Category Archives: Musings

Synchronicity: Spaces Between

I’ve collected synchronicities this week again for the Synchronicity Project I’m doing with Lauren Paredes in Portland, OR.

A synchronicity of importance was the recurring theme of the phrase “The Space Between”. I was so moved by a quote by F. David Peat in Pathways of Chance that I wrote it down in my journal: “The space between. It was an idea that could be applied in many areas, particularly to describe what happens when you look at art or read a work of literature. It is the space that lies between the observer and the observed; it is the space of the creative act that brings a poem or painting to life.” In Trish and Rob MacGregor’s book The 7 Secrets of Synchronicity, they added “And it’s the space where synchronicities are born.” I started to think about this concept quite a bit. I think it’s a very spiritual philosophy. They say there has to be stillness before one can begin to hear the important messages of life. There needs to be observance before there is change.

My friend posted a picture he admired called “The Space Between.” It’s a photograph of a woman looking at a moving train. The exposure is long enough for us to see the farm house beyond the train cars, in the gap between each. If we stand still, let there be space while everything else moves, we can see past the distractions to the view beyond.

I read these words by Deborah Wood in Hotel Amerika. “It took some time, but we filled the empty space with badinage and sensed the compression within each moment.” It seems like sometimes there is an ocean of space between us and others. Is that our fault? Can we fill it?

Even the advertisement for the Black Label Lincoln MKX car on the back of a New Yorker magazine seemed to add some direction to my thoughts on this topic: “Ah yes, The Zone. You remember that place where you relax your body and mind just enough to shape those random little notions into something useful. You know: ideas.” Well, then I knew I was on a roll. I can only have creative ideas when I give myself space, and time.

I’ve written about this concept before—the liminality between word and art, the boundary lines that intersect and create new places of transition, portals into paradox and magical logic. I like to call it the sweet spot, the visual center of the Venn Diagram. For me, the Telepoem Booth is an intermediary space between word and art, touch and hearing, the present and the past.

Spiritually, I imagine this concept simultaneously as cosmic space and the inner womb. It infinitesimally expands and eternally internalizes. It’s the labyrinth maze, the eye of the storm, a vestibule, elevator, confessional booth and canyon. It’s meditation and prayer, channeling unworldly beings, speaking in tongues. It’s the body that listens to the clay to tell it which way to pull. It’s the finger and the thumb rubbing away the dust from the words. It’s the empty space between loved ones when one needs to find where the heart stands. It’s the cushion of love-filled air, and stillness needed to see the real picture beyond the obstructions.

The space between is time, love, non-attachment and threshold. The space between is not definable but it shimmers out of the corner of my eye. I try not to look too hard, but I know it is there and I let it be there. It’s not hollow, but a bursting space.

We filled the space with silent love.

We laid down our bodies as a bridge

for the other to clamber across the chasm.

We filled the space between us

And it was full                        —        it was bursting.



Truth and Honey

Dear Higher Self,

My family disagrees with my politics and my religion, and talk about their views but don’t let me talk about mine. My friends suggests engaging with them “won’t change anything, and will just upset them.” I don’t want to upset anyone, but I’m tired of not having a voice. I’m also tired of having to assert myself every time to be heard. What should I do?


Just Wants to Show Love


Dear Gentle Soul,

It’s not that you “aren’t allowed” to talk about things, it’s that they prefer you would keep silent about it because it brings up unpleasant feelings in them. You can say “I know you don’t want to talk about this, but I’m going to.” This is how you bring persistence and love into speaking the truth. This is how you break their unspoken rules without flaunting them.

If you want to show love, then you will speak your heart with kindness but firmness. No need to tell them what to do, judge them, call them names or use harsh language. Keep it firm but center around your experience. Everyone has the right to speak about their own perspective! If you have been kind and they still get upset, then it is their path that they have blocked, it is their fear and judgment that arise. No one should be exempt from gentle honesty because of their specific fears.

Imagine that your voice is like honey. When not used for a long time, it crystallizes and won’t flow. When fresh or reheated, it spreads easier. The more honesty you spread, the more it softens, becoming gentle and easy. When you first start, it will be stiff and hard and you need to work with it, warm it. Use it often, keep it soft and it will go farther. But the good thing about honey is that it never goes bad—it is always edible and delicious.

Honeybees are the tears of the Egyptian sun god Ra. Those sacred tears were made up of holiness—all the emotions of the world are contained in tears like that, and so there is not only sadness, but happiness, joy and release. They contain all humanity, and because of that they taste sweet. Imagine your honesty and your voice as those tears—as sweet as honey. Both the Atharvaveda (ancient Hindu scripture) and the ancient Greeks associated lips anointed with honey with the gift of eloquence. If you consciously cover your lips now with honey, you’ll notice it has filled the cracks, the place of pain and blood, and makes your lips feel plump and full. The words become sweet.

The Jewish historian Josephus noted that the name of the poet and prophet Deborah meant “bee”. The same root, dbr, gives us “word”, indicating the bee’s mission to give the Divine Word, or Truth. Truthful word is like honey, essential and sweet. It never spoils, it has healing qualities and gives us insight into the Divine meaning of life. Like a bee, you are tasked to ingest the individual grains of truth, the small seeds, digest them, and transform them into the sweetest, highest truth. Then share that sweetness.

Bees are endangered, and their hives are threatened by the advance of “progress”. If you don’t practice your voice, it will go extinct. It will die, and no one will be able to enjoy its nectar. Bees are also highly social insects that operate within a teamwork-based community. If you don’t speak up, you will isolate yourself and will stop interacting with the people that you say you love. Instead, contribute as a member of the hive and the family!

You want to speak out because you need to practice your voice. Your closest relationships require that you be your most authentic self; in your relationships with your beloved, with your child, with your friends and with your family. To have a voice means that you can go deeper into those relationships, grow closer to truth and be your best. The bee pollinates other flowers as it creates its honey, and you too fertilize other minds when you discover your truth through your life journey. Don’t limit the spread of it.

If you really “just want to show love” then you will stop protecting people from the truth, stop shielding them and not upsetting them. They are fearful of some of the things you will say because they have long ago stopped speaking their own voice. They have tried to stop it in others as well. But those are not your rules and that is not your game. You have your own life that you get to choose how to live. You have your own heart that governs you and you are not required to live up to their expectations. You are not required to please them, but to have a loving family you are required to have open communication.

Practice your voice in difficult situations, and it will become stronger and heard more clearly. You will find that your words have more depth and more conviction and those that are ready to hear you will find their way to you. It will be effective and will be heard, if not to the family who disagrees, but to others outside the family.

Yes, it is valuable for you to speak your voice and to be heard. It may be hard work, but it’s as precious as the gold of the honey.


I’ve been so focused on external goals lately—I finished my MFA in creative writing in December—that care for my body has been neglected. And so now it’s January, and I have a winter fluff about me. I don’t mind the extra weight so much as the stiffness of my joints, the slug of my movements, and the overall heavy feel I have with all my thoughts and actions. I operate better 10 pounds lighter, and my heart is lighter too.

This is the best time to practice self-love, though. I know that I will soon have lost the unneeded layers of mass, but in the meantime, I wiggle and bless them up. I prefer to see it as a transition time—a moment for me to reexamine the things I carry, and a chance to empty my load of unnecessary items.

I have a few burdens that I need to set down, things that are not meant for me, emotions I choose not to pack in my suitcase. The extra weight is patterns, rules and expectations that I did not consciously know I allowed into my knapsack on this life journey.

But I prefer to pack light both emotionally and physically, both metaphorically and literally, as for an airplane trip. That way, I don’t have to wait for other people to deliver (or carry) all my baggage, I don’t have to ask other people to do the lifting, moving and sorting—I can do it all myself. It requires me to live a simple life. Carrying little to no baggage keeps me independent, and the experience flexible. When I carry little, it makes me fly higher, longer and further. It doesn’t take as much energy.

I have seen so many doves lately; on a piano, in nature, on a poster across the street, and even Dove Valley Rd. was on a road sign we went under last night, that I have had to explore what that means to me. Doves are symbols of peace and serenity, signaling transitions in existing relationships that have rough spots in them, which is all appropriate for me right now. I like to think that the closer I get to internal peace, the lighter my body and heart will become, and the higher I will be able to fly. I’ll become whiter, purer, and more in line with the spirituality I seek. I can rise above the sullenness of a reluctant body.

Open Road Heart

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; there’s nothing like the open road to get my creative juices flowing! My heart just swells with the freedom, the adventure, the possibility as I travel. I call it Open Road Heart. Journeys bring insight and connections to my world that my productive daily routine does not.

That’s why I applied yesterday for the Amtrak train writing residency. Imagine—five days riding the train from Flagstaff to Chicago on the Southwest Chief. I rest in the sleeper car, dine in the dining carriage, and write all day long. I’ll be alone, yet stimulated. I’ll be moving forward yet suspended. *When* I get the AmtrakResidency, I will get to experience Open Rail Heart. I can’t wait!

For today, though, Owen and I are on our way to Mesa, AZ to meet with members of the Mesa Arts Center. Owen has a sculpture project he’s facilitating with their Creative Catalyst group of young professionals under 40. I’m renting out the Telepoem Booth to them for Spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity. (If you haven’t heard about the Telepoem Booth project– to “dial-a-poem”–see more information here:

I’m very excited about this meeting, as it is one of the first successful steps in my new career as a writer and creator. The Telepoem Booth project combines two of my favorite worlds—word and art, and combines it with my favorite sense, touch. The sweet spot in the middle is the portal to magic, at least for me.

I love words. But words won’t just stay on the page for me; they jump off and become 3-dimensional. They become objects in and of themselves and have angles, become characters and stories. For instance, I have a collection of words and names that have popped up in my world more than three times each in the last few weeks; numinous, milieu, lacrima, Nimue, clavicle. They have synchronistically similar sounds, don’t they? I want to invite them to a dinner party of a poem, introduce them to each other and see what conversations they make amongst themselves.

I really love the sense of touch and I think we often overlook it in our daily lives. I wish there were a collection of word sculptures, so I really could fondle each and every noun, verb and adjective. Some would be rough granite. Others polished white marble with gold fleck. Some would flow in cursive script, others would be wooden grain, patinaed with a constant run of fingers over the years. Until a sculpture lexicon comes into being, I will have to be content with the imagined words between my forefinger and thumb and rub them together, searching the print for meaning.

As for the feel of travel, in a way a journey is a constant source of new contact zones for our kinesthetic pleasure. The wheels, the rails—they always run over new surfaces. The tread of a tire grooves the way; the rhythm of the rails glide and smooth the way. Travel is a kinesthetic sense, a sense our bodies have of perpetual forward motion. When I travel the Southwest Chief, I’ll sit still, find my internal mind, and come into contact with all the new textures and words that my fingers feel I should know. I guess I could say I am as excited to touch these new sensations as I am to see the new sights.


Synchronicities: Trickster Version

This is the first installment of a synchronicity project that Lauren Paredes from Portland, OR and I are undertaking. Lauren read my post “The Reason I Read: Or Seven Synchronicities I’ve Had With Books Recently”, tracked me down online and wrote a completely charming introductory email. “I completely agree with you about feeling like those moments are pieces of evidence that you’re on the right track – I truly believe that,” she said.

We decided to do some research on the phenomena, pay attention to it happening in our own lives and share the pieces of synchronicities and magic with each other and then a broader audience. I am so grateful for this person who landed in my life to push me into a more aware and deeper-seeking lifestyle! I haven’t had any trouble spotting synchronicities; the biggest problem I’ve had is interpreting them.

Last weekend, my partner Owen and I traveled to Taos and Santa Fe, NM. At the beginning of the trip, I asked for synchronicities along the way that would help us decide if we should move to either place, as we want to eventually move somewhere outside of Flagstaff, AZ. We search for someplace with new opportunities for professional growth (I’m a writer and Owen’s a sculptor.) I was reading “The 7 Secrets of Synchronicity” by Trish MacGregor and Rob MacGregor and realized that I had to ask for synchronicities to answer my questions–and be ready for them when they came.

In Taos, we checked into our Airbnb, owned by Joni who looked like a lot of other in-shape older yogis from Flagstaff. In fact, her parents lived in Flagstaff. After dinner we went to the Alley Cantina. I struck up a conversation with Tony, an Australian hotelier who had traveled to New Mexico for a few days. Owen discovered that he and Tony both knew two different businessmen from the days when Owen worked as a consultant and designer. Both were named John, one from New Zealand and the other from Bali. Then I looked at the dance floor and saw a friend from Flagstaff. She was an English instructor for the university I used to work for. I passed her in the hallways many times as I finished my MFA degree and I had boogied next to her many nights in my hometown—and here she was, seven hours away in Taos, to visit her mom and dad.

We thought for sure we were supposed to move to Taos that night. But in the morning, the town wasn’t as appealing. We listened to a few different shopkeepers, and they all inferred similar themes; choosing the artist lifestyle meant being poor and Taos is not as chi-chi as Santa Fe (and proud of it.) After we left each store, we joked about how everyone “talked long…and listened short.” People seemed frustrated with the local economy. Some shopkeepers even followed me around and watched me so close that I felt like I couldn’t touch anything–or that I was a potential shoplifter! Still, we had a great time and saw Big Horn Sheep, ducks and hawks when we went to BlackRock Hot Springs.

The animals had a lot to say this trip. As we left town, a coyote crossed in front of us. The trickster archetype! I had read “Synchronicities are the jokers in nature’s pack of cards for they refuse to play by the rules and offer a hint that, in our quest for certainty about the universe, we have ignored some vital clues,” (F. David Peat, Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind.) I realized the Taos synchronicities were a bit of a cosmic joke. We had felt at home in Taos because it was similar to our current life, the place that has served well, but that we are looking to expand our horizons beyond. In fact, we had both received synchronicities from our old careers—the very ones that we had left behind because of their creative limits!

When we went to Santa Fe, we also saw someone from Flagstaff, one of my son’s high school teachers. Then we went to Allan Houser’s sculpture studio, as he has influenced Owen on a current marble sculpture project. By chance, Allan’s number one assistant, Tony Lee, who worked with Houser from 1989 til his death in 1994, showed up at the studio. Another Tony! Owen had a great time talking with him about sculpture. This was a synchronicity that pointed positively towards Owen’s new career potential in Santa Fe, but I’m not sure what it meant for me.

Paul Kammerer was an Austrian biologist who came up with the theory of “the law of seriality.” He stated that the phenomenon was an objective but undiscovered principle of nature. He used to study random-chance events to see how many people were using umbrellas or wearing the same hat and classified his synchronicities into first, second, third, and high-order series. All of Kammerer’s research influenced Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. I’m not sure what all the synchronicities in Santa Fe meant, but I’m collecting them and others to keep track.

Here is a list of other things I’ve noticed this week:

Lost Items

  • My turquoise horse fetish that represented healing and strength
  • Owen’s Ipad
  • Taos guide books

Found Items

  • Owen’s Ipad! (lost in the menus at El Gamal, Taos)
  • 1 pink plastic bead
  • 4 pennies (in the Hot Springs in Taos)
  • 1 quarter and 1 dime (near the Earthships in Taos)
  • $12 in bills (in the snow, near the fabulous waterfall in Flagstaff)


  • horses
  • big horn sheep
  • ducks
  • hawks
  • quail
  • coyote


  • clavicle (x3)
  • lacrima (x3)
  • milieu (x2)
  • Tony (x2—one from Santa Fe, one from Australia)
  • Nimue (x2—in novel and Fairy Cards)


  • 11:11 and 1:11 (too many times to count)
  • 12
    • found $12 in snow
    • dreamt I received a $1200 rent check

Dream Images

  • phonebooths and coins
  • buying eggs and milk from the grocery store
  • a scooter
  • the badhakonasana yoga pose (needed for female cycle)
  • Crystal Bridges (the museum in Arkansas that I’ve never been to)
  • cupcakes
  • cell phones and voicemail messages 10 minutes long
  • oil and vinegar
  • Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac


Some of the synchronicities are just surface level coincidences that tickle my fancy, but there are those synchronicities that hint at a deeper order in the universe. I found out that physicist David Bohm called this the implicate or “enfolded order”, that births everything in the universe, even time. External reality is the explicate order. Synchronicity is where the implicate and the explicate, the inner and the outer, coincide. This is also called psychoid, where it shares both psychic and material aspects and acts as well on a psychic or material plane. (A synchronicity here; I found David Bohm’s book at a bookstore after I had read this about him. It was so scientific it went completely above my head, but it was fun to find it.)

This hunt for deeper meaning is making me feel more alive. It gives me daily motivation to wake up, feeling like life is a treasure hunt and I’m the only one that can understand its clues. I feel a bit younger too, as if life is more playful and fun.


"Mother and Child" by Mary Cassatt

“Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt

My dad texted last night to say that Mom was in the Emergency Room. It was her gall bladder, the doctors didn’t know why it hurt, but “they’ll be home soon.” This is typical of my parents. Every piece of bad news is glossed over with something meant to be comforting.

This is the fourth time in four months that my 74-year-old mom has been in the ER. Gall Bladder Sludge, Urinary Tract Infection, Ovarian Cysts…the tally of her ailments runs like an extra-long receipt at the grocery store—and the price is even higher.

My sister and I pay attention to the sum total of these transactions and try to see what the larger bill might become. “Something’s wrong” my sister constantly says. What’s wrong is that my mother is getting old. She may die soon, she may rally and die later, but what’s certain is that—like all humans—she will certainly die someday. And to fathom the meaning of a mother’s death seems to me a Great Mystery of human existence, a paradox of importance.

Mothers are life-givers. Mothers are the source. While my father obviously contributed to my conception, my mother was the carrier, the womb, the chalice. She was the fertile cave that sheltered my first fragile life. She nurtured me within the innermost reaches of her body and I was privy to all her secret recesses. I fed at the deepest, most important spring of life that she could offer. I exist because of my mother.

And now my mother’s poor health teases death into my consciousness. The possibility of death, however slight, makes me want to have full presence and cognizance of her life now, while it’s available.

That sounds like a great plan. And then I remember that my mum and I haven’t been on the best of terms lately. My mother is upset with me for not believing the way she does, and I have been speaking more openly about my own belief system. I don’t want to sweep our differences under the rug; I want to be heard and loved despite our differences.

I love my mother unequivocally and that love is returned. But still, there is an estrangement of the heart. The one thing my mom wants is the one thing that I cannot give her. For me to say “I believe” in her God and her religion would be my mother’s ultimate wish. Until then, I sense she holds me at arm’s length, using her religion as a barrier to true connection and true sharing. It seems like my mother can’t let me into her innermost chambers of her heart until I agree that her belief system is correct, that she has dedicated her whole life rightly, and that I recommit to it.

But I can’t do this, even for her. If I were allowed to talk freely, without harsh words or tears from her in return, I would tell her that I don’t believe there is only one way; I believe that there are many paths to the same goal. I learned individuality, independence, self-reflection and all sorts of inner secrets from her and her life force. I learned to be a strong woman. I learned to think for myself and to be true to myself.

The gestures that resonate most from the total experience of my childhood are a head held high above my shoulders and a hair flip of my horse-like mane. Physical expressions that were indifferent to public opinion and valued personal freedom were what she taught me. These are the ways my body remembers my mother’s example. I am a proud woman with a beautiful, sexual and rich life force, things she wanted for me that perhaps she couldn’t find for herself.

If there is any mystery equal to my mother’s God, it is the mystery of a mother’s Love. My mother has been responsible for creation of life, for the three of her children. This is the closest we humans can come to pure miracle. Perhaps the God Wall between my mom and I has no priority over the bond our bodies have already forged in the crucible of her womb. Perhaps I’ve always had and always will have access to her and her heart—it’s the privilege that comes from being born of her.

I test this theory out in yoga today. I close my eyes and set an intention to send my mother healing thoughts throughout my practice. In my inner world, it is easy to find her and her heart immediately, recognizable by the same feeling I get when she hugs me and calls me “Lizzy.” She’s not even very far; she is inside my own heart, beats in the same rhythm, courses the same bloodlines. To love my mother is to love myself. There is no wall between us after all; only the heart valve that opens and shuts to prevent us from flowing backwards.


Tasty like Tears

Tasty Tears

“You write because you turn sadness into funny,” said the dream gods last night.

Thank you. Thank you for that. I had gotten so PMS-y that I had turned into the worst kind of negative blockage—the blasé blockage. “I just don’t want to do anything, I don’t care about anything,” says the voice of apathy. That voice is the most dreadful creeper of slime I’ve yet encountered. If I’m furious and mad, I can rebel. If I’m distraught and in pain, I can rally from the passion of it all. But anytime I feel as though “I don’t care,” I know that I’ve put too much distance between me and my source; I’ve swaddled myself in too many layers of cotton to be able to thrash about freely. Apathy is when I’ve anesthesized myself, but looked away from all of the needles.

I would rather swoon from the sight of my deadening. Or perhaps not become numb in the first place: Isn’t it better to hydrate on one’s tears than to be dry…and thirsty? To take it further, isn’t it better to have an open heart that could occasionally get hurt than a closed one that grows smaller through disuse?

They say that like attracts like. If we are able to feel the depths of despair or sadness, then we are also building in ourselves the capacity for light and love—and the two measures are alike in their closeness to the heart. When I wall off those feelings of inadequacy, or don’t look at them and deal with them directly, I am also cultivating indifference to joy. When I was pregnant, in Lamaze class, we practiced dealing with pain by holding an ice cube. I was told to ignore the bite of that pain, become uninterested and unresponsive to that freezing burn. To me, this was impossible. Instead, I much preferred to dive down deep into the experience, to welcome the pain and let it wash over me. During labor, I rode the waves of my contractions, breathed down into their very core and found the bottom. Then I pushed up off the sandy floor and rose through to emerge on the other side.

Pain has depth. Pain has numinosity—it arouses spiritual emotion and is awe-inspiring. Pain and terror often overwhelm “those who have come, too suddenly, face to face with some manifestation of the mysterium tremendum. In theological language, this fear is due to the incompatibility between man’s egotism and the divine purity, between man’s self-aggravated separateness and the infinity of God.” (Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception.) We feel pain because we are human, because we are always wondering and longing for the deeper meaning. Being human means we can change our position.

But apathy, apathy is a shallow pond. There’s not much to see with apathy, no places to go. It’s a one-horse town, an organism-breeding puddle. If I don’t care, I don’t have to feel. My plane will neither take off nor land, and the scenery remains the same because I have stopped seeing it for lack of concern, interest and enthusiasm. Me—I need a little needle of pain to get me motivated. I look to the injection site and pull back the skin. Because my apathy is just the surface; the real feeling is in the blood that pumps underneath. Everyone knows that blood brings healing. If I give it air, clean it, care for it, I’ll never have to reopen the wound.

They say that life fills a void. If I feel empty after I clean up my apathy, after I cry and flush it out, it’s because I have excavated the infection. If I have done my job, it will be a flushed, clean cache, ready to secretly store new valuables that I have yet to find. I know that out of dark places can come the greatest jewels. As a metaphor for that realization, I once dreamt my best friend and I were forcibly thrown down into a cave. I was unable to rescue us until I simply grew big and lifted her out. When she was safe, I cleaned and inventoried the crannies of my cache, finding a purplish green pearl in the corner. I found a treasure in the deepest corner of my prison.

If you are what you eat, then you are who you hang around with. I am only as good as my social milieu, and so I enjoy people who can be honest, kind and perceptive with me. I enjoy those who remember the simple pleasures (because of course, too much materialism and extravagance brings a blasé perspective.) I enjoy people who catch snowflakes on the tip of their tongue, make metaphors in their casual conversation, and are start new, exciting endeavors with courage and persistence.

This morning brings the third rejection letter in the last 24 hours. I feel disappointed, and I am a woman under the pressure of hormones… so I cry. I also watch the snowflakes fall outside my window—they are so lovely and beautiful. They land where they will, they fall because it is their fate and the earth is of no consequence to them. Following their lead, I must only write for myself, it does not matter where I land. Every word is a snowflake, a cold unique object that forms differently every birth. I catch each on my tongue and savor; they melt over my taste buds and sense like my tears. And then I laugh. Like the wind it blows the teary snowflakes into a different place. At least I care, at least there is breath for movement and momentum for journey. The snowflakes and the tears stop simultaneously and things are still and quiet.

I want my snowflakes to be thick, heavy with moisture and to fall lazily, with intention but slow. I want them to make an effect when they land, tasty like tears. I want the snowflakes to blur the reading to an internal sight, to fall onto the page and make an indelible impression on the warp of the paper, and the psyche.

Deserving a chance to be understood

This essay I wrote, “Overcoming an Unusual Communication Difficulty” won the William Verville scholarship at Northern Arizona University. I’m sharing it here with my son’s permission, because, as he says “everyone deserves a chance at being understood.”

Overcoming Unusually Challenging Communication Difficulties

The most challenging communication difficulty I have had in my entire life has been daily communication with my 18-year-old son.

Isaac has autism, with speech and language impairment. He did not speak his first words until he was two, and did not speak in complete sentences consistently until he was in elementary school. He takes things very literally and has difficulty with abstract thought. For instance, just two years I accidentally slipped up and said “Please put the milk on the fridge,” instead of “in the fridge.” He took me at my literal word and I found the carton next to the dust bunnies on top.

When Isaac was younger, he couldn’t seem to comprehend my words, or keep track of the sequence of things. I took to drawing visual to-do lists. This included a shopping cart for the grocery store, a book for the library, and a car for the mechanics. I had to do this for every event in the day. Just saying the sounds didn’t make it into his processing system. It was similar to working with a deaf person; he would rarely look up when you called his name. He barely knew what words were, and he would have a hard time transitioning from activities without the visual aides.

We used visual images for many lessons, including “social stories” when Isaac was 7-10 years old. As you can imagine, his social skills were poor. He could barely speak in sentences, and definitely could not communicate his emotions, much less identify them. I would draw cartoons of tough social situations, including situations that required more empathy.

Isaac’s biggest social problem was his inability to tell anything but the truth.

“How do these pants look?” I would ask.

“They kind of make your butt-cheeks look huge,” he responded.

Without protest, I returned those pants immediately. Telling the truth might make you socially awkward, but at least everyone always know where you stand.

Isaac’s psychological diagnosis claims that he is well below average in the working memory category. “Working memory is different than short-and long-term memory because it requires more than simple rote recall, and necessitates that an individual maintain mental flexibility while encoding information into short-term memory,” says his psychological report. This means that Isaac can’t process difficult abstract thought. He can’t remain flexible while problem-solving, or regroup for Plan B at a moment’s notice. To help with this, I try to refer to the past, to something he already knows. We use many strategies of apperception and preparation.

For instance, before we went to parties when he was younger, I would try to explain how I knew these people, and how he was supposed to act. I said, ​“Now this is a Christmas party with lots of adults I work with at the library. Ann is the hostess, and my boss. Make sure you greet her, shake her hand and look her in the eye. She’ll probably want to know where you go to school, what you like to study, and other stuff like that. After you answer questions, you can take your dinosaur books into a quiet spot and read them.”

After the party, I would say “Isaac, it’s not okay to touch someone’s belly, even when it’s very large… And no. She’s not pregnant.”

It also means that our conversations and resolutions aren’t immediate. Isaac’s memory does not fire at the same speed. Sometimes it fires slow, sometimes he jumps way ahead, and sometimes it’s just stuck in a loop, much like a moebius strip. It’s like communication in space; some transmissions get through, some get lost, some take a really long time to arrive. Somedays it’s like a black hole–I don’t think anything will ever surface again.

But with patience and a lot of humor, I’ve raised Isaac to adulthood. I think he’s a reasonably good representation of a responsible young adult. He has his driver’s license, a job at Safeway, and will be studying film through the Coconino Community College to NAU program, living on the NAU campus. He has found a communication medium that resonates with his self-expression. His self-confidence, patience, and good attitude will help him get the extra help he needs.

And most importantly, he has a good heart, and you can’t really teach that from books anyway.


Strange Efficiency Program for Creativity


Post Beam Cube by Ronald Wendell Davis

Post Beam Cube by Ronald Wendell Davis

These are personal rules (as I have downloaded them through time and praxis) of my Strange Efficiency Program for Creativity.
1. My “sullenness” is actually creativity building. I need to make space for it to bloom forth.
2. My writing/creativity/curation comes best when I don’t judge its path or direct it too much and just let it flow.
3. Physical activities (such as 10 burpees or one minute hand-stands) help me transition from passive creative thought to active creative making.

Other guidelines that save me “time and money”:
a. I must write down the lines that come to me as I lie in my warm bed in the cold dark.
b. I am allowed to use my most-recent favorite words and images in my writing. There’s a reason I was attracted to them. Collect them in my book.
c. All those YouTube videos by Alan Watts, the literary research on Maya Angelou, the overheard phrases and quotes from Facebook can guide me too. Anything meaningful has a prioritized place amongst all the other junk that never penetrated.
d. Insomnia is just found writing time.

And finally, I find that these are some of my Rules of Adulthood that use creativity and curiosity to help me live my favorite life.

1. Look up all words that you don’t know. Otherwise you will never learn that “apophatic” is close to “mysticism”, and “mysticism” is the explanatory word you’ve been looking for all your life to describe your spirituality. (Mysticism–system of belief which focuses on a spontaneous or cultivated individual experience of the divine reality beyond the realm of ordinary perception, an experience often unmediated by the structures of traditional organized religion or the conditioned role-playing and learned defensive behavior of the outer man.) To name is to know it.

2. Don’t ever give up, but especially don’t give up when you are at the point of “close but no cigar”. I’ve found that finding things at the thrift store that are close to your perfect find only mean that the ultimate score is just around the corner. If you are looking for the perfect word, or phrase, don’t disregard the ancillary thoughts that come to you. Persistence pays off.

4. Silence is my fertile earth that all good thoughts spring from.

Analog: It Carries the Story


Pinhole Photography by Nancy Spencer at New Mexico Museum of History in Santa Fe

Recently, due to events too complicated to go into here, my son has been relegated to a sans internet, sans texting, and sans phone call lifestyle. At 18 years old, he is at a complete loss.
“How will I look up words in the thesaurus?” “Use the book.” “I don’t know how.”

This is the same son who explained passing notes in class like this: “It’s like texting Mom, except you write on paper.”

Getting him off screens has been a blessing for our connection. He is somehow more accessible, more available to meet my eyes. The energy flow is much different.

I’m the kind of girl that prefers stoves to microwaves, books to kindles, letters to emails, pencils to keyboards, and even (theoretically) typewriters to computers. I prefer mechanical clocks to binary clocks. I keep a journal. I have records and I think that hand-made gifts are the best.

I think the thing I love the most about artwork is when I can sense and see that it was hand-crafted. I remember standing in front of a Frida Kahlo painting at a special exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum in the late 90s. They have some of her pieces in their permanent collection, and I saw them this weekend. I could very clearly imagine and see Frida painting it, her body placed exactly where mine was. I followed her tiny brush strokes and had a kind of psychic thrill and celebrity connection with her. In general, I always know when someone else’s hands touched the piece before my eyes witnessed it, or my curator-hands touched it. I know that someone with soul interpreted their vision into an art piece. And it’s imperfect. It has room and space for hidden meanings, for interpretation, pockets for dreams to hide in. The best pieces of artwork, in my opinion, are like humans walking through a field. The seeds, pods, and brambles get caught on the piece as if it were a cotton pant leg, inviting them to journey along. The artwork becomes a carrier for grains of experience and emotion to fall in new places.


A tree made out of newspapers at SITE Santa Fe.

I’m sure we have all heard this kind of art or experience referred to as “analog”. But when looking up the word, it is mostly defined as “something having analogy (or features, similarities of two things, on which a comparison may be based) with something else.” I think this means that “analogue” artwork is closest to the human experience; it is flawed, mysterious and imperfectly perfect just like humans. The process isn’t controllable and sometimes wonderful, unexpected things are carried through the human process of creation.

Pinhole photography seems to be the most analog of photography. You work with a simple box and a mechanical shutter–you have to develop the film. Focusing, adjusting, manipulating are not parts of the process. There is much room for error, for imperfections. Nancy Spencer understands this. She writes, in the Pinhole Photography exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of History in Santa Fe, “Pinhole photography is the closest medium I know to record both “things seen” and “things unseen.” Sometimes the “things unseen” are intuitively known. The knowledge that “things seen” and “things unseen” might be recorded on film maintains my interest in this type of image making.” (1985)


Donald Judd’s piece at Phoenix Art Museum.

Analog leaves room for the “unseen.” It is not Pure Science with a direct hypothesis; it is not black and white. There is room for interpretation, for the holistic zeitgeist of the experience, for touch and intuition to shine forth. I like this world. It makes my feel like I am surrounded by things that are analogous to me and my imperfect human experience. It seems that the effort of a handwritten poem will carry the reader past the ambiguity of words or turns of phrase. In the case of my son, I feel like I know him a little bit better, as he communicates with his eyes, gestures and words. All of this simple technology leaves more room for the human touch.

Because we understand the analogy of each others human creation process, we can go deeper. Analog picks up these magic pebbles and seedpods and carries our stories further.


Scottsdale, AZ.