Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. Rumi

love

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Thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What I've Learned From the Dark



It seems we must be stripped
of the skin
of all we think beautiful
before we open to the kind of beauty
that can't go away
it seems sky must pour
and howl like it will never stop
before we notice the smile
of our own forever sun. It seems
we must hunt with starving
hungry eyes before we know
this belly is and has always been
full. It seems this wall
deep in the center must be hammered down
before we let soft, breathing hands
curl in around us.  Each drop
of dark carries
with it a candle of holy
light - with each miracle breath
we are invited to turn toward
the nearest whispering spark
and, like momma bird sheltering her baby – like a pebble
in stream's safe lap 
listen





*Image found HERE

Friday, April 4, 2014

Love's Strong Arms


Gorgeous image borrowed from here


Today, my only prayer is this: 
Please, pretty please
 let me meet 
each thing before me
with newborn eyes. Let me know
that every 
single 
bit of it
is divinity in disguise.

With an inhale 
that takes me all 
the way 
inside
I wrap around this soft bodied breather, pausing
to allow her to kiss
passionately back. Naked and ready 
I drop beneath layers of words and walls
passed plans that pull 
and steal 
the new. Inside the belly 
of this one and only now, I exhale 
all that is extra, sinking – sinking
until each swimming cell in me knows
that no one, that no thing 
outside of my own poetic skin 
can save me.  I fall until I find myself 
drenched and soaking 
in springs soft 
and sheltering.  Until – finally 
I come to rest inside 
the womb 
of the most quiet 
kind of quiet.  

Rooted in the center 
of this warm earth body
kind eyes invite me
to feast and swim
like an infant
in Love's strong arms –  to fall back laughing
to fall back knowing
it is safe.  It is safe to be

me.



Friday, March 14, 2014

Answers in the Forest




The bossy one who lives
inside my head 
keeps insisting I move faster, demands 
with brows squeezed tight that I march 
forward
to the next promising 
somewhere. But rather than turning up the speed
legs slow way down – eyes find and stay 
with tiny swelling buds, red 
flowering currant - solid ground. In this body moving slower 
the harried one loosens
her white knuckled grip 
and I can feel, finally 
the kiss of soft 
rain, tired parts waking
with each deepening 
breath. Inside 
the slow of this moment
I can hear them – forest birds 
whistling their song
in unison
It 
is nowhere but here.  
It is nowhere but 
here.

*Image found HERE

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Life Has Not Forgotten You




I wrote the below words last week when I was in the midst of some pretty deep sadness. Though, in this moment, much of that particular kind of sadness has lifted - I know this depth of feeling is something we all experience.  So, in the spirit of wanting to share the whole of it, here's where I've been lately. 
I hope that, in reading this, you feel less alone in whatever it is that you walk through.

*               *               *

I'm going through something right now that I don't understand. This something goes beyond the everyday challenges and hardness and loss and sadness that is (as much as joy and beauty and peace and love) part of this life we live.

This morning I read the below words and they too (like almost everything does these days) made me cry:  

I felt ashamed...for all that I was blessed with and how sad I still felt.  Andrea Scher

For all I was blessed with and how sad I still feel.  

I don't understand how I can have so much, be so fully, richly blessed, how my heart can be broken open by the beauty in a single dew drop, and yet feel - still - so sad.  

"What I want is to open up. I want to know what's inside me. I want everybody to open up. I'm like an imbecile with a can-opener in his hand, wondering where to begin - to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I'm sure of it. 
I know it because I feel so marvelous myself most of the time. And when I feel that way everybody seems marvelous...everybody and everything...even pebbles and pieces of cardboard...a match stick lying in the gutter...anything...a goat's beard, if you like. That's what I want to write about...and then we're all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is."  -Henry Miller
The above words just came to my inbox (again via Andrea Scher)....and, oh my gosh, how they string the chord of everything inside me.  How they point to the sadness, the longing - the pain that has been here since I was too young to write, wore pigtails, lived in that burnt-grassed-tarantula-frequented-army quarters yard in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. 
The pain that comes from wanting, wanting so much - to open, to open to it all - to open it all up. To connect deeply.  To serve.
To serve.
The hurt that comes from wanting this deeply but not knowing where to begin - not knowing (sometimes) how.
I do know that underneath the mess, the pain, the hard of it all - there is great beauty. And I know, too, that deep in the midst of great pain, there is beauty. And that letting myself feel SAD is part of opening to it ALL. I know this but I can't see it right now and somehow expressing this, sharing it with you, helps me to release some of the hard. Helps me to look up and in and out.  Helps me to inhale 
fully 
and call bullshit on all that this mind tries to trap me in. Plus, it's incredibly freeing and relieving (and becoming more and more urgently necessary) to tell the truth. 

Truth:  I don't know what the next step is but I'm doing my best to stay open, moment by moment - to listen deeply. 

Truth:  Sometimes I feel full of love and clarity and purpose and sometimes my heart fills split open with sadness or grief or confusion. Often, in a single day - a single moment, even - I swing back and forth and back again with this full range of it all.

Truth:  I'm seeing more deeply that there is room for it ALL...that all of it is part of what it means to be a divine spirit living in a human body, in a messy, imperfect, beautiful human world.

Truth:  When I let my heart be split open with deep sadness, it opens me up to deep love.
Great, big, all-encompassing, deep, true, L O V E.  

Truth:  I am not linear. Life is not linear.  

Truth:  I've been baking bread from scratch lately.  Adding yeast to water, letting it sit, watching it rise, touching and rolling and baking - adding butter.  Then savoring every warm bite.  There is something in this process that is deep and true and necessary for me right now.

Truth:  This opening, waking up, is not about trying to get rid of any of it (sadness included). It's not about making myself or any of it wrong.  It's about wrapping arms around all of it. Even the hard stuff.  Maybe especially the hard stuff.

Thank you for listening.  
And thank you ahead of time for seeing through my pain to the beauty that's here (that is there in you too) - just on the other side.  
Words can't possibly convey how much this means.  How much this feels like true love to me.  
I want to leave you with some words (written by Rainer Maria Rilke).  The resonance of these words makes me need to lie down.

"‎Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

So you mustn’t be frightened, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall."  Rilke 



Life has not forgotten you (or me).  It holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.


*Photo found HERE


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Her Howl



I didn't know 
I could let it pour, softly – fiercely 
without thought
of whether it will be liked 
or understood. I always thought safe 
meant sheltering it, filtering out the too
watering down the color 
when what I really wanted most –
what I really want 
most 
is to let it spill like this relentless
Oregon rain. Which reminds 
me of that day she sat, head to sky
and howled with wild abandon 
and how that howl contained 
all the loss and love 
her little dog heart
could hold
for the beloved woman
who would never breathe again. If only 
I could release the ugly and pretty 
of it with a single lamenting
celebratory howl
without concern for anything 
other than letting truth
be truth
letting me - finally
be me


*Image found HERE

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Don't Know What This Poem Is About




After school on a Thursday as I open 
the fridge to get her a snack
she tells me that Mrs. Belle's husband died - cancer
again.  As tears spill I think about 
how she's shown up
in that classroom every day since September
teaching sixth graders about character development
and plot, how she cracked
the kids up with her funny stories
and quirky ways.  Never once
mentioning that the one
she loved best would soon
be gone. And this reminds me of my high school 
friend, the one with the four kids who is only 44, the one who should be
playing with her toddler instead of losing 
her hair.  That evening, before I tuck her in, I weep 
all over again when she shows me
the card she made with the quote
about how, when the sun goes down
the stars come out. I'm not sure 
if I'm weeping about what she lost
or what they may lose or 
how beautiful it is that they keep showing up bare 
and laughing even though the lights 
have been turned out. Or about how damn wise
my daughter is at eleven. Or maybe it's the reminder
that none of it stays. That night I fall asleep
thinking about how we need dark
to see the stars, wondering 
how much longer 
and closer my embraces might be 
if I stop assuming there will be
a tomorrow



*Photo found HERE

Friday, February 14, 2014

Breaking Open Structure


“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”  Rumi




I'm taking a deep breath as I show up here this morning. There is so much I want to say and share and this mind of my mine wants to structure it somehow, it wants to make a plan and place it inside something neat and digestible.  But here's the thing this deeper place in me wants  - it wants so much to let it all tumble out, however it feels like tumbling.

Years ago, when I was at a writing retreat with amazing woman and author/artist, Natalie Goldberg, she said something that stuck and keeps sticking, something I repeat inside my head continuously.  What she said as we entered the room with chairs all lined up in neat little rows was, BREAK OPEN STRUCTURE. Our five days of writing time together began with moving those chairs out of their straight obedient little rows and scattering them in a way that felt spacious and free.

If there is one thing this soul of mine has been saying, whispering - screaming at me for as long as I can remember, it is this:  LET YOURSELF BE FREE. Break the fuck open structure!

Years ago, while having a discussion about intelligence and all the unique ways it shows up in people, a friend who knew me well, said to me, You are smart in a very non-linear way.  You know how some things just stick, how certain things just have that special kind of zing?  Well, there was something about him saying this to me that's felt important and I think I'm only just now, almost twenty years later, getting the why of this.

I've spent pretty much all of my life resisting the very things that make me uniquely me - thinking I needed to be more like this or less like that.  I've thought I needed to be more organized and structured, for example - less sensitive, more knowing of things that I "should" know. I've yelled at and belittled myself over the fact that I pretty much suck at remembering names and dates, that I don't know things most people seem to know. Resisting these things about myself have blocked me from truly allowing me to be me. The me who remembers feelings more than facts, the me who eats corn on the cob, not in neat, little rows but scattered and all over the place, the me who feels everything intensely, the me who wants to dive in to the depths of people and stay and stay there.

The reason I bring this up, is because I see that so much of the suffering in this world is people (and by people I mean we, us - me) resisting themselves - people thinking they aren't enough of this, too much of that, continuously comparing and judging and deciding they come up short. Containing what they have decided is shameful or wrong about themselves, their lives, their stories. Rather than wrapping arms around what makes us unique, and therefore brilliant in a way only we/you/me can be, we press down and push away.

In other words, as Rumi speaks to above, we put up barriers to love - to our own truer than true, beautiful selves. And oh - how painful this is.

These last few months have been intensely painful for me and I come here now feeling like I'm on the other side of some of the pain. I'm in a kind of clear open meadow where I can see some things I wasn't seeing when I was deep in the thick of the shit.  The shit that was telling me how I should be, what I should be doing, what my life should look at almost the age of 44.  There was so much shit being tossed at me from the crazy lady in my head (as author Cheryl Strayed likes to say), I blocked the love from getting in - or out.

And it took my breath away.

A couple weeks ago when I was deep in the thick of that shit, I had a nudge to get Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild.  At the time, the crazy lady in my head was being so harshly judgmental about what I should be doing, telling me all the ways I should be productive with my time, I could hardly allow myself the time and space to just sit down and read it.

But one gloriously sunny and uncharacteristically warm day, I took that gem of a book with me to the top of a big hill, planted myself in the sunshine, and read and read and read.  I read as if my life depended on it.

As I read, something started to fill and fill and something else - something heavy and stuck - started to fall away.

As I read, a soft, gentle, tender hand-on-my-shoulder voice said,  just let yourself be, sweetheart. This is your next step - to just let yourself BE - to meet yourself right where you are - crazy lady and all.  To
not judge any of it.

The minute I let myself be, whew...I could breathe again. I could hear the singing birds.  I could stand in the center of the IS-ness of that moment without making any of it wrong, without pushing a single bit of it away.

And in that place of not pushing any of it away, I could hear a voice in me that told me exactly what to do next - and that next had nothing to do with trying to be productive in that way we humans think we should be. And everything to do with loving myself more, listening to myself more, quieting my mind more, sitting and feeling that nameless something that sits deep in the center of me more. It had everything to do with allowing that hand-on-my-shoulder voice to lead me to my next true step. It had everything to do with allowing myself to BREATHE again.

What is clearer than has ever been clear is that I can't hear the voice that matters, I can't know true next steps, if I'm tangled in fear. Being tangled in fear, pushing myself to do, do, do, doesn't lead to "success" and productivity, it leads to pain and paralysis. When I give myself permission to feel what I feel, to break open structure, to be who I am, to do that thing that feels gentle and loving (even when it doesn't look the least bit productive), something takes my hand and leads me gently forward, forward toward love - forward toward the only kind of productive and linear I want ever to be.

*              *               *

Happy Love Day to you, beautiful people.  I'm so deeply grateful we're here together.




Friday, January 31, 2014

Life Always Knows




I rarely use words like glorious and sublime
but this circle of sunshine 
on this winter day
makes me want to skip
each curve in the trail greets me like an old friend.  Hard shadows 
that have followed for days carry me now
to this soft clearing where crows
dip and glide to the hum
of something they seem to hear inside me.  The flap of their wings
reminds me 
that dark and light need each other - invites me to stretch 
arms wider, to stop making any of it wrong. 
Trust
the ground says
let the shadows be your compass, the poetry that points
to the other side

trust that life always, always knows



Friday, January 24, 2014

Parched

Image found here

I wish I could paint you a picture
or make you a quilt of just-right words, not good words 
or pretty words but words to fall
back into – a cocoon you could rest inside.
Or if I could somehow spin a web of light 
like that eight-legged one so miraculously does.  Light
that would cushion
what has grown hard in the world, in me
in you.
How it would quench me to know
that my being here has helped ease and untangle 
some of what feels bruised – broken. Maybe if
you could feel this throbbing ache, this screaming thirst inside me
you would hold yourself more tenderly, you would know that nothing
needs to be fixed – only loved.  

Really, there is nothing
I wish for more



Friday, January 17, 2014

The Moon


"You do not want more control over your life. You want more trust. You want to know that things are moving quietly, effortlessly, fervently in your direction. You do not want to hammer down every detail. You want to be lifted into a life more beautiful than any you could manufacture."  Tama Kieves

New Painting - "It's All Inside"  (Print available in my Etsy shop)

I sit here on this foggy Friday morning watching the tiny squirrel outside the window nibble on some kind of nut, my eight-year-old, home with the flu for the third day in a row, lies on the couch in the room next to me watching "Thumbelina."  Over the last month, the flu has made its way to every person in my family, it seems to be mocking me - saying something like - "And you thought you had control over what comes next."  

More and more I see how little control I have over anything and, though part of me resists the heck out of this lack of control, the other part is learning, more and more to TRUST - to find the gifts in what seems to be going wrong. I'm learning that I really don't know anything, that so often the thing I resist (like me or my loved ones getting sick) is exactly the thing that leads to more beauty, more trust, more compassion, more soft surrender. I see that allowing for it all, the seemingly dark and heavy, as well as the light and joy-filled, is to open to a life more beautiful than I could ever possibly think up or manufacture.

Last week when I felt sicker than I've felt in a long time, I had no choice but to be still - any movement at all made me sicker.  I was forced to let go of all the things I thought I needed to get done and just BE.  Though a whole lot of discomfort came out of the just BE-ing, once I surrendered to what was, clarity and release came. The stiller I got, the more I could hear and feel and see that Moon Rumi speak of in the above quote.  The Moon that is never anywhere but here, inside of me/inside of beautiful you.

Imagine the release and relief that could come if we could truly let go of thinking we know what's best and opened, really OPENED, to all of it - if we could meet each moment directly, just as it is, rather than chasing the same old thoughts around, rather than trying to control the uncontrollable.  This very moment can be our perfect teacher when we stop kicking/resisting/running and, instead, open fully, absolutely to it  - 

of this I am sure...
*               *                 *


While we're on the subject of releasing/surrendering - I want to let you know that this month's theme in the beautiful Sprout magazine, happens to be SURRENDER. My poem, "Live Like You Mean It," is part of this gorgeous issue, along with my answers to Amanda's "Community Garden" questions about how surrender plays a roll in my life...

What if surrender meant being strong, not weak? What if we released all that didn't bring us joy? What if we refused to stop trudging through life and embraced holy ease instead? Find relief with us in Sprout: Surrender, our 27th vibrant issue, spilling over with vulnerable poetry, art, essays, interviews, and more. Set your burden down. Be free. Join us: SproutOnlineMagazine.com









Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sometimes



Sometimes it feels too hard to come here and write, to try to put too many emotions into too few words, to try to get the words right when deep inside of me I know, it's not about the words.  

Sometimes it's so very hard to trust that what I have to say might need to be read by someone. Or to trust that me writing for me, for my release, for my healing, is enough. 

Sometimes I don't want to tell you that I'm struggling because I wonder if you might shake your head and say -  Really? Again?  Sometimes I forget that I can't control - ever - what someone else may or may not think or feel.  And that living for others means dying to me.

Sometimes I want to shake it all off - the weight, the questions, the indecision, what feels too fleeting - too much - the intense sensitivity, the way I never, ever see black and white.  The grey that keeps getting greyer.  

Sometimes having to think about where commas should go, where periods should stay, feels like the kind of heavy I don't want to bear.

Sometimes I wish those moments of feeling like I could die (happily) for how deeply grateful I am (like just two nights ago) for all the gifts in my life, would last just a little bit longer.  

Sometimes I feel deeply sad - like right now.  So sad that I don't know if this tender heart of mine can possibly take it.  Sad for my dear friend, the one I paraded around campus with, belting out loud to the night air, that song "Red, Red Wine."  The one I stayed up late with studying for high school biology exams, slept in with ‘till noon - the one who was always stumbling and getting into trouble because she was way, way bigger than life.  The one who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has gone through months of chemo and radiation and now, just last week, found out she has two spots on her vertebrae.  She goes in for a bone biopsy this afternoon. Sometimes I could handle this better. But today, imagining her husband and four children waiting for the news, feels like too much.  

Sometimes the grey of the day warms me, makes me want to curl in tighter to all that is right and beautiful and good in my world. And, oh my gosh, there is so, so much.  And sometimes the grey weighs on me heavy.  And I wonder - where does this deep sadness come from?  

Sometimes - often - I can trust that it's all just right, just as it is. I can trust that I am where I am meant to be, I can see the gifts even when they are wrapped in an "ugly" disguise. And sometimes I want to hang it all up, say fuck it to trust, curse the powers that be for not helping me know more clearly where the hell it is I'm supposed to step next.  

Sometimes I know I must come here and spill the truth of where I am, release it all just as it so imperfectly (perfectly) is, so that I may dare to step again, step forward, continue to trust in this something bigger than me.  

Sometimes, when I'm deep in the midst of scared thoughts and tangled sadness, something happens to make me look up, something that shakes me out of my deep, empty tired.  The sound of birdsong, the sigh from my old dog.  I look up and I can see again - moss-covered oaks, left-over leaves clinging to bare branches.  The sun just barely peeking out.

Sometimes the release that comes from writing the truth, from leaving the commas and periods out - far outweighs whatever somethings may come after.  

And I remember again that this feeling and opening to it all, this uncensored, truth-telling expression is the point.


Deep breaths.  Yes.


***If you haven't already, please join me on my Painted Path Facebook page.  I often post things over there (new pieces of art, quotes, thoughts) that I may not share here.  



Friday, December 20, 2013

A Ho ho ho Message Just For You (from someone very special)



"Trust. Trust. Trust. So much good waits for us right here - in this moment. Will we miss it, in the hurry and flurry of what-must-be-done? Or will we pause, breathe, and accept the good already here?"  Amanda Fall



I took the above photo of myself (a few minutes ago) just for you beauties.  I'm sitting here wishing I could speak to you all without this screen in the way, without this silly cursor blinking itself at me. 

There's so much to say but I will keep this short and sweet today because I need to pick my little girl up from school very shortly and I'm full on in holiday/Christmas vacation mode. We have family coming to stay with us on Tuesday, the house is a complete mess, groceries need to be bought, meals need to be planned, dust bunnies abound, there are still gifts to buy and, the beauty is...this is not weighing on me at all.  Those of you who know me, know that this is some sort of breakthrough.  

Referring to beautiful Amanda's words above, in the hurry and flurry of what "must" be done, I find myself pausing and breathing and accepting the good that is already here. 

And, oh my gosh - there is so much good already here.

In past years, shopping for gifts has left me feeling somewhat tense/stressed/torn/overwhelmed - this week, though - rather than feeling like I should be doing this or that, or putting pressure on myself to buy the perfect gift, or get it all done on someone else's timeline - I've been able to simply BE where I am (most of the time).  I found myself actually singing Christmas carols in TJ Maxx this morning and, after my little shopping trip, I danced and sang Christmasy songs to my beloved dog.

Here she is:  

Isn't she a beauty?

I'm seeing more and more clearly that doing anything without presence and aliveness is just  icky empty, and that it's so painful to wish I was anywhere but HERE.  I'm writing this now because it's something I continuously forget and constantly need to be reminded of.

So, this holiday season, with all the hustle and bustle, with what might feel like pressure to do, do, do and buy, buy, buy - I so wish for you (and me)

deep breaths 
and a knowing that IT 
truly is right 
here.  

It's never anywhere else.

Happiest, most blessed holidays to you, beautiful one.  See you in a couple of weeks.

With so much love and gratitude,

Julia