Monthly Archives: November 2008

Watering holes and ruminations

Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow. It’s a Sufi expression, and when I read it, I thought about all the times I’d given too much of myself away, to please, to be loved, to be noticed, to feel a part of, to quiet the hollow knocking inside. How does one refill, rejuvenate? What creates the watering holes of our lives, the places where we finally trudge past desert and stand in green plenty and drink until our thirst is slated? And how long do we drink? 



There’s another saying––in the form of a question––which seems a piece of this: What feeds your soul and makes you glad to be alive? I’d forgotten what fed me at the time I ran across that question and answering it has been a long process. I want to be a green tree, sturdy and old, wise and grounded, shading my loved ones and any stranger who wanders into my midst, but my roots have to access a perpetual well, a spring that has no bottom. That sounds like all the names of God to me.


Beautiful and fluid


I realize I have a relationship with one of my veils. I have three of them: a cool blue for my remote moods and a cream with smears of color that I don’t know yet; but it’s my orange pink one that always talks to me when we dance together. I first got to know her during a veil session when Dunya demanded that we dance and move in micro-second slowness with our veils. Beautiful and fluid in my hands, I was startled to hear her suggest, hello, why don’t you do this….and we’ve been vibrant dancing partners ever since. She’s been Spirit that caresses and enfolds me and that I throw back to the sky in joy. She’s been Butterfly that waves and pirouettes before me. She’s been Cover that I stand beneath to slowly show my own shy soul. She’s been the wings to my angel, the play to my child. At the Fall Intensive, she shivered at my feet like a fairy sprite. She invited me to leap in and out of the hole of floor her silky fabric had left uncovered. How many times can you do it? she asked, and I was a girl again in my response, jumping in and out with glee. Then she suggested we shift between and among the other dancers, sneaking in through the tight holes of spaces they left in their own dancing. She is naughtily playful. She is reverent and floating. She’s glorious. I love to dance with her. Not for the first time, I had to kiss her on her cheek when Dunya summoned us off the floor. She’s my sweet orange spirit, folded away now in my suitcase and later into a drawer where she’ll lie fluid and plotting both mischief and dear devotion for the next time I unfurl her and send her shimmering into the void of Me. 

Written on the plane home from Dance Meditation’s Fall Intensive

haiku practice

Sometimes I play at loose haiku, the way others do sudoku. I find the necessity for precision fun even though I usually fail at it. Here are some flailings….

on finding a bird’s feathers on the sidewalk:

dsc_06101at my feet feathers

spill across broken sidewalk

is it a crime if no one sees it


I’d dust for prints

but a cat’s small smile tells all


feathers spill across sidewalk

dove grey black tipped

a meow hangs in the air

Houston’s mild winters bring so many birds.

At the sight of hundreds on the electric lines:


sullen overcast skies

are broken by a hundred dark wings beating

against a grey wool twilight


they dip and dive against

grey wool skies and settle on the

lines….winter’s begun

A photo of his shining


Where were you when Barack Obama became the next president of the United States? The emotion of the election Tuesday night will remain in my memory, just as I remember where I was when John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy were killed. The wound around the assassinations of my girlhood and young womanhood has been somehow opened for cleansing with this man from Illinois’s election. I’ve been crying on and off since Tuesday, when I see a photo of his shining smile, or read again one of his potent quotes, or see photos or videos of people’s happiness and amazement. Idealism again? Possibility again? Devotion to the higher ground again? John McCain’s concession speech was eloquent, truly gracious and even better, truly patriotic. In that moment I loved him, and when he called Obama “my president,” I started crying all over again and thought, you are indeed, at your best, a grand old man, all that is best in the word: warrior. Historical novels are built off the emotion and memories of moments like this past week.

I want to mention two lovely and deep memoirs out there, one by my agent Jean Naggar, called Sipping From the Nile. Jean writes of her life in a closely knit banking family in Egypt, their exile because of politics, and the remaking of a life in Europe and New York. The other memoir is by a spiritual mentor, Dunya Dianne MePherson. Called Skin of Glass, it is the story of her interior and exterior journey from gifted performer to Sufi mystic and gifted performer.  

When I was younger

When I was a younger woman, I collected birds’ nests. The collection began when two dear neighbors brought me a branch from a tree on their farm, a branch which had an intact bird’s nest in its V. I loved it. And then, seeing that nest displayed, other friends began to give me ones they found, a cardinals’ nest from a back deck, a nest before a move to another city, tiny nests built atop a door wreath, a nest in which paper had been used as interweaving. Once when I was driving in pouring rain, there on the trunk of a parked car, was a nest. Once I was sitting under a tree saying a prayer and when I finished, the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was a nest waiting for me.  

I loved those nests with all my heart. Over the years, as I failed one marriage and another failed me, and I clawed my way up out of the debris, I carried them with me.

Not so long ago, I visited a friend’s weekend country house. The house was rambling and filled with flower prints on the walls and on the sofas. There was a big kitchen with a big table around which her family, sons, daughters, their husbands and wives, grandchildren, her forever husband, ancient parents, gathered at holidays. And I thought, this house is her life’s nest, a place where her family can gather in one container, and she can count heads and hearts and smile on the new little ones and sit at one end of the table and be proud of what she has created with the man she loves, a geniune nuclear family, no divorces cracking them open. 

That’s what the nests meant to me, I realized, as I slept in a bedroom of that house, an outward symbol of that which had always eluded me and which I had wanted most of all once upon a time, a marriage held sacred because love was held sacred, the same children by the same father, holidays where all could gather in one place and I could count my blessings.  

The other day, one of the cats knocked a nest to the floor, and I was able to sweep it up and put it in the trash without tears. My young mothering days are over. My family is splintered. I won’t ever have the luxury of looking around at a big table at what I have created with the man I created it with. I failed at that particular dream.

And that’s ok. And that’s a miracle. And that’s a blessing.