Posted by: scintillatingspeck | June 4, 2015

The Canoe.

I needed a bit of encouragement, some signal.  I remembered that I could get a free online tarot reading using the Gaian Tarot.  I had a simple question, and poured my focus into it: Where does my attention need to be now?

It was almost too perfect.  The cards that came up for me were Temperance, the Seeker, and the Canoe.  Forgive me for quoting at length what the accompanying text said.  But really, click on the links to see the beautiful visual representations of the cards, and maybe go back to the last post I wrote, and perhaps you’ll see why these spoke to me so much.

Opportunity: Temperance
Combining opposites
You have the opportunity to find the serenity of the middle way between polarities. You are ready to embrace the different parts of your personality, both light and shadow, that combine to make your own unique self. Your inner, spiritual life harmonizes with your life in the workaday world. You have discovered that your whole life is a work of art. You may be in need of healing on a spiritual or physical level, and the Winged One — a descendant of the ancient Bird Goddesses — is here to facilitate that for you. She may also aid you as you move into the role of healer yourself.

Challenge: the Seeker
A new beginning
You are being challenged to take a risk and begin again. It’s time to hit the road, either metaphorically or literally. Every time you set out on a journey, even if it’s only a one-day hike, you embark on a spiritual journey as well. Be open to all the twists and curves in the road ahead. Be ready for surprises. Keep your heart open and maintain an attitude of innocence, trust and spontaneity. Take a risk! Before you is a brand new adventure — the chance for a fresh start and endless possibilities.

Resolution: the Canoe
Focused on your path
Resolution comes with staying focused on your path, and exercising self-discipline as you work towards your goal. Set aside anything extraneous that would distract you or keep you from completing your task. What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish? This may apply to your life in the everyday world — pursuing a course of study, a career goal, a fitness plan, a creative project. It may also apply to your inner life; perhaps you are in a recovery program or are healing from a trauma. Whatever it is, set your intention, take your first steps, and your guides and allies will be at your side to help you on your way. Be of great courage! No matter how hard it seems, you have what it takes to win the prize.

I’m still absorbing what these cards mean to me.

That part about combining opposites—it feels ripe with possibility in the face of all that feels irreconcilable.  I’m taking it as a reminder to accept strange alchemy, unfamiliar medicine, the swooping in of bird goddesses carrying messages.  I know I’ve been pummeled and prepared for what feels like a very long time.

I had to laugh when I read that it’s time to hit the road.  Yes, literally.  A brand new adventure!  At times it’s been hard to approach it with trust and innocence.  But there it is.  Both the Seeker card and the Canoe card seemed to suggest: make sure to travel light.  To me, this means don’t get bogged down with all your previous stories and interpretations—let it all go.  Be an absolute beginner.  This is a spiritual journey.

The Canoe card, though, took the cake.  I’m still shaking my head, a little stunned.  There it is, paddling with rapt focus.  On the Gaian Tarot site, it reads, “The phrase ‘paddle your own canoe’ indicates self-determination and self-reliance. [The paddler] brings his strength, will and courage to the task at hand. A boat often symbolizes transition from the material world to the spirit world. Here the paddler makes his way in the world while exploring spiritual depths. His task is to live his life with meaning — to infuse everyday life with his soul purpose.”

Most of my schoolmates from years ago would tell you an immediate association to the words ‘paddle your own canoe': Spes Sibi Quisque, the motto of the school I attended for six years.  That Latin phrase literally means “each person has hope in him/herself,” but it was always explained to us colloquially as “paddle your own canoe.”  I remember being about 12 or 13 years old, a student of Latin and absurdity, trying to wrap my head around this phrase, wondering if it would ever make sense to me, or what my place was on such an alien planet as my school.  I think at the time I interpreted the phrase as “sink or swim, sucker—don’t expect any help.  You’re on your own.”  This was apropos as I frequently felt like I was drowning and alone.  I don’t think I can get into all the details of how desperate I felt at that time.

Just yesterday I was looking at an award I had won at age 14, a little golden eagle on a marble base, inscribed DOMINUS VERBORUM.  Master of words.  Are you kidding me?  This thing exists in my world?  It does.  I had won it for a Latin translation and was presented with it on Prize Day.  I don’t think I can manage describing the toxicity of the culture of über-achievement and all the Insane Baggage I have lugged around as a result and how that shiny award is such a symbol of all that, to me.  Maybe the best outcome would be for me to laugh like an asthmatic hyena that I have this object in my possession, and that it’s telling me, ludicrously, that I’m a master of words.

Back to paddling, though.  That’s my beautiful reality, now, truly.  I’m paddling my own canoe, and it finally makes sense to me.  I’m not racing anyone else’s boat.  It would be ridiculous to compare my “progress” to anyone else’s, or even attempt to quantify it.  I’m on the river, in the current, and the only master is that ineffable, breathtaking force that we commonly know as Love.  I’m so far from any stagnant quagmire that I once knew, even on the days that feel full of exhaustion and struggle.


Posted by: scintillatingspeck | May 31, 2015

Paddle to the sea.


I had never heard of the book Paddle-to-the-Sea until a little over a year ago, I think.  Sam mentioned it to me, said Lily might be interested in it, as a parallel to last summer’s epic journey.  I found it at the library and brought it home.  It turned out that I was the one most compelled by the story of the little carved Indian man in his boat, carried by the currents throughout each of the Great Lakes, encountering numerous obstacles and adventures, all the way to the St. Lawrence River and onward to the Atlantic Ocean.

Please put me back in the water.  So many of my efforts over the past months and years, maybe my whole life, could be reduced to this.  I need to be carried by the current.  It’s inexorable, necessary.  This stasis, these cultural moorings fore and aft— release me, untie me, let me travel to the source!  I heaved that boat as hard as I could, hands on the gunwales, rocking, until the keel finally met the water and I could stop trying so damned hard.

I’ve found myself floating on mysterious, invisible paths, learning to trust that they’ll take me precisely where I need to go.  I’m not guiding this little boat.  There’s no paddling, in actuality.  There’s no control.  There’s no safety and no guarantees.  There never was.  There’s no need to panic, either.  There’s wonder.  There’s the world, the lived experience, the miracle of immersion.

A week ago it came to me that I very much needed a break from Facebook.  I was bumping up against a sort of stasis there, a spiritual blockage.  It didn’t have to do with any of my people there.  My people, my loves.  What was it that pushed me?  Do I even understand it yet?  How long have I been grappling with this?  In any case, I decided, okay, yes, I’ll enter this other current, I’ll cut this mooring for a while.  It has been a largely salubrious choice, not driven by my head at all, only my heart.  I experienced some expected withdrawal symptoms for a number of days.  Will I be forgotten?  Will people think I don’t care about them anymore?  Will I continue to exist if I don’t proclaim my existence via status updates?  Will I feel horribly isolated and disconnected?

Inner Wise Woman said: Let’s go back in the water, love—the unpixelated air, the tangible currents, the sound of voices, the gazing of eyes, the shared food, the immediacy.  Even the aloneness, dearest, the unfathomable depths of that—you don’t need to stave it off.  Just be.  Just let the water work its magic.

In six days Lily and I will journey again.  As it turns out, we’re leaving on the same day we left last year, June 6th.  To the Lakes, and the heartland.




Posted by: scintillatingspeck | May 12, 2015


I was posting last night on Facebook that my brain is all over the place and how I always have the impulse to share, or perhaps over-share, what’s going through my head. I asked, is there such a thing as over-sharing, and where is the line? Surely some things are better left unsaid? But then I feel fairly certain that I would tend to err on the side of over-sharing, seeing vulnerability as a vehicle towards increased intimacy.

Sara commented, “There is some True Magic to be tempered in NOT saying everything, too. I will spend the rest of my life examining this. But it may be better discussed IN PERSON, over days, than in a pithy reply on FB. IMHO, that is.”

I was instantly overwhelmed with longing to be with Sara, in person, discussing such matters for days.

Is the drive to share in risky ways on Facebook a proxy for this longing for presence? Or perhaps the drive to write at all? What is it that I’m trying to express or learn through writing? How deeply do I want to be known? Touched?

Writing, even the riskiest writing, can be a buffer, a thick , felted layer of mediated experience between me and you. It seems counterintuitive, but in some ways it can be a form of hiding. Here, I’ll cloak myself in some distracting words, I’ll try to throw in some things so you’ll know me a bit more, but ultimately, I’m crafting, editing, asynchronous, showing you only what I choose to show.

From 1990 to 2000 I was in therapy with a man named Chris. He was the first, although not the last, therapist I ever had. For most of that decade, I would not only show up to appointments to talk, but would bring with me letters I’d written to him between sessions. Words upon words upon words. There might be hundreds of them. I wonder if he still has them. I would write all the things I felt I couldn’t say to his face. I would write so I could feel connected to him when I wasn’t with him, which was most of the time. I think of some of the words I wrote that felt so terrible, so embarrassing, so delicate, so violent, so unspeakable. I literally could not speak them. I remember what it felt like to hand over those letters, observe him reading them, my heart in my throat. At least I had a chance to see his face while he read, although he was always careful to be composed. It was hard to meet his gaze when he looked up.

I wish he had asked me to stop writing for a while and just be present, to try to direct the energy through my heart, my eyes, my mouth, instead of my mind.

I spent a very large part of my life feeling profoundly disembodied. It’s really not that long ago when I began actively shedding my convictions around the primacy of intellect, leaning hard on the supposed rewards I might receive for being heady or smart. This once seemed like a reasonable way to cope with the insult of having a body at all, let alone a female body, let alone a body laden with wildly fluctuating, often unbearable feelings.

I think part of the reason for my disembodiment was my rage and helplessness in the face of a culture of staggering, entrenched disconnection, rampantly destructive of souls. As a teenager I used to imagine that my spirit was sequestered in my big toe. It doesn’t surprise me that I would go into wholesale flight from all the rest of me. I don’t think I could have imagined that I would want to reclaim embodiment at any point, although that’s what I’m doing now, in my 40s.

When I drove 10,000 miles last summer, traveling around the U.S., a huge motivator for me was the desire to be Present with people.  The urgent voice in my head kept saying, show up, show up, show up. Many of them I had never met in person before. The ones I had met before were people I rarely got to see. All of them, however, were more than words on a page, or a status update on Facebook, or a set of memories of shared experiences. They were animate, breathing, kinetic beings, seeking connection and intimacy just as I was. Disembodied words might have brought us together, or kept us going between face-to-face meetings, but ultimately words would not suffice. Only breathing the same air, having eye contact, and embracing would do. That was what I wanted, that Presence. That’s what I wanted to practice, to receive, and to offer.

What could I possibly write that would compare? What turn of phrase could measure up to the welcoming face, the listening ear, the tilt of the head?

Enough writing for now. I think I’ll listen to the birds, and make my plans to show up some more.



Posted by: scintillatingspeck | April 17, 2015

An update on Scattered Sanctum.

Lily at D.A.R. State Forest, April 16, 2015

Lily at D.A.R. State Forest, April 16, 2015

Dear supporters of Scattered Sanctum (the book and the journey), and anyone else following along,

The last update I wrote to you was in September, when I was delirious and unmoored, recently returned from the tornado-like pilgrimage. At that time I was explaining that I was very sorry, but there was no way I could meet a January deadline for the book. (And what insanity possessed me to set such a ludicrous deadline in the first place?) I’d like to tell you, now, where I’m at and where the book is at.

Here’s the thing. You know how intense it was, creating and running the Kickstarter campaign. You know that my life changed irrevocably last June when Lily and I drove away from Florence, my marital separation officially began, and we launched a breathtaking, burnout-inducing, 10,000-mile mad mission.

Okay. After all that, let’s say that Shit Got Real. Let’s say that the Universe kicked first my right butt cheek and then my left butt cheek and then knocked me down and stood on my belly and laughed.

There were times when I tried to write and could not, when writing was a far-flung fantasy, and it was all I could do to make sure that Lily and I were eating food and vaguely okay. It feels crappy to write that. I’ve often felt like a crappy mom. Good moms never get depressed and barely functional, right? Or good writers? It’s okay, you can laugh with me, bitterly at first, and then get more into the warmth and rhythm of it, the ridiculousness of being alive. The ridiculousness of how I’ve set myself up.

I did start writing, eventually, in sudden flows and more often, agonies. I re-read most of “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” by Anne Lamott. I read, lurchingly, inconsistently, “Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay,” by Adair Lara. (I so wished that all it took was drinking copious amounts of alcohol and taking my clothes off, but alas, this was not the writing advice contained therein.) For a time I was able to go to a weekly writing group with Dave, Suzanne, and Al, when we would meet up at the café at the Montague Bookmill and mostly be companionably silent to each other, working on our stuff. It was one of those group times when I came up with a crazy, over-100-chapter outline for the book, which I now hate and have discarded as a viable structure. (I DO need to keep it for the future entertainment value, however.)

Structure and focus have been elusive. I’ve struggled mightily to answer certain questions: What is the main point of this story? What was I looking for? Where does the tale start and where does it end? On my original Kickstarter page, you can see that I set out with various Big Questions about home and community and connection—oh, the impressionistic gestures, the burning urgency behind them—I can still feel it. What was I thinking? I was thinking: I’ll figure it out later, how to write about all this. First I have to live my way through the questions, like Rilke said. But later is now, and life hasn’t stopped, and questions have piled up higher and deeper. I thought I might take hold of some actual answers. Answers! Such is the hubris of 42!*

I’m on the cusp of 43, now. This means I am leaving answers behind. I’ve been diving into some questions that shake me relentlessly:

Who is this book for? Is it for me? Is it for my supporters? What is it that I think they expect? Can I let go of basing my self-worth on my ability to please others?
How can I get the help that I need with writing?
How can I write about deeply personal things that are not just about me? How can I make everyone feel safe and respected and loved? How can I release the constant vigilance that hobbles my ability to write?

Home, community, connection—those were safe, vague words to lob at you. They weren’t entirely the wrong words, I think, but the more I circle around what feels like the core of my story, the more personal it becomes, the more intimate, the more vulnerable, the more dangerous. When these things peel away, when I become homeless at heart, when every dwelling and system and structure loses its meaning—what do I do with that? How do I write about that? All that’s left are all my relations, in free fall.

I am as committed to this process as ever, my dears, and appreciative of your continued witness and support.



*Click here for more background on 42 as the Answer.

(Update cross-posted on my Kickstarter page, where you can read more about the project.)

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | March 9, 2015

Resolutely weird.

I was going to begin by writing, “When I was 8 years old, I knew with crushing certainty that I was a weirdo.”  Except I knew it at every age hence.  It hasn’t ended.  I’m 42 years old and I’m still weird.

How do I know this?  It’s all relative, right?  How could weirdness make any sense without the inevitable comparisons to “normal”?  All I need to do is a quick comparison of Me to the Relentless Onslaught of What We Are Told is Normal, and the gauge reads, every time, “Yep.  Weird to the bone.”

Would it have been easier if I looked more strange?  if there were some physical marker to indicate to the general populace, hey!  This creature is not what you expect!  She has flames shooting out of her eyeballs, and liquid tenderness flowing from her fingertips, and she keeps going blurry, and vanishing, and, wait, she’s an otter, an amoeba, a dragon, a lump, a chandelier, anti-matter, a Möbius strip…

I might make you uncomfortable, being myself.

How do I tell people?  I don’t.  I see when they realize.  Their expression turns to disgust, or confusion, or sympathy, or wild joy.  If they don’t realize, they don’t much care.  I can pass.  I have a lulling look.  My outer appearance is not extraordinary.

I used to be glum that I would never be cool, and would usually be regarded with a sort of panicked distaste by the Beautiful People.  I would like to gather up all the weird little children in the world, the weird adolescents, and the weird adults, take them all into my capacious, oceanic lap, cuddle them, smile at them, and say, “That’s a crazy gauntlet we’ve had to run, eh?  What the hell?  Who decided the Beautiful People were beautiful?  Can we nod our heads sagely when we determine that being force-fed Normality is a deeply creepy thing?  How could we have been led into such undermining of spirit?  Listen, Loves, we don’t have to follow that program.  We are not here to be programmed.  Cherish your weirdness!  I do!  Thank you to those who are already cherishing, and to those who aren’t, there’s still time.”

I would like to take my 8-year-old self in my 42-year-old lap, and say, There is much to look forward to.  You will do things you didn’t think you could do.  You will have the kindest, oddest friends.  You will cross thresholds of understanding, again and again.  You will reimagine yourself; you will accept; you will release the threads of identity that bind you.  You will be permeated with love.  You will feel, relentlessly.  You will cycle in and out of penumbral perspectives.  If weird is what you are, then weird is what is sacred.


Posted by: scintillatingspeck | March 3, 2015

Slovenly freedom.

I just realized that the whole story I’ve been telling myself of “I’m going to die so I had better make the most of my life at every moment” is a set-up for anxiety and just buys into old Achievement bullshit that I can’t stomach anymore.


I wrote the above two days ago.  The realization is still turning and settling in a deep, dark nest in a hollow, as I’m surrounded by a tender being who is grooming, nosing, and containing my little, tired, animal self.

I used to think I wanted hyper-awareness of my mortality at all times as a sort of inducement towards Living Fully.  Having rejected the artificial, destructive goals of industrial civilization in favor of Living Fully, this seemed sensible.  I thought: Look, I’m defining success for myself, now!  Look, I see that I’ve been living in a vast sea of lies!  Now with this awareness, I’ll live authentically!  I’ll live the most kick-ass life I can possibly live!  Now I see that I was swapping out one set of perceived punishments/rewards for another, with precisely the same self-whipping dynamic.  Precisely. the. same.

The dynamic is:  I’m not good enough as I am.  I must strive in all moments to be acceptable.  “Acceptable” means “brilliant, productive, gorgeous, kind, and patient at all times.”  I must have high expectations of myself, and harangue myself with constant anxiety to keep myself on my toes, otherwise I will fail the ultimate test of arriving on my deathbed and feeling satisfied with my life.  If I’m self-flagellating enough, I may beat my lazy, procrastinating, self-indulgent, pathetic self into actions that I can be proud of.

Do you see the problems with this that I do?  I see them, now.  I see how much my psyche has been colonized, constantly weighing and measuring my worth according to external measures that I can’t possibly control.

I want to take it all for granted.  Does that sound strange?  I’m supposed to be grateful, supplicating.  Yeah, whatever.  I don’t want to feel contrived.  My whole life has been contrived.  I don’t want to beat myself into shape.  I don’t want to strive.  I don’t want to be acceptable.  It feels like the only alternative is a great, overwhelming, stunning mess, but it’s a lie.  One alternative is curling in my soul-nest, receiving soft strokings, not attempting to Do Anything.  If I am moved to action, let it be motivated by curiosity, playfulness, and love, rather than my supposed obligations to myself and others.

The truth is, I don’t have to do anything, ever.  I don’t have to have a brilliant life.  I don’t have to accept a default setting from the factory that insists I should be relentlessly monitoring myself for quality control.  I don’t have to save the world.  I don’t have to save anybody else.  I don’t have to save myself.

I could just take a nap.  I could go for a walk and listen quietly.  I could receive love-baths that soothe and inspire, demanding nothing.

I could waste time, daydreaming, writing my ravings, or simple gestating the ravings until they desire release.  I could listen to my loves, simply listen, absorbing, empathizing, holding tenderly.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | February 21, 2015


Writing a book is hard and frightening.  At least, writing a first book is.  At least, it is for me.  I have to constantly remind myself: you know, you could have picked an easier way to write a book.  You could have not had it as a Kickstarter reward.  You could have not tied it to the crazy, amazing pilgrimage you took last year.  You could have not made it about the intimate details of your life.  You could have chosen something a little less naked.

But this is me, Jen, we’re talking about, remember?  And this is what I’m realizing: the act of writing this book is an expression of the deep intimacy I’ve always sought.

It’s terrifying.  It’s not surprising to me why people run for the hills, go numb, cower under a blanket, become hardened and aggressive, all in the name of fending off their own vulnerability.  But there is no intimacy without vulnerability.  There is no intimacy without getting naked, literally, metaphorically, or both.

I am having to learn to love my own nakedness.  I could have chosen disdain and self-loathing; in fact, we are encouraged to be relentlessly critical of ourselves in this culture, to conceal our supposed flaws, to hold our bodies, minds, and souls in contempt for being so soft, so slow, so alarmingly lumpy.   What I’m doing, instead, is choosing my real, sensual self, and finding much to love.  Dare I tell you?

This I know: I’ll tell you, because I want to be known.  You can criticize and judge if you want.  I’ll do what I need to do, to practice my nakedness and truth-telling.  I’m writing a book, gestating slowly, shaping a gift, and it won’t have any juice whatsoever if I’m not committed to my own story, my own sense of the truth.  In his song “Playa Girón,” Cuban folksinger Silvio Rodriguez sings, “¿Hasta dónde debemos practicar las verdades?” (How far do we need to go to put truths into practice?)  I can find only one good answer to that: as far as possible, day by day.

What did my nakedness bring me today?  What can I tell myself, truthfully, lovingly, with you as my witness?  Jen.  You are a beautiful, increasingly-feral animal.  All these molds and trappings—you’ve been steadily shedding them, and your fur has grown thicker and shinier.  You’re taking care of yourself, receiving care, and it shows, as your confidence builds.  You’re sexy.  You’re full of love.  Your integrity guides you as implacably as it ever has.  Your priorities and commitments are clearer and clearer.  It doesn’t matter who understands or doesn’t understand.  The insights come.  The words will come, too.  The structure, the time, the necessities, everything will come.  You are whole and strong, enraptured, immersed, surrendered to the sweeping waves that flow over your skin.


Posted by: scintillatingspeck | February 2, 2015

How to be free.

Isn’t that the most arrogant title?  How to be free.  Here, in 9 easy steps, let me show you the way!  It’ll only cost you some lost time and lost self-sovereignty, believing that anyone else could tell you how to be free.  It amuses me, though, to put on this feathered advice-giver costume, pointing and flourishing, putting on a show.  Hint: it’s just a show, loves.  You are the arbiters of your own freedom.  You get to decide your own values, your own priorities, your own reactions to circumstance.  You can rail at injustice and oppression and destruction, or not.  You can insist that you are not free because of the dozens of yokes and balls-and-chains you drag around your mortal coil, or not.  You can whine, sulk, agonize, grieve, perk up, grin, skip around, worry, cower, rage, breathe peacefully, or not.

But just for fun, I’m going to pretend I’m a pompous bastard and tell you how to be free, anyway.  And, look, a bonus!  It’s a numbered list, to give us all the illusion that it can be quantified, and all anyone has to do is take it step by step, and voila, liberation.

Thanks to Skye Daniels for suggesting the topic of freedom, and thanks to Keith Vansickle for  the subtopics of freedom (with the exception of “relational freedom,” which I added at the end).

  1. Personal freedom.  Stop caring what everybody else thinks.  You don’t feel like taking a shower?  Don’t take a shower.  Everyone else does some supposedly-normal thing, like sit in a metal box on wheels for hours among other metal boxes on wheels, but your heart revolts?  You be the one who abandons the metal box in the breakdown lane and go walk through the woods.  You feel judged for your current dimensions, skin color, age, gender, disability, background, sexual orientation, whatever people get judgy about?  Love yourself anyway, and not begrudgingly, not because you think “Oh, I’m supposed to love myself before other people can love me and approve of me,” but because you know you’re the bomb diggity.  You can’t love yourself?  Your self-love is broken?  Choose to put everything on hold while you become a student of your own heart.
  2. Political freedom.  Find out what “anarchy” really means.  Question your allegiance to the State.  Question your supposed security and well-being under that State.  Question your supposed leaders.  Decide that the whole edifice of hierarchical government inevitably leads to mental, physical, and spiritual slavery and that we are better off self-organizing and bearing responsibility for ourselves and our immediate, local, interdependent communities.  Give yourself the irrevocable stamp of authority.
  3. Intellectual/educational freedom. Decide that schooling is enslaving by design, from pre-school to graduate school to academic life.  Refuse to submit to a monolithic entity that presumes to dictate what intellectual standards consist of.  Refuse to believe that if you jump through the dozens upon dozens of hoops of supposed intellectual achievement, which are really just bits of papers and pomp and artificial legitimacy, that you will somehow reach Intellectual Olympus.  Believe instead in your own innate intelligence and that of others, no matter if you or they have been cast as stupid or degenerate.  Learn about everything you want.  Become a roving librarian.  Become an independent learner.  Facilitate the independent learning of your kids, your parents, and your neighbors.  Do this because you love it and your mind wants to grow, and you want that for everyone close to you, too.
  4. Verbal freedom.  Say and write whatever you want, as grungily or tidily as you want, no holds barred.  If you have secret truths burning inside you, speak them.  Cast off your shame shackles.  Do you think the world has never witnessed anyone as shameful, messy, twisted, pathetic, or mediocre as you?  Do you think you are more than a speck?  You are a speck, dear.  You can be a roaring one, or a silent one.  It’s all the same in the end.
  5. Economic freedom.  Resolve to wean yourself from money as much as you can.  Get your needs and wants met in as many non-monetary ways as you can.  This will enable you to focus much less on Having a Supposedly Good Job, the best of which still require you to trade your precious time for money, the worst of which chew up and destroy your soul.  Realize that you are not going to live forever and you don’t know for sure if you will be reincarnated or go to heaven or experience divine consciousness or whatever, and you would rather live now, and that the evolution of life was probably never geared towards supplying the voracious, howling appetite of industrial civilization.  Learn about gift economies.  Become a gift economist.  Become giddy, giving gifts of all sorts.  Practice receiving gifts with grace.
  6. Religious freedom.  Be as religious or non-religious as you want.  Be kind.  Don’t be an asshole.
  7. Physical/spatial freedom.  Stretch whatever limbs and senses and muscles you have.  Don’t allow yourself to be defined by your limitations.  Ask yourself, what can I do?  How far can I reach?  Push the boundaries.  If you are imprisoned or held hostage, do whatever it takes to preserve the core of freedom inside of you; seek help; bolster your strength and resolve; know that your spirit can remain unchained.  If you can move your body, move it, deliberately and joyfully.  Hit the road.  Become a vagabond.
  8. Artistic freedom.  Know in your bones that the only one who can revoke your status as an Artist is you.  Don’t do this to yourself.  You were born to be creative.  If you think you aren’t, someone has filled your head with lies.  Find the modes that make your heart sing.  Don’t view this as “extracurricular.”
  9. Relational freedom.  Love everyone you love, fully and well.  Refuse to close down your heart to protect entrenched, cultural notions of possession and jealousy.  We do not own our lovers, our spouses, our children, our friends, or anyone else, and they do not own us.  Treat your loves of every sort with respect, kindness, and honesty.  Treat everyone that way.  Trust in your heart’s integrity.

What are you waiting for?  Go on, now—be free.  If you are already free, or experimenting with freedom, or too scared to be free, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


Posted by: scintillatingspeck | January 13, 2015

The light remains.

Driving through Hadley just after sunset, Lily and I were both mesmerized by the quality of the light and landscape—the deepening blue above, the horizon still glowing, the dark silhouettes of the trees, the darkening farm fields covered in snow.  I thought to myself, I know this light.  It’s following me.  It came to me, a freshet of reminiscence: a postcard sent to me by my boyfriend 25 years ago, with an image of Maxfield Parrish’s Hill Top Farm, Winter.  He had written something on the other side to the effect of, let’s be cozy by the fire.

Another memory: I’m a teenager, dreaming of the future, imagining I would surely live someday in a farmhouse in Vermont with my husband and our ten children.  (What was I thinking?  Ten children?  Oh, the feverish teenage vision.)  It felt centering and safe to me, this romanticized view of my role as a farm-wife and mother, tucked into the folds of an ever-receding future that never quite arrives.

The boyfriends, the lovers, the real and mythic husbands, they are all Out There, in unknowable, fluid times and spaces, but they are not Here.  The ten children, save one, shall remain unborn.  I don’t live in a farmhouse on a farm.

The light, though.  As if anything could be possessed, but still: I have the light.  It remains.  I won’t look to the house, the old visions, the security of defined relationships, the stamp of social approval—these things shed their meanings like snow off a pitched roof.  What’s left is the waning light of the closest star, and the gathering flecks of stars further away, scintillating their ancient songs to this earthbound animal.



Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 28, 2014

The true form of my reluctance.

Procrastination helps us to apprentice our selves to our own reluctance, to understand the hidden darker side of the first enthusiastic idea, to learn what we are afraid of in the endeavor itself; to put an underbelly into the work so that it becomes a living, satisfying whole, not a surface trying to manipulate us in the moment.

Procrastination does not stop a project from coming to fruition, what stops us is giving up on an original idea because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, nor let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead.

David Whyte

This quote stopped me in my tracks today.  It was offered to me by a dear friend in conjunction with reassurance.  You don’t have to write the book.  A number of people have told me that, and added that it must be quite a sense of pressure, to have that book hanging over my head, that sense of obligation and expectation.  I appreciate that my loves want to ease my anxiety.

But David Whyte has just taken a machete to my spiritual jungle-tangle and laid out, very simply and clearly, a path forward.  Get to the heart of the reason you are delaying.  Let the true form of your reluctance instruct you in the way ahead.

Okay, then.  That feels terrifying.  He must be onto something.  I realize that if I write about everything that’s holding me back, it might help.

What’s holding me back?

I’m scared I won’t be good enough.  This looms large and has its roots far back in my childhood.  It’s perfectionism, plainly; it’s a fear that if I don’t get it exactly right, it’s all wrong and worthless.  The risk of mediocrity feels more threatening than that of nothingness.  I find myself reading other “woman goes on journey to find herself” sorts of books, but bestsellers, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I think to myself, I can’t write like that.  My book will be a colossal failure compared to theirs.  I try to reason with myself: it probably took them a long time to get to that point of writing a bestseller.  They probably wrote a lot of other things along the way, things that were not as good.  They might have had other resources to assist them, like publishers, editors, supportive partners.  Maybe they weren’t trying to homeschool their kids at the same time.  Maybe their lives were more stable at the time that they were writing; maybe they weren’t wondering where they were going to live and with whom and how they would get by.

I want to do justice to so many aspects of my own story, and of others.  The reality is, I know that the way to make this book as compelling as possible is NOT to try to stuff everything into it.  That would be a mistake.  I can’t make this book about my Whole Entire Life.  I need to become clear about the central message here.  In my Kickstarter campaign, I talked about a number of themes, including home, community, intimacy, impermanence, and life as art—honestly, when I review that list, I think each word is a separate book unto itself.  I think I need to tighten it up and have a solid sense about what this book calls for, and trust that if I set certain topics aside, that I can write about them in some other context.  I need to return to certain questions:  What was I looking for on this journey?  What was I moving towards, and away from?  which leads me to the next item…

I’m still sorting through all of my thoughts and feelings about this trip and its context in my life.  It could take me a lifetime to do this, and that seems fitting.  I don’t want it to take me a lifetime to write a book, though.  At what point will I feel like I’ve processed enough?  I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.  It doesn’t help that for much of the fall, I was bewildered, off-kilter, depressed, sometimes finding it very difficult to function, still needing to function for Lily’s sake, at least.  Can I allow myself the time it takes to move through such sludge?  Can I practice self-compassion?  How on earth could I expect myself to write under such circumstances?  Could I start with basic self-care, instead?  How could I not?

I’m scared of writing intimate things about myself and people I love, afraid of how we will be perceived, afraid of consequences.  I have reconciled myself to the knowledge that a thick skin was never included in my DNA.  Add to that the fact that my life choices are sometimes significantly at odds with what is considered “normal.”  Continually cringing at the thought of who will be next to cut me off or criticize me is not something I want.  I want to stand solidly in my own sense of integrity, even if it doesn’t match that of someone else.  I think I need to keep letting go of the desire to be understood, even as I pour a great deal of effort into explaining my life and my choices.  Still, it’s daunting to reveal myself, even as I seek to be known.

I’m scared of the loneliness of writing.  There are times when I might try to set aside time to write, and instead throw myself into writing on Facebook and/or writing to someone I love.  In part, I think I’m running away from the isolation of solitary writing, which seems heightened in the context of a book.  If I’m writing a status update on Facebook, it’s pretty quick, and I can ordinarily expect some form of response in a short while, sometimes within seconds.  If I’m writing a blog post like this one, it’s a bit more drawn out, but it usually doesn’t take me more than a few hours at most, and I can also expect some response fairly soon.  But a book?  It will require many, many hours of solitary writing, and won’t reach its intended audience until the very end.  I had considered doing it differently; I had put out the idea of “publishing as I go” instead of writing and editing and publishing at the end.  Upon reflection, that felt unwise, for this project.  That leaves me with the prospect of being alone with my thoughts for much, much longer.

I’m a bit nervous about how this could affect Lily.  This is not the biggest hurdle, in my eyes; in general, I practice age-appropriate openness with my child.  I don’t keep secrets from her, and I’m not terribly worried about her judging me harshly (although, granted, she could do that at some point).  I worry more about the perceptions of others and how they might treat Lily as a result.  Even though I’m scared of not being a good enough writer, there’s another part of me that says, don’t worry, you’ll never be famous, so Lily will probably not have to endure any stupid stuff associated with that.  How many people do I honestly think will read this book, anyway?  Was it ever a goal of mine to have it read by more than a few dozen people?

I think I need to stop here for now, and let all of this simmer in my cauldron.

Photo on 2015-12-28 at 19.54

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