hadn’t I seen them before? Why hadn’t I wondered more about the fullness of their humanity?

This morning, my husband and I did something we rarely do. We skipped our Saturday morning yoga date with Scott Willis at Hits The Spot Yoga so that we could attend Coffee with Christine and Danica Roem along with our son who was home for the weekend from Vermont Tech.

When our son would typically be sleeping in, we headed out the door in the icy snow, just ahead of an accident, and we arrived at The Works Bakery & Cafe to 3 seats open in a row at the reserved table.

But then I realized that these seats were right beside Christine D Hallquist, which seemed inappropriate for me to claim, given everything, but also inappropriate not to claim, given everything, so I sat right down next to her and she took a pause from her bagel to introduce herself, and I, in turn, introduced her to my son and husband when they sat down with their bagels.

What brought me to this particular event (instead of the others around town where Hallquist was speaking) was the presence of Danica Roem – Virginia Delegate who I heard speak on a YouTube clip after her victory. If she could come from Virginia, I thought, I could come down from the mountain.

She was just as compelling this morning. Clear thinking. Enthusiastic. Matter of fact.

Hallquist was equally so. I began to write down some of what she said:

I AM BULLISH ABOUT VERMONT.

CLOSING RURAL SCHOOLS IS THE WORST THING TO DO.

GROWING VT’S RURAL COMMUNITIES WILL PUT PEOPLE BACK IN THOSE SCHOOLS.

WE’RE GONNA SOLVE CLIMATE CHANGE BECAUSE WE CAN.

~

I don’t need to “like” a candidate, but I do want to respect them.

Right away I liked Hallquist. Her can-do attitude. Her forward thinking. Her humor. Her authenticity. Her clear sense of being a learner. Of visiting the prison and the Brattleboro Retreat. The Canadian delegation on climate change. The former Governor of Colorado–who has joined 19 states together–around climate. Hallquist’s vision to do the same with health care. She also shared her focus on broadband internet across the state.

“I don’t accept NO as an answer,” she said. “I don’t make excuses. We CAN solve problems BECAUSE we are small.”

This she offered in defense of Vermont, after sharing how she transformed Vermont Electric Coop by bringing people together.

Before we left this morning’s gathering, we made new acquaintances and another modest second donation to the campaign (the first after the news about the UN documents.)

We left with a bumper sticker and a lawn sign and a commitment to do more to get the word out: This candidate is worthy of your vote.

“She’s been on a marathon,” Senator Becca Balint, Vermont Senate Majority leader said of Hallquist’s campaign, “And now’s she’s in a sprint,” encouraging us to encourage others to make donations to help bolster the campaign in these last weeks.

“Here’s what I’d like to say to my grandchildren one day,” said Hallquist in her closing:

2018 WAS THE YEAR WE MADE HISTORY.

ps. i love her logo.

pps. Both my husband and I–to our son’s constant dismay–mistakenly referred to Christine as “he” even as I wrote this piece.

“I don’t understand,” my son said, “Why do you keep doing it?!

“Our brains aren’t as flexible as yours,” I explained. “We’ll need more practice.”

Women’s Gathering: 1st Chakra, November 1

Women’s Gathering: 1st Chakra, November 1

Dear Winter Women’s Circle,

I look forward to gathering with you on Thursday November 1st.

If you haven’t already and you’re willing, please add your name here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/112179716336035/

Expect an email with directions to my home.

Arrive anytime after 4:30 and before 4:45 pm. Feel free to park and walk on the road alongside the brook/pond if you are early.

When you enter through the mudroom, do so in silence. We’ll remain in meditative silence until everyone arrives and we’ve had a chance to settle into ourselves, which is particularly potent for this first gathering in the first chakra.

With your first chakra comfort in mind, you might like to bring slippers or a shawl, a basket with a jar of water and or a favorite travel mug, a light meal for yourself or a snack (or beverage of any kind) to share. Some among us will be vegetarians, some vegans, some omnivores, some who avoid sugar or alcohol or chocolate, some who are allergic to gluten and some like me allergic to garlic  😦  Which is to say: Bring what you need–for you–and we will each have what we need.

When you arrive in the house you’ll find a bathroom at the bottom and top of the stairs. Feel free to fix yourself some tea or eat a light dinner that you’ve packed in, or write in your journal, or close your eyes. You decide. Make yourself cozy at the table, by the fire, on the stairs, on the couch or in a chair.

We will open in silence, and then delve into the first chakra with reading, response, music, meditation and perhaps some simple movement. You need not know anything. A favorite pen and a notebook or journal will come in handy. We’ll close in connection after 7 pm. (If a firm time is needed for your departure, don’t hesitate to let me know ahead of time.)

For this first chakra gathering, you might like to contemplate the color red, ancestors, rock, stone, root, earth, home, new beginnings.

If you’d like, you can wear something red or bring a photo or other token of an ancestor or some thing that represents a new beginning that you’d like to seed in the magic of women gathering at the turning of the year. Bringing something is optional. Contemplating is plenty. Being completely unprepared is entirely welcome. Come as you are. Meet yourself there.

Have I forgotten anything? Don’t hesitate to ask.

For those who’ve read this far but aren’t enrolled, there is at this posting–one spot open for November 1st and one spot open for the full season.

More here: https://thisvtlife.com/2018/10/03/when-women-gather/

Yours in nourishing & uplifting women’s spirits,
Kelly

Recap:

Arrival time: between 4:30 and 4:45 pm on Thursday, November 1st. (Address to be sent via email.)

Pack in: slippers? shawl? water? favorite mug? light supper? snack and or beverage to share?

Bring: Notebook of some kind and favorite pen.

Consider: the color red, ancestors, rock, earth, roots, home, beginnings; bring a long a token of some kind to place on altar?

Closing: around 7 pm.

Note: If you are enrolled for a single gathering or the full season, let me know as much in advance as possible if you can’t make so that I can adjust plans accordingly. Following your missed gathering, I will provide an offering for a home chakra practice for you.

If a gathering has to be cancelled due to weather, I will create an open gathering space online throughout the month with corresponding chakra explorations and practice in lieu of an in-person gathering.

If a gathering has to be cancelled due to something on my end, I will reschedule it on a consecutive Thursday (as available) and also offer online access in the event there are some who can’t make it to the rescheduled date.