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)

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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.

when women gather!

when women gather!

still. nourish. rest. retreat. connect. slow.

an evening gathering in southern vermont
on the first thursday of each month from autumn to spring

with chakra-based music, meditation, writing & sharing prompts
along with extensions that vary each month according to chakra
with one gathering for each of the 7 chakras, beginning november 1st, 2018


opening in silence (4:30 ish)
(fix yourself some tea, journal, close your eyes, rest)
closing in connection (7:00 ish)
(self, spirit, other)

tea-kettle & potluck snacks/drinks available throughout the evening
(potluck supper at last gathering)

absolutely no skill of any kind required
(simply come as you are and be met without needing to change a thing)

enrollment:

full journey, autumn through spring: $175

(contact Kelly about the wait list, kel(at)sover.net)

opening with all souls day in november and continuing once a month through winter into spring (on the first thursday of every month) and culminating with beltane in early may.

together, we’ll shape a sangha (a community) of voices, deepening presence through the chakras (the body’s energy centers), for a journey that is both gentle and transformative.

note: participants will receive online access for a chakra-home inquiry for any missed gatherings.

~

single gathering: $49

(contact Kelly about the wait list, kel(at)sover.net)

this rate allows you to claim a spot in the first chakra gathering on thursday, november 1st. and to upgrade to the full journey if space allows

these women circles take place in a private residence on macarthur road just off route 9 in marlboro, VT (between wilmington & brattleboro.)

(note: women participating in the snail mail 3-season writing journey can reserve participation in the monthly women’s circle at an reduced rate; please inquire.)

Facilitator Kelly Salasin has been participating in transformational women’s circles since her early thirties (in the late 1900’s 🙂 In 2000, she began leading women’s workshops, circles and groups, including designing her online curriculum, Writing through the Chakras, which she leads with women from Crete to the Carolinas. Kelly is a certified yoga and yogadance instructor.

She regularly assists leading presenters at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, including Jean Shinoda Bolen (author of The Millionth Circle), Julia Cameron (the Artist’s Way), Joan Borysenko (A Women’s Book of Life),Tara Brach (True Refuge), Tama Kieves (This Time I Dance) and Dani Shapiro (Still Writing.) Kelly studied with renown chakra teacher Anodea Judith (Wheels of Life) and has assisted teaching trainings with Megha Nancy Buttenheim, founder of Let Your Yoga Dance (a chakra-based movement practice.)

Each March, Kelly serves as an NGO representative at the annual Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York City, gathering with women & men from around the globe to amplify women’s voices.

Contact Kelly with questions.

 

“Listening, witnessing, role modeling, reacting, deepening, mirroring, laughing, crying, grieving, drawing upon experience, and sharing the wisdom of experience, women in circles support each other and discover themselves…”
Jean Shinoda Bolen

Aging in place

Aging in place

In the middle of winter & now into spring–on snow-covered roads and icy ones and mud-ridden too–I find myself traveling to the bedsides of those who are aging in place in my part of the state; and I am astounded by their spirits and by the devotion of their caregivers, and also by the plight of adult children caring for parents, or one spouse caring for another or siblings doing the same.

I am struck when I hear that opting for Nursing Home care comes with fewer strings, financially & practically; and this reminds me of my early years at home with my babies, if only I’d chosen a daycare to raise my little ones, it could have been subsidized, but if I gave up my career to be with my children so that they too could “age in place,” I would lose my foothold in the work world and exponentially lag behind in my capacity to earn and thus become increasingly disheartened in that regard, not to mention less and less represented in the wider world.

(Think Congress.)

Unlike some of our counterparts in the developed world, we do not prioritize those who need care and those who give care–to the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the refugee, the lonely, the downtrodden, the minority, the mother, the child–namely–women–who as a result of unpaid/underpaid caregiving are among the most impoverished around the world no matter their race, educational background and marital status; and increasingly so as they age, with a wider income gap between women and men in the United States than anywhere in the Western world.

~

When my children were young, I tended to them in much the same way as I would have wanted to be tended, and I imagine the same is true for adult children caring for parents.

“We’re next, Kelly,” said one such caregiver, as she looked me in the eyes, and this is quite a sobering thought, particularly as I see parents become children, and then infants, in their offspring’s hearts.

Eastern Exposure

Eastern Exposure


My youngest was in his 1st year of preschool when we cleared the land, and now he’s in his last year of high school, and finally I’ve stopped demanding/dreaming/coveting my neighbor’s eastern exposure; and instead come to delight in the way my wintry days begin as a jewel, sparkling through his trees, into my welcoming hands.

(And maybe it takes 9 years of prayer to surrender to the gifts in our own hands.)

Biggest Snowflakes EVER

Biggest Snowflakes EVER


I step outside the bakery.
The flakes are wondrous.
Shops along Main Street empty of keepers and customers wanting to see.
All the kids are still in school so it’s just us grownups.
And even if you are as old as me, you can’t help but stick out your tongue, and effortlessly share in winter’s communion. The holy sacrament. Of snow.

Despite the magic, I decide that I better head home.
I drive slow out of town.
I approach a standstill at Route 9, the highway that leads to my mountain home.
I turn into the Chelsea Royal and attempt to assess the situation.
Is that a farm vehicle? A truck?
I turn around. I’ll take the back roads.

I stop for WIFI to share an update in on our community Facebook group, but the power is out at Dunkin Donuts, and at both the gas stations, they tell me.
A fire truck speeds by.
Must be a pole down.
Live wires, someone says.

I pass a vehicle in a snow bank, another in a ditch.
An ambulance speeds by.
A police car.

I stop at my dentist office, but it’s closed.
I stand outside the door and use the WIFI.

I take the road past Lilac Ridge Farm because its flat.
I stop for a photo. I pass Round Mountain, and use my mind to capture its majesty because I need traction now as Ames Hill Road begins to climb.

Cars without snow tires or studs or without steep slippery driveways like mine are pulled to the side of the road or stopped altogether in the middle or somewhere else, unintended.

I consider pulling into the Robb Family Farm myself, but all the spaces are taken. I remember the night of Irene, how this farm was the turning point, of no turning back, and how passing it, even months later, brought back the terror of that drive home. Of roads eaten away by water. Of a car, hanging in a ditch. Of trees strewn everywhere. Of boulders appearing where a dirt road was supposed to be.

One more turn up hill, and there are too many cars paused, and I become one of the casualties, and slide to the wrong side of the road, but still on it, and kind of out of the way.

Others speed by.
My heart swells with envy for AWD and especially trucks.
They resent me, and those like me, in the way.
Show offs!

I roll down my window.
I talk to a friendly guy named Jeff, heading to town, who offers to push me.

I don’t think that’s a good idea, I say, just as Jeff does a dance that takes him swiftly to the ground.

Other drivers stop to make similar suggestions.

I hand out my last Lake Champlain Valentine chocolates to each one–to my brother in law who was one of the cars I passed earlier, but then passed me after he put chains on his tires; and to my neighbor who volunteers with the Fire Department and who radios in about the condition of the road, and who helps spin my car downhill and temporarily into a driveway; and to the guy in the truck who later tells me, when I start to head back down to town, don’t do it, it’s worse that way now, cars allover the place.

And so I sit in my car on the side of the road, facing the right way now,
And hope no one hits me.
And change my mind about which seat is the safest, and whether or not I should wear a seat belt.

I have my laptop, but I’m too anxious to work.
I inventory my car’s contents.
I pick up trash.

I inventory my trunk’s contents.

I change my seat three times.

I regret my generosity with the chocolate, just a little bit.
There are no snacks in car, not even left behind on the floor or the seats. The kids are grown.
I have three blankets, and a flashlight. Nightfall is about an hour away.
A pair of gloves.
No hat!
I have water. I even have chai.
But I have to pee so I can’t have either.
I could pee outside. I have tissues.
The snow bank is too deep. The road too slippery. The house across the road empty.

Cars heading uphill slow to a trickle.
Cars downhill still at a standstill.
Then, wait, what’s that?

IS IT?

It is, IT IS!

A SANDER barrels by, spraying delicious, dark chocolate dirt across the road.
First, up
Then, down.

I wait until the road around me is completely empty, and then I climb over the stick shift, and into the driver’s seat. I back up. I spin around. I decide on heading up hill–the direction I was forced to abandon over an hour earlier.

I don’t see another soul. I climb out of Brattleboro, past the sheep farm and the apple orchard, and approach the line into Marlboro, neatly delineated where, to my dismay, chocolate ends, and vanilla begins again, and yet the familiarity lends comfort, even without traction.

As I crest the last climb, the snow suddenly stops, and the sun arrives, welcoming me home, or mocking all the dark drama down below.

I pass the cemetery. I pull over to take a photo of the sky passed Liz and Craig’s.
The road beneath my feet is slick.
My neighbor, the fireman, passes me by again.

I turn downhill onto MacArthur, the road which bears his name.
I drive even slower. Test my brakes.
Wave past his aunt’s house.

The world is milky white and silent and stunning.
I photograph his grandfather’s house from below.
I forget that John died just last month.

I approach my own land. I slow for a man with two dogs,
and then accelerate again to get up my driveway, but pass it when I find it overflowing.

How has so much snow fallen in such a short storm?

I continue down to Camp Neringa, turn around in the driveway, exhale when I don’t end up stuck or in a ditch.
Tuck my car on the side of the road.
Hike up to my house.
Look back at the narrow path of my boot prints.
Gather wood from the shed for the fire.
Light candles.
Sit in the dark as the sun goes down.
Hold a flashlight.
Wait for the power to go back on.

Wait for my husband and son to call…

Refuse to eat until they’re safely home.

Spring in Manhattan (& Marlboro)

Spring in Manhattan (& Marlboro)

Connie Crosson (2015, Kelly Salasin)
My colleague & friend Connie Crosson (2015, Kelly Salasin)

I first met Connie in Chile at an international conference for the worldwide network of the Experiment in International Living. Geographically speaking, Connie and I were neighbors, but the lifestyles and topography of Manhattan and Marlboro were worlds apart–her island that never sleeps meets my mountain town and dirt roads without a traffic light in sight.

Santiago is where the conference took place. It was 2011. I was the Assistant to the Director of Federation EIL. Connie served as our United Nations representative. This immediately lent her my affection. (I’d had a thing for the UN since I was a kid.)

Connie didn’t make it to the conference the following year in Japan or to the one after that in Vermont, and I didn’t make it to Ireland, and neither of us was in New Zealand, but our friendship, seeded in Santiago, deepened into a seasonal rhythm that presenced itself each March around the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW.)

“Expect chaos,” Connie wrote, when I first inquired about how to navigate the event.

Thousands of NGO representatives–mostly women–from around the world convened each year at the United Nations; which I found so thrilling, that I kept returning. Each time Connie encouraged me and we shaped plans to get together.

That first year, we met up between meetings, and later in the week for lunch, and on the last evening, Connie invited all the representatives from our organization to her home in the Upper West. She cooked. We brought salads and desserts and wine.

This ritual of connection continued year after year. One March, Connie and I caught up for lunch at the American Wing at the MET. Another time at Pain Le Quotodien on 2nd Avenue; while last year, a bunch of us gathered back at her home for dinner after the day’s events. Connie cooked then too. We provided the accessories again. Everyone stayed late into the night.

Our last time together. March 2015.
Our last time together. March 2015.

In the kitchen, Connie told me that she hadn’t made it to any of the meetings; that she’d been at the doctor’s. She shook her head as if to say: Things don’t look so good. I hugged her more earnestly that night.

When I returned to New York a year later for the 60th Commission on the Status of Women, I saw Connie everywhere. In the park. At the MET. At Pain Le Quotodien. At the United Nations. At the Church Center across the street.

I’ve been home from the city for about a week, settling back into the rhythms of my dirt road, and now is about the time when she and I would exchange a volley of emails about the results of the Commission–where there was hope and where there was frustration–and Connie would invariably include a photo or two of spring in New York… a flowering tree perhaps, or a set of bulbs pushing through the ground in Central Park–to serve as an encouragement–to both of us–at the end of a long, cold winter.

This year, spring has come early to both Manhattan and Marlboro.

Look Connie… even in my backyard…
IMG_2656

A former member of the US Committee for UNICEF, Connie Crosson served as the UN Representative for The Federation of the Experiment in International Living from 2008 until her death in 2015.  Connie was a graduate of the School for International Training (SIT) at World Learning, a mother of an Experimenter to Germany, a host for many other Experimenters from around the world, and the director of a management training and consulting firm for nonprofit organizations.