Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Up On Baldwin Hill

Up on Baldwin Hill

the autumn winds fill my lungs with ease.

My eyes fly to the blue mountain horizon 

and the billow of clouds,

and the world spreads in a panorama around me. 

This morning, I could step into the 

stubble of that cornfield,

yes, the one in this photo,

and I could start twirling 

faster and faster

and soon

I would lift off and land

on the crown of that grand old tree

that stands like a king

in the center of 


I've no clue what

sort of tree it is

but my eyes don't care.

I would cling to that tree

for dear life.

Just as I do in 

every season

of the year.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


It is the second week of October and the morning air is cool and soft and sunny as Leah walks barefoot on the thick grass of the front yard. When the breeze comes up, she lifts her arms out to either side and she feels like she could lift off and fly up toward the heavens. 

Leah smiles. She fills the bright blue watering can and waters the new purple and orange and yellow coneflowers. She notes with sadness that the orange cosmos are gone, as is the beebalm, but there are still piles of bright pink and purple and red petunias everywhere. And lots of yellow chrysanthemums and beautiful orange and red lantana near her study.


Leah is in her blue bathrobe this morning. She recalls all those mornings last winter when she wore the robe out in the yard, when snow and ice were still piled in the yard. She recalls lying in the snow with and without her emerald green jacket.


She has been many places since those chapters. She has made progress, if there is such a thing, in healing herself. She has faced many truths about her own life, and the lives of her parents and her ancestors. She is happy about what she wrote.


There are still more stories of course. More lessons.  There is the story 




"La Abandonatha" --


The Abandoned One. Her great grandmother Domenica Rotondo. 


Mother to her grandfather Claude.


Domenica stayed behind in Italy while all six of her sons, including Claude, came to America in order to find a better life. Claude was only 16 when he left the village of San Giovanni di Paganica, in the Abruzzi region of Italy. It is a village surrounded by the white peaks of the Gran Sasso.


He never saw his mother again.


Only one of Domenica's children stayed behind. The only girl in the family, was named Giselda. Every Sunday afternoon, Giselda and her daughter Lauretta had to visit Domenica, who was always so sad.


They had to listen to her moan about the fact that all of her sons had abandoned her. That's how she earned the name La Abandonatha.


Mary points out that Domenica was playing into the stereotypes about women who spend their lives abandoning and sacrificing themselves because of men.


Every Sunday, Domenica’s daughter and granddaughter visited her, but instead of enjoying them, she chose to focus on her sons’ absence.


“She abandoned the life she had. She had people who loved her, but it was only ‘the boys, the boys, the boys” that mattered to her.


This is the way it’s always been for women, Mary says. And it’s part of what the feminist movement and the Me Too movement are trying to address. 

“Our culture teaches women to abandon themselves.  Women are taught to sacrifice themselves for their husbands and sons. They give themselves and their lives away. And then, when a woman in your great grandmother’s day lost her husband or didn’t marry, she had no man to rely on. Often a widow was forced to rely on relatives, and that was shameful.”


Sometimes, Leah's husband tells Leah that she sounds just like La Abandonatha. Leah moans and groans about the fact that all of her children and grandchildren live far away.


Leah particularly felt like the Abandoned One last Saturday, when Noah, after staying here for four weeks, got in his car and drove back to Denver. Leah cried when he left, and so did Noah.

But after a day or two, Leah was OK. She was glad to have back the neat order and peacefulness of her house. She was glad that there were no more mountains of laundry to wash.


Leah has found peace with the idea that her children have their own lives. She's discovered that she can enjoy the life she shares with her beloved husband and her friends and her two sisters who live about an hour away. 


And as Mary points out, unlike her great grandmother Domenica, she has email and texts and FaceTime and Zoom, all of which connect her directly to her children and grandchildren.


And so, the frozen feeling is gone. She is warm through and through.


When she feels despair, she stops wherever she is. She sinks into the NOW. She breathes slowly and deeply and she becomes aware of awareness. She chants the vocalizations of each of the chakras. She looks around at trees and birds and flowers and she says to herself, "here are miracles and I am so grateful for all of them." 


And when she needs an extra something to stay calm, she makes herself the tumeric and tension tamer tea and adds a spoonful of honey and takes it into the bedroom and does a Yoga nidra routine.


After a half hour or so, she is calm.


At those moments,

she wonders: is this what healing looks like? Is healing ever complete?


Leah got an email from her dear friend Kathy Joy this morning. In it Kathy wrote: "I also hope you know, my friend, that you are enough. You. Are. Enough."


And for once, she feels




Tuesday, September 15, 2020

More Gems from My Amazing Son

 I am sitting on the grey sofa in the living room, writing, and Noah is on the other end, working on his laptop while he has country music playing.

A few minutes ago, anxiety attacked me. The details are unimportant, but after doing an hour and a half of yoga, I found myself unable to keep the tears from flowing.

I found myself unable to hide them from Noah, either, as he is everywhere in the house, migrating from room to room and even circling the house outdoors while he works.

I tell you this only to explain why he came to be in my presence while I was sobbing.

Tears often happen about this time of day. Anxiety grows to the point that I am helpless. And I am hard pressed to express why I am so anxious. Mary reminds me that the world is totally upside down right now. No matter where you turn, there is trouble: the West Coast is burning up, COVID has people tied in knots, and one of the most important (and nerve-wracking) Presidential elections ever is happening in a matter of weeks.

"Helpless, helpless, helpless," wails Neal Young from Noah's computer. Yes,  except for wearing our masks and staying away from other people, we are all helpless to do anything much about anything. 

Noah took my anxiety right in stride. I was fixing my turmeric and tension tamer tea, which I do every day to help curb the anxiety. He put his arms around me and said, "Mom, the problem is you're resisting the feelings. It's better just to observe what's going on in your brain and not react."

Of course he's absolutely right. How many times I've tried "accepting everything," or "accettare tutto." Meditation has taught me to observe rather than react.

Sometimes it works, but lately there comes a point in each afternoon when I feel like I can't take another moment of my nervous stomach. I feel like I'm coming unglued.

My very brilliant son reminded me about what my mindfulness teacher has said repeatedly. Stay with the emotions. Don't push them away. And what Mary says: love yourself in the presence of all your difficult feelings.

"When I have a stomach ache, Mom, which I do right now," Noah said, "I try and be nice myself to myself. I ask my body what it wants, which in this case it's saying 'Please don't feed me, just relax.' I tell myself it won't last forever, because everything is always changing."

He told me that I simply have to ride the waves. "Don't resist the emotions," he said. "If you need to cry, then cry." 

I looked at my handsome son and said,

"How did you get so smart?"

Almost instantly my tears stopped. 

I stood there stirring my tea feeling so grateful.

How is it that I get the lessons I need just exactly when I need them?

How is it that I'm blessed to have such an incredibly smart son, someone who lives keenly in tune with his heart and his intuition?

So here I am now. Not resisting. 

Here is me, like Leah back in April, trying to heal herself by doing nothing but staring into the meadow and breathing really slowly.

Saturday, September 12, 2020


Just when I think there are no more miracles around me, and my energy for this book has fizzled up, something quite amazing happens. 

It’s Friday, mid-day, and my son Noah is visiting. I’m having a heart to heart conversation with my journal, asking, what is worth doing in the world? I’m just writing this: “I think the only things worth accomplishing are those efforts that put me in direct touch with the Divine mystery.” 

At that very moment, Noah knocks softly on my bedroom door. I open the door and he takes a step inside. He holds something up. 


I gasp.


He’s on the phone, as he is so often for the job in solar energy that he’s working remotely. But he’s clearly as amazed as I am. He leads me to the back patio.  He tends to pace back and forth when he's on his phone calls, and his wanderings led him to this:

A beautiful geode, which sparkles in the sun! It's absolutely stunning.


“How did you find this?” I whisper, not wanting to interrupt his phone conversation.


He shrugs and whispers back, “I was right over here near the porch door when I saw something glimmering in the sun.” 


This is our fourth summer in the house, and we have never seen anything like it! The geode was sitting in the stones that abut the foundation -- they are there for drainage.

How do we explain this?


Anyone reading this blog knows I have been running on empty, inspiration wise. I must say that laying my eyes on the mystery geode has revved me up again. When I think about it, I have been the recipient of many, many "coindinkies" over the years.

Just when I am starting to lose faith in the Universe, it delivers up -- literally -- another gem for me.

Thank you Universe for another coinkydinky, I go back to my journal and write THANK YOU I REALLY NEEDED THIS!


 Maybe I can write this book after all. Maybe, as Mary and Rich keep saying to me, "YOU HAVE TO STOP TELLING YOURSELF NEGATIVE STORIES."


In other words, I have to have faith in myself, and in my sacred beliefs, and in this book, whatever it turns out to be.


I also have to accept things just as they are, and I have to stay, patiently, in the present moment.


My mindfulness teacher and dear friend Greg T has been so so helpful making me see the beauty of paying attention in the NOW.  He keeps emphasizing the value of acceptance and non-judgement. Last week he discussed in great detail the importance and benefits of patience.


I continue to be a willing student, who wants so much to enhance her practice, and who also, wants desperately to keep writing.


The next day I look up "geodes and healing" on Google and this is what I find:

"Bigger geodes can help create a chi flow in areas of your home. Many see geodes as a feminine property due to the cavity which  could represent the womb. Geodes can help communicate with divine beings and assist in creating better moods, balances, and energies that can help with meditation, stress and decision-making."

Noah notices my mood shift after the geode appeared.

I fear the mood shifts as they send me on roller coaster rides emotionally.

I will be meditating from here on with the goal of keeping a steady state, connected to the Divine.


How do I explain what happened yesterday?

Is my mother trying to communicate with me?

She has before.

This is what happened:

On Saturday morning I use the English to Italian translator on my phone to write:


“Our son Noah is visiting and I am so glad!”


“Nostro figlio Noah sta visitando e sono cosí felices!”

I write these two sentences down in my journal.




“Our son Noah is visiting and I am so glad MOM”


“Nostro figlio Noah sta visitando e sono cosí felices MAMMA”


I tell Rich that I am back in the COSMOS EVERYWHERE I TURN mood. In this mood I can stare at leaves bristling in the wind and I can just keep staring and I am in bliss. It's what I think it would feel like to be taking


This switch into a drug-like state has happened to me enough times so that now, today, Sunday, September 13, 2020, at 10:03, am I recognize the mood shift.

Rich comes in the study as I am writing this post and I tell him,

"Honey, it's happened again. I am back in the manic state."

He kisses me gently on the top of the head and says the most important thing I can do is

to STAY CALM>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

For some reason, I think     what     i     need    to    do     is

    to write    as    LEAH:

"Leah gets up from her chair and walks over to the table where she keeps the giant purple notebook called "PEARLY EVERLASTING," the title of the book she is writing. She opens the book at random and 

She starts to read:


Before she woke, about 4:30 a.m., Leah’s dreams carried her someplace exciting like Italy where she was chiseling limestone and then entering the sculpture into an important art show. She was working alongside other artists including her dear cousin Pat Rotondo, an exquisite painter she respects so much.

Leah loves those art dreams, when absolutely everything seems possible.

About 5:25 a.m., Leah got out of bed and made a protein shake and coffee. Then she sat in meditation. She sat in the front yard under the new robin’s nest that rests in the V of the pergola rafters.

At some point she took a photo of the irises that once grew in Grandpa Angelo Ricci’s yard. Those irises were magnificent and these in her yard are going to be just as magnificent when they bloom. Fortunately Leah’s sister Karen was wise enough to take some of Grandpa’s irises years back.  Karen carried them to her home when she moved across the country to California. And then she moved them back when she returned to build a home in Massachusetts. That’s when Leah got smart and took some to her own home.

Now she is sitting in her study staring outside at the empty garden sitting between limestone boulders beside the forest. The rocks rest there with such equanimity.

That word, equanimity, is one she wants to chew up and swallow. She wants her mood swings of late to come to rest like a hammock strung between two trees. Why is it so easy for some people, like her husband, just to live day after day without so much emotional turmoil?


Remember what Rich said:


Stay in your body.

Remember God is in every moment and in everything  you do think read write say sing eat and see.



BE LIKE THE SEPTEMBER FLOWERS, where your grandfather Angelo's irises bloomed in the spring!








Thursday, September 10, 2020

The AWE-FULL Cosmos

Take a couple of minutes and try to fathom this:

There are billions and billions of galaxies in the Universe but the one that's closest to the Milky Way, where our solar system is housed, is called Andromeda. If you wanted to visit Andromeda this is what it would entail:

You would have to travel at the speed of light -- about 186,000 miles per second, which happens to be the distance from earth to the moon -- for, 

are you sitting down?

2.3 million years.

Whenever I hear or read about these astonishing facts like these, I am stopped in my tracks. They take my breath away.

I'm humbled. And thrilled all at once.

I'm almost as awed by these orange cosmos flowers, which grew from thin little black seeds I planted in a bit of dirt in an egg carton this spring. Now they are three feet high and sprouting every which way in the garden.

I'm just as awed by my niece Lauren's baby. I saw Lily Kay the other day at a family picnic. Lily has crystal blue eyes and the softest pink skin and curly hair that is almost the color of the cosmos flowers. She just turned one and she babbles on and on points and claps and smiles and crinkles up her eyes and pats her belly button and all of it melts your heart. Like my beloved granddaughter Dani, she is a joy to behold.

As Lauren pointed out the other day, babies are miracles through and through.

"One day there was nothing, and then all of a sudden there was this new human," Lauren said.


It just started raining this morning. It is coming down hard. It's chilly. But the yard is still lush green. Full of flowers.

Outside the kitchen window, the bee balm is crisp brown. I haven't had the heart to cut the stalks down. 

Worst of all, the hummingbirds are gone. I miss them viscerally. I miss the thrumming of their wings coming to the feeders. I miss them dive bombing each other. 

How come summer goes so fast, while winter's ice and snow lingers almost until May?


I miss writing. I miss having the inspiration that carried me through so many chapters over so many months. 

I thought I was writing a book.

Now I'm not so sure.

I just miss writing.

Writer Brenda Ueland, who believed writing was a spiritual endeavor, says "Inspiration comes very slowly and quietly. When I wait with inspiration, my time is not wasted."

So I will wait. 


The next morning, a hummer landed on the feeder while I am meditating. HURRAH FOR HUMMERS!!!

Tuesday, September 01, 2020


Outside the window a tiny hummingbird touches down on the pale violet flower of the green and white hosta.

The bird is gone before I can finish the sentence.

I am sitting here feeling fear spiraling up and down in my chest.

Why should I be afraid? I have everything imaginable. Good health. All sorts of material blessings. A loving family and so many friends. Writing. Painting. Gardening. Photography.

My life is full of love and my mind and fingers are full of ideas and words.


I AM AGAIN AND AGAIN TERRIFIED THAT I WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO. This is not how it was in the old days.  I used to be a supreme multi-tasker. I was raising three children, writing novels and short stories and poems, teaching at the University, taking guitar lessons, painting and doing photography. I never remember a moment when I wasn’t busy. I loved being busy. I loved accomplishing small and large goals.

But these days, there are so many fewer things going on. And I don’t seem as interested in my old hobbies.

One thing I know for sure: I have no fear when I am sitting in front of the meditation candle paying attention to my breathing and focusing on awareness.

The hour or more I spend meditating and writing each morning is very precious to me.

But soon afterward, as I think about the day spreading out in front of me, that’s when I start to panic.

I think: 

I HAVE NOTHING TO DO AND I AM PETRIFIED OF IT. How can I get through the day? How can I get through those moments when I am feeling frozen inside?

Yes, I’m afraid it’s back to that frozen feeling. Again.

At the very worst moments I go into Rich’s study and I start blubbering. “I have nothing to do.” His patience seems endless. Over and over again, my husband tries to help me cope with my misery.

He tells me, it’s ok honey, JUST BE. It’s OK not to do anything.

But asking him for his help is pointless because I’m the one who has to figure it out.

Sitting here now, staring out into the mostly empty garden I feel reassured. My fingers move easily

across the keys

birds are chirping and bleating and otherwise making noise.

Now what I want to do is stay in the NOW all day long. But as soon as I say that I start to feel afraid. HOW CAN I DO NOTHING BUT STAY IN THE NOW ALL DAY LONG?

especially when


But then I think, what do I want to accomplish today?

I will plant the last perennial, a purple coneflower. I will pull up a few weeds. I need to eat and and do yoga and shower. Take a walk with the dog.

All that will use up a couple hours.


How ironic that I am scared.

Because scared is just a two letter switch from sacred!

Tolle says the present moment is a portal to the unmanifested: THE SACRED.



9:45 a.m. When I reread that last sentence, I feel some serenity. The adult in me is ready. I am going to sit here and force myself to


And yes there is tension, there is anxiety but I am ready to do the best I can with the rest of this day, the last day of August, 2020.


At some point later in the morning, I open a book by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and one of the world’s most highly respected spiritual leaders. What I read in The Wisdom of No Escape is exactly what I need to read:

“In many traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism, the circle is a powerful symbol for the sacredness of all things…there are rituals [in these traditions] in which the image of the circle is used like this: by drawing a circle around yourself and standing in the middle of it, you realize that you are always at the center of the universe. The circle that surrounds you shows you that you’re always in the sacred space.”

Later she dives into the subject of meditation:

“People often say, ‘Meditation is all very well, but what does it have to do with my life?’ What it has to do with your life is that perhaps through this simple practice of paying attention…you begin to realize that you’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle, and that’s your whole life. Wherever you go for the rest of your life,”
you are always in sacred space and “whatever comes into the space is there to teach you.”

When she started talking about the NOW I realized this book has indeed arrived to teach me. What she writes is exactly what I need to read this morning:

“Now. That’s the key. Now, now, now. Mindfulness trains you to be awake and alive, fully curious, about what? Well, about now, right?...The more you can be completely NOW, the more you realize that you’re in the center of the world, standing in the middle of a sacred circle. It’s no small affair, whether you’re brushing your teeth or cooking your food or wiping your bottom. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it now…It doesn’t matter what you’re given, whether it’s physical deformity or enormous wealth or poverty, beauty or ugliness, mental stability or mental instability, life in the middle of a madhouse or life in the middle of a peaceful, silent desert. Whatever you’re given can wake you up or put you to sleep. That’s the challenge of now: What are you going to do with what you have already—your body, your speech, your mind?”

“The trick about nowness is that you can let go and open up again to that space. You can do that at any moment, always. But it does take making friends with yourself. It does take coming to know your anger, coming to know your self-deprecation, coming to know your craving and wanting, coming to know your boredom, and making friends with those things.”

A few minutes ago, I took Poco out for a walk. She and Rich and I hiked four or five miles yesterday so she wasn’t particularly energetic. I had to find patience while she stopped every few feet – or inches – and stood there while she sniffed the weeds. Then she peed and we moved on.

As I stood waiting for her, I tried to be in the NOW but I could feel the irritation of boredom swelling up inside me. I could feel myself itching to do something, to get somewhere, to accomplish something.

Was I really in the NOW? No of course not. I could have paid attention to the sky, I could have felt the sun and wind on my face. But instead I was impatient. Bored.

So as soon as I got home I planted the purple coneflower in the top center position of the almost empty garden, between two limestone boulders. Eying the perennial now, it feels right. It rests between the two orange coneflowers that serve as bookends.


Another hummingbird lands on the hosta.

My son, who works remotely for a solar energy company in California, is visiting this week with his girlfriend. No matter where he is working in the house, his voice carries to where I’m sitting. He is intensely wrapped up in the solar energy business, about which he is passionate.

I admire him for his work, but it is a constant reminder of the world that I once worked in, before I retired. I don’t inhabit it anymore. And now, when I have nothing to do, I am contending with boredom and he is just making it worse.

Pema Chodron is so right. You have to come to terms with yourself. You have to become friends with yourself. And your cravings and wantings. And your boredom.

So here I am right in this moment I’m writing I am just plain scared of boredom. Something feels broken. Something needs fixing.

Nix the last two sentences.

It is

2:13 p.m.

I am




a cup of my turmeric and tension tamer tea.

And then I am going to do a spiritual practice. YOGA NIDRA. In yoga nidra, you lie on the floor while the person leading the practice guides you to focus on and relax each part of the body, in sequence.

Back later.

3:17 p.m. I am so much calmer. The hellish feeling of anxiety has passed.

5:17 p.m. The boredom is back. I feel like I want to climb the walls. I go out for another longer walk by myself. And when I get back it’s time to start fixing dinner. I turn on the evening news and start chopping daikon and carrots and radishes, to make Vietnamese spring rolls.

This whole day has passed with me feeling often anxious and confused. I seem unable to accept the life that I profess to want, a life in the NOW. How did I manage to get caught up in this very basic contradiction?


September 1, 1020

Oh what a difference a day can make!

Circumstances haven't changed overnight. But I'm not struggling today. I am sitting here quietly, not paralyzed by fear like I was yesterday.

The great irony of what I wrote yesterday hit me this afternoon as I was strolling through the yard with Poco.  I kept saying I want to stay in the NOW but don't know how. 

All that time I was saying I had nothing to do, I was forgetting something rather obvious: I was WRITING.

Mary says to stay with the writing. The meditation. The yoga nidra. All the spiritual practices. 

And accept the fear. The anxiety. The frustration. All of it.

Accept everything. Accetta tutto.

Oh how easily I forget.