at the crossroads


‘Hecate’ by Claudia Olivos,

For the past six weeks, I participated in an on-line course with Mary Pierce Brosmer about making meaning of our post-election world. Accordingly, I suspended my plan for a multi-part ‘divided we fall’ series here. Instead, I have spent the intervening weeks reading a wide range of texts including but not limited to John McCain’s February 17th remarks at the Munich Security Conference; selections from Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser’s A Clear and Present Danger, Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, and Ken Wilber’s Trump and a Post-Truth World, among others.

We spent six weeks reading, sharing remarkably relevant poems written long since, writing and sharing our words, discussing, questioning, opening our hearts to difference and our minds to ‘what next.’ During this same six weeks, I traveled twice to southwestern PA to be with my sister in her final days; welcomed my third grandchild into a family filled with February birthdays; and sat with several of ‘my’ prison writers through unimaginable trauma and personal tragedy.

Clearly, this has been a time rich with change on so many levels, transformations both anticipated and not. Above all, it has been a time to open up, expand information sources, broaden opinions and challenge my role in the larger world. While a continuing work in progress, I did not want to remain silent any longer on this page. As a result, I share here my final writing for that life-questioning course of words and ideas – and intentions for going forward. Next time I will return to ‘divided we fall – 2.’

Thank you for reading. And as always, I welcome – no, encourage! – your thoughtful responses to what you read here.

That November crossroads stemmed from the tangle of tarnished truths
but I was slow to go there, lost as I was in the thicket of win-lose
when the multi-faceted is what I believe. Now we are offered
loyalty or disdain, history or ignorance, hope or despair.

How can this be our only choice? We have arrived at a crossroads
of morality. And though multiply manifest, it is the voice
of truth that must prevail, the voice of compassion
for us all – earth, sea, sky, collective spirit and soul.

I knew the night birth and death converged that we are in
for deep transformation, needing not to ‘get over’ or past
but to spell truth – yours, mine, ours. A time to speak out
past the divide and into the void, to speak without ceasing.

Thus am I pulled to provide all that I can – insight
and light to help guide the lost from personal hells,
reunite torn-apart mothers with daughters, guarding
ground and reason until mutual respect shall

in deed reign, parting the darkness of derision and disgust.
We must persevere until light seeps through every crack,
shattering false divisions to reveal the common bedrock
of our shared humanity.
swb (c) 2017

spin – part 2

silent scream

touchdrawing by deborah koff-chapin

When I posted ‘spin – part 1 ,’ I had a long series in mind. In the days (weeks now) since, I have instead experienced a painful staunching of the throat. So filled with outrage at the sticky threads of injustice and untruth in the current political sphere (I cannot bring myself to say ‘discourse,’ though I long for it), my words have literally stuck in my throat. My hands are of no use. Everywhere I turn, I feel cliche. “Nice guys finish last.” “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” “What you don’t know, you make up.”

And I’m left holding so much inside that I cannot possibly express it all. Not in a lifetime. More to the point, I want so very desperately to DO something about all the silencing. For me, that’s what it comes down to.

One man’s spin is another’s silencing.

Images flood through me. From personal experience. From history. From popular culture… Marketers and mongers move messages. The hard workers, the deep thinkers, the ethical humanitarians, those motivated by compassion, truth and authenticity, those who understand that we are connected in this being human that we share – theirs are not the voices in the ‘news’ or the media. Meaning, it seems, is not a prime time value.

And why not? Because what actually needs to be done is not popular. Because the values that create change hold no commercial cache. Because some one needs to hold our world together while the angry ones rave. Because some of us would rather work on solving the long list of real issues facing us – ALL of us – rather than fomenting trumped-up fear by spinning the world around their own exaggerated axis.

wisdom of soft strength

Photo of Elizabeth Lesser

credit originmagazine

“Strength without softness becomes aggression. Softness without strength becomes victimhood.”

On her Facebook post this evening, Elizabeth Lesser – a wonderful wise woman and co-founder in 1977 of the Omega Institute – shared a practice from her recent workshop. It was so beautiful, this way of bringing us into the paradox of strong and soft, that I needed to share it here.

“While leading my annual weekend workshop there, I taught my students a practice that I have been using in my own life—a way of cultivating a fearless and strong backbone, and at the same time staying open and soft.

Have you ever seen a statue or picture of the Buddha sitting or standing, with an expression of peace, extending his right arm and holding up his hand in the gesture of STOP? That is called the abhaya mudra and it symbolizes an attitude of fearlessness and strength. Take a few quiet breaths right now, come into stillness, straighten your back, extend your right arm, and make the gesture of abhaya mudra. Just holding my hand like that for a few seconds gives me a feeling of inner power. It reminds me that I am a noble human being; that I already know the way if I follow my heart with clarity and courage. It says: it’s is good to be strong. To know my own mind. To speak and live my truth. Continue reading

integrating the feminine


My mentor, Mary Pierce Brosmer – author, fearless feminist, wise leader, founder of Women Writing for (a) Change, and long-time friend – is embarking on her own conscious feminine experiment. I offer here a link describing in part a new course she will be teaching in Cincinnati: ‘ a Co-ED apprenticeship in the integration of the feminine into organizational life.’  Perhaps these ‘what-if’s’ will spark discussion here as well, online or in our own writing circles.

What if I said “leader” and it evoked an image of someone who always kept sight of: What’s in the middle? What are we gathered here to give life to? 
What if she told her own stories and made space for yours? and asked, “What can we make of this?” rather than “Whose fault is it?” 
What if she didn’t privilege some stories over others for the sake of political correctness or the need to appear cool or in the know? 
What if she had the courage to ask, “What’s going on in the room right now? What isn’t being said? What am I feeling? What are others feeling?” 
What if she spent time and energy creating spaces for people to generate meaning, to learn to take risks, to tell the truth, to make commitments? 
What if she were courageous enough to integrate life-giving and soulful tools into his practice – circles, silence, flowers, poetry, stories, knowing that it might expose him to ridicule, knowing that it would expose her to ridicule (if the leader is a woman)? 

What if she had enough integrity and imagination to connect measurement with meaning, innovation with tradition, growth with periods of rest (knowing, all the while, that the culture reveres and rewards disconnection, “pure genius” “scholarship”)?

Sunday again!

Partial shot of cedar grove

This being on vacation is creating havoc with my attempts at regular posting!! And so Sunday rolls ’round again, and my thoughts turn to one of the most peaceful spots I’ve discovered in my Westport, MA neighborhood. A place I’ve named . . .
You know it’s a temple by the hush
beneath the tattered canopy of ancient cedars,
their flaky barked trunks twisting
entwined, a dance of age and truth

leaning, swaying, bowing, praying
for the survival of each, of all
in this communal hall, each snaking
tree coiled up, around, grounded

on the brink where tides whittle bank
and winds erode limbs; yet
standing still, swayed to the tune
of eons, they gather, invite

the seeker to sit on stone slabs
solid on grass, to savor both stillness
and wisdom writ wider
than the splendor of this sacred space.

*First published in Into the Great Blue: Meditations of Summer, Finishing Line Press, August 2011.