A Birthday Present from Carole

Dear readers,

This blog deals with mystery. I haven’t been able to write. I don’t know why, I just haven’t. It’s a mystery, and I’ve learned to let things open up, rather than to try to force it. So rather than try to push it, I thought I’d share something about someone else.

So today I was thinking of my dear  late friend Carole. I was truly blessed to have her in my life. We had a lot in common, particularly as we were both writers and liked cats and a somewhat bohemian – not hippie or flaky but just a little off-center – way of looking at things.

She used to say “We’re both from the same planet,” when we talked about our affinity for one another.  We used to say that we both fell in thrall to someone with the “P” word – potential.

Carole was in a relationship that was challenging, since her husband  lived with both addiction and mental illness: he was brilliant and erudite when he was able to function. That was where the potential figured in. There was a lot of love and mystery between them. Strong pulls of the chaotic kind. Neptunian and changing.   Of course love defies reason, and definition. I’ll say only that , like there is for many of us, a theme united them, but which alas was unsustainable.

When she developed breast cancer, the two of them were able to reunite, however once she reached stability, their paring fell apart again. Later she developed and succumbed to pancreatic cancer, after he left her for another woman.

Carole was funny, beautiful with big green eyes and a bent nose. She fought on behalf of animals,  volunteering at a nearby wildlife sanctuary.

Carole was often short on money. Fortunately she looked good in anything she wore, so didn’t need to shop for clothes. She did love shoes, but not pedicures (too much touching).  Her nails were short and polish-free. She wore minimal make up, and her hair was naturally curly. And she was absolutely stunning.

She talked about her father who had played baseball, but who would take her to a movie and leave her there so he could go drink. She’d watch it 3 times, then try to figure out how to get home walking through the ‘hood alone, at age 11. She attained from this experience a wise-cracking street savvy, and fell for men of that ilk.

Her youth was spent in New York, Buffalo to be exact, and she had a New York street kind of wit with a similar accent. She also studied French and went to the Sorbonne for a year.

She worked in “the business,”  – the Hollywood term for the film industry, in a sort of secretarial position, but she wrote in her spare time, in between bouts of marital drama. Her writing about her life was imaginative and funny.

So I thought I’d share one of my favorite gifts of all time: a darling story she wrote for me on one of my birthdays. I miss you dear Carole. May be shared but not changed in any way. May not be copied without written permission of Suzanne.




So, there’s this magic genie in a bottle, see? His name is Geno, and there’s this gal who’s got a birthday today, right? Her name is Suz, you get it? Anyway, she’s walkin’ out into her backyard, y’know, to catch some rays and listen to the radio play some golden oldie song by one of those singers that went  down in an airplane Anyway, there’s this empty bottle layin’  out in the yard. So, Suz goes to pick it up cause like she’s real fussy about junk in her yard, y’know, so just as she picks it up Geno starts his rap.

“Yo. How y’doin’ doll?”

And right there, Suz knows there’s somethin’  strange about this. She knows you don’t talk to no bottle – Rule Number One!

So Geno figures he better act fast, so he says, “Hey you good lookin’  thing. Ever make it in a bottle?”

Suz was not impressed, nosiree, she just goes over to the trash can and gets ready to give Geno the heave-ho on top of yesterday’s Lasagna. So now he lays it on her. I mean the coup, as they say. The piece de resistance.

“Help,” he yells.

She, bein’  the kind and caring sort, gives the old bottle a second thought. Geno takes his cue. “Save me and you got three wishes.” By now Suz cops to the fact that this ain’t your ordinary talkin’ bottle. She’s wise to the fact that she’s lookin’ at some entrepreneurial opportunities here.

“I’m listening,” she says real cool like.

So Geno figures  he’ll wrap it up in five and be back on the island in time for nude grape smashing.

“No lie,” he says. “I’ll  grant any three wishes you make, then you gotta let me go.”

So Geno figures she’ll do the usual I-want-a-million-dollars-and-world-peace number, right? Well, Suz’s mother didn’t raise no fool. So she whispers two wishes into the bottle, meanwhile her trusty old feline Aura-cat  is watchin’ all the action from below thinkin’ how telephones are gettin’ weirder by the day. That song’s still playin’ on the radio, and Suz makes a couple of nice personal wishes – she ain’t sayin’ what – and now just one more and Geno can  say Ciao, Baby. But Suz gets this smile and starts hummin’ along with the song,  thinkin’ about how she loves to travel,  y’know, and hear people talk funny and eat weird food, and stuff. So she makes the big number three, and get this – the babe gets to move in with Geno. Yeah, you got it. Now she gets to travel all over the world – on every birthday. Geno gave her this thing called teleportation. I think it’s one of those high tech things where your brain leaves home without you. Sounds kinda weird to me, too. Geno said that Suz already had the gift of imagination so what else could he do for her?

Maybe wishes one and two could answer that.



love, Carole

copyright Carole 1987

Photos: Carole and me, 1987; Carole 1993

May not be copied without written permission of the author.


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Pay attention to the luminous and numinous.

~ Richard Zimmer, PhD

Dreams are the language of the mysterious.

But I don’t always understand them, as if I have dream time dyslexia.

What are those gray-haired men, those flighty women, those somber, lost children doing there?

Why do I awaken with a wad of cotton in my forehead, after one of those night-time (or early morning) sojourns?

Once, I sought guides, books of symbols, psychology for answers:

Jung : According to Jung, dreams are not attempts to conceal your true feelings from the waking mind, but rather they are a window to your unconscious. They serve to guide the waking self to achieve wholeness and offer a solution to a problem you are facing in your waking life.

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
Freud: The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.
Dreams are often the most profound when they seem the most crazy.

The bible: Daniel 4:5 “I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.

Buddhism The Tibetan dream interpretation is particular. It is mixed with cultural beliefs, which is a background of the psychology, and is firmly influenced by Buddhist philosophy of mind and phenomena, the understanding that everything is an illusion.

I learned about symbols, archetypes. That certain figures are universal and have human meaning across cultures. Such as the “wise old man”:

“The wise old man can be a profound philosopher distinguished for wisdom and sound judgment.” (Wikipedia).

I read that dreams were unfulfilled wishes. Or that they meant nothing but clutter from the day, a form of psychic junk.

I’ve always been a dreamer. I’ve had big dreams, little dreams. Nonsense dreams, scary dreams. I worked hard for many years attempting to discern between the frivolous and the fantastic as seen in my dreams.

And then I met a Native American woman who told me: No one can interpret another’s dreams. They belong to him alone. Each person must look at this story, seen only by him.  Figure it out yourself. Pray about it. The answer is within you. Go about your business. More will come to  you.

Now, I don’t want to analyze any more. A theory holds that characters in dreams are part of us, but I don’t like them. At least not the adults in the dream. I worry about that seemingly lost male child. I want to comfort him.

I awaken feeling somehow that the gray-haired man and the flighty woman are keeping me from doing so.

So I let it be, I wait, and try to do on waking what gives me solace:

~tending to the garden

~ writing with dear friends, fellow writers.

There’s still the sneaking suspicion that the little boy wants or needs something.

And then I remember a dream from years ago.  In the dream, then, the boy came to me, wanting my company. Maybe it was the same little boy.  In that dream, I took his hand and took him to a huge gathering. So much was going on there. People of all nations came, met, sang, danced.

A kind of pow wow. But more. People of every color, every culture were there. People who had passed, and people who still live. Everyone.

They were in a circle. The drum was talking to them, and they moved around the circle. In it, I’m wearing my shawl, holding his hand, dancing around with them. With my relatives, with everyone. In that dream, we were all related.

What do I tell them, the boy, the man, the woman in this dream?

No, I don’t want to analyze it.

I go into the kitchen and cook some oatmeal with raisins, and make coffee, and drink it with evaporated milk. I feel warm and satisfied.

And then I think:

I’m going to hear the drum, you can come with me, or not, it’s up to you.

Come, on  son, we’ll find a way to dance to the drum again.

April 24, 2013 ~ revised 12-19-16

Copyright Suzanne 2016

In loving memory of Fern Catherine YoungBear

May not be copied without written permission. May be shared only if not changed and if this site is acknowledged.









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Poem written years ago. Brought up to NOW. May be shared only if no changes are made and this site is acknowledged. May not copy without written permission of the author.


  1. 11/27/1994

There is a season of bleakness

A condition of doubt.

I want to eradicate this relic of smallness,

Rebuild the fortress,

Make of myself

A castle of stone.

Stone doesn’t weep, doesn’t splinter,

Doesn’t echo within itself.

It holds steady…

But I cannot kill it

This doubt, this small uncouthness, pain of fear.

I cannot be a murderer,

Cannot take my eyes from its plain face:

Quavering, ashamed,

But real.

Who am I? What will I do?

One day the words will be rearranged.

Today I need to see doubt as food

Ingest it, feel its weight.

Small and dense but worthy.

A kind of sustenance, after all.

  1. 2/? /1995

I’ve held steady

The chant of truth through turmoil, the

Continuity beneath harsh words, opposition;

God beneath the quarreling feet.

Raised voices, harsh voices, troubles, doubt: I’ve seen them all.

A still, blue flame

Keeps me detached, though no less passionate.

Why pray, chant, or meditate?

Why do anything at all?

Won’t life act as itself

No matter what we do?

Still, I need to hum, to fast, to dance, to pray,

To release doubts as birds aflame,

As fire to meet with ALL.

  1. 11/26/2016

Who’s to know what it all means, or if it means anything.

I once knew a nurse who had served in Vietnam.

She wore a necklace which said, “It don’t mean nothin’!”

Her way of living one day, sometimes one minute at a time.

Her way of being present, of radical acceptance of the now.

Her way of not doubting.

All praise to those who love, those who quarrel, those who doubt, and those who live.

Copyright Suzanne 2016



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Tomorrow Is Today


Adobe home


When I was young, I tried to imagine happiness. Even in chaos, in strife. Myself: bright, healthy. Whole. Belonging. Out from under the dark cloud that surrounded me and made me feel helpless.

You see, in childhood, I learned to think negatively, when things went sour, not realizing that there is only today. Not knowing that we create our happiness, or not. By what we do. Or think. Or not.

I’d get my hopes up, hopes for peace in our home. then something out of my control would bring it all crashing down. My father’s binge-drinking, my parent’s struggle because he’d spent all the money, and creditors howled at our door. My mother’s difficulty coping, with a disease that is truly cunning, baffling, powerful.  And yet what was most powerful was my love for them, always.

Then would come their separations, trips southward to stay with Grandma, followed by reconciliation and renewed attempts to “start out fresh,” until the next time. Until finally a divorce, and hard times that followed when Mother went to work and became a single mom.
I learned to think: Yes, I feel good now, but just wait, something bad will happen. It will never get better. It will always be awful. I’ll never be loved. I’ll always be alone. I can’t trust anyone. People will not be there for me.

Never, always. Dysfunctional thinking. Stinkin’ thinkin’.

I learned never to ask for anything, even if I was hungry. Even if my shoes felt tight, and my hair was tangled, and my class- mates called me ugly. I learned to watch my mother to see what mood she was in before I approached her. I  learned to surrender to my father’s playfulness and giggle with anxiety because in the next hour he could be throwing something across the room.

I once said to Mother, “Maybe he’s dead,” when he didn’t arrive yet again. She hollered at me, “Don’t  ever say that!”

I learned to listen for the crunch of gravel on the driveway at 3 am which meant Dad had gotten home safely. That he wasn’t dead.

I didn’t know that the way I was thinking was only that: a way of thinking. I only knew that I felt like a leaf in the wind.  I felt that others knew something I did not: how to be happy.  I came to the false conclusion  that  I was unlucky, flawed, and of course that life could only be harsh.

And yet, also, if I listened, came an inner voice – my soul? –  telling me to keep going. And as an adult, when I did try to do things differently, there was a sense that I was trying to do what I’d never seen being done. Reaching out into space, with nothing beneath me. Inventing another way to live.

Many told me that my thinking was destructive. But how to renew one’s thoughts?

Asking for help was not in my nature; yet that is exactly what I needed to do.

I was taught to be self-sufficient, unto myself. And, paradoxically,  when I did – keep to myself – I felt lonely, left out.

I told myself: If I ask for help, I ‘ll be rejected. If I ask for help, I’ll be ridiculed, or shamed. And yet, if I didn’t, I’d plunge further into darkness.

I can’t tell you exactly when the turning point happened. It wasn’t a straight line: you do this and everything else will be fine.

One step at a time I took the journey. I fell and regained some balance. Wise people told me, “Yes, it was awful then. But that was then, and this is now. You didn’t have choices then, but you do now. How do you want to live?”

Wise people told me: Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides. Everyone is struggling with something.

Until one day at a time I realized I could do anything I set out to do. I could be happy just for today.  I could try to live according to my values. I  could identify what those were. I could make amends wherever possible.  I could do what a good mother does, for myself, and for my children. I could make choices when I thought I had none. I could take baby steps until I felt that I  could take  bolder ones.

I tell myself, still,  (good mother that I am), even though I’m now almost old, to get up, to go walk, to brush my teeth, comb my hair ( in the back as well as the front). I tell myself, on bad days, to function. And it works. On good days I don’t need self talk. On good  days, and even on bad days, I give thanks.

I tell myself to go swim, while I can, recoiling from the initial shock of cold, but finding gratitude as I glide over the  water. Thanks that I can kick out and in and arms forward, glide on the sparkling blue.

Thankful that, today I can wend my way amid walkways and trees and fallen apples and pine-cones, around brown adobe houses nestled in small neighborly groups.  

To my front door, to two gurgling fountains, and inside, to two aging cats.


Sometime, I must find time again to help others. After all, I’ve always cared about people who need something: help  in an emergency (I volunteered at a hospital during the 1994 earthquake); in a crisis (I volunteered with the Red Cross, delivering food in burned-out areas of civil unrest in LA, 1991).  I’ve assisted in feeding people on holidays at soup kitchens in Los Angeles, in Albuquerque. I’ve helped give warm clothing to street people in Albuquerque during our coldest of winters.

I have never belonged to groups, only provided assistance as needed.

One of these days, something else will call. And I’ll show up, because this impulse is in my blood.

As a nurse, I saw everything. After years of giving at full- tilt, I burned out from the daily relentless need. I needed to replenish, and I did, in waves. Rest, work, rest, work. So created an uneven pattern which sustained me into a kind of stability. I say a kind of stability because life itself does not remain the same, day in, day out.

Stagnation impedes the flow of life. And yet, things grow from stillness, from darkness. Even from sorrow.

“In sorrow, there is Holy Ground,”said Oscar Wilde.*  Just when we feel the most frightened, feel our worst, we are closest to divine energy.

For now, I am  resting, in twilight. Tomorrow is on the way.

For now, I walk, I swim, I give thanks, for tomorrow is today.

Suzanne copyright 2016

May be shared as long as this site is mentioned, and nothing is changed.

May not be copied without the written permission of this author.

*Oscar Wilde- De Profundis

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The Body, Time, The Real

And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.

Kahlil Gibran  ~ The Prophet


Inside myself, I am real. I look out as if I were still vibrant. I look out from the aging, sometimes tired- for- no -reason  form and wonder  what happened. Where did SHE go? The pretty one. The lean one.  The energetic one. The face and body that I took for granted. As happens in youth.

I’ve lived 70 years. I don’t want to die.

The inner me. Who still loves sights and scents and sounds and touch.

Yet the body, Oh, the body, the waning continues.

Thankfully, my cats don’t care. Nor my old friends. Nor my friends in general. Still, it’s good to talk to those who remember HER. We laugh at old pictures, at old memories. We remember the trouble, and the pain, and the joy.

I told my dentist (as he replaced a broken crown) that I didn’t like what growing older does to the body. I asked him: Even though I wear hearing – aides, can you still face me when you speak?

I keep up the motion, attend the maintenance appointments.

For her, for the real me, I keep writing, for that is part of who I am, and I need to keep her alive.

I keep up friendships, make new ones, walk on wooded trails with a group, go to TED talks, listen to music, read and re-read favorite books. I go to museums, and explore thrift stores.

And I awaken too early and I still feel dread, as I have since childhood,  in those early morning hours, until I get up and move and tell myself:

You have to go walk, because the feelings of dread are chemical. You know this. You know you will feel better.

So I get up and walk and write now by candle light since the sun rises later, and yes I feel better. Much better.

Way back in my late teens I read “The Prophet,” by Kahlil Gibran. I thought I’d read it again today, but alas,  he didn’t write about aging.  He wrote about time.

He said: Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?….And is not time even as love is, undivided and spaceless?

I wish that I hadn’t paid so much attention to my outsides. What I mean is, attention to the false. To envy, perpetrated by advertisement. To trying to look like a model or a movie star. I wish, instead, that I had paid more attention to the real me. To nurturing her. To being who I am.

In Portland Oregon, they respect aging. If you buy a train ticket to get to the airport, and you are 65 or more, you purchase one, not for seniors, but  for “honored citizens.”

Having thoughts, looking back, remembrance is part of honored development, I believe. We live the way we are supposed to live, we learn what we are supposed to learn along that way. Living gives us opportunity to do so.

We are more than organisms, we are dynamic by simply being. We don’t stand still. Every part of us hums in motion and energy, which moves outward. We are never really alone, then, as we quiver.

And yet, I miss her, the young one. I miss youthful folly, youthful stupidity, followed by moments of guilt, or jealousy or humility. I miss the rising and falling. And rising again.

I’ve given up on being rich or married or famous. Once, I wished for all of those things. I realize that what I really wanted was expansion. Of mind, of soul. Of experience.


Longing, I see, is part of being alive. Fulfillment is accepting what is, and yet doing what we can to heed burning desires. Challenging our divisions and creating space around them. Our bodies are finite, but not our spirit.

We make choices. I’m choosing to continue what I can. Writing and art is at the center. Balance means keeping oneself from crumbling away at the edges of being.

Balance keeps me: Undivided, spaceless.

Copyright Suzanne 2016

May be shared, as long as this site is mantioned. May not be copied without my written permission







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Created from morning writing exercises inspired by Julia Cameron. Copyright Suzanne 2016


Making my bed each morning

Walking, striding, briskly

Washing dishes in hot soapy water

Gardening and digging in dirt, patting the flowers hello

Writing morning pages almost every morning

Giving thanks every day, thank you, wado (Cherokee), wopila  (Lakota)

Praying, as often as breathing

Reading at night before bed

Thinking of my sons, their wives, my grandkids, my friends, (old and new) in my heart forever

CHERISHING – what is greater than myself

All of creation,

You and me on our journeys, meeting up

Air and space around me as I walk

Breezes making the trees talk

Wind talking loudly, moving the world

Gurgling little fountains in my yard forever

Water strong and bold, small and gentle

The oceans, the rivers and streams, the springs, the ponds and pools

The salmon, thousands, rushing toward the ocean from South Salmon Creek

Dirt, earth, growth, splendor, waning, earth, dirt

Mountain, rock, stone, pebble

Lava, fire, heat, fuel

Scents : pine, sweet flowers, vanilla, clean new dirt, wind of storm, coming soon. Sweet-smelling sheets. Popcorn, popping.

Baby skin

Sparkly eyes

Furry creatures


Voices voices voices

Tears shared

Words words words

Colors bright, true not muted, not muddy

Sounds of melody, or bass rock, repeated refrains. Not screechy or harsh or strident


Little red wagons

Blue paring knife which fits in my hand perfectly, from Mother’s kitchen after she passed

Phone messages, voices I can’t bear to erase, even though you are gone

Photographs of loved ones treasured, framed, pinned on the wall across the page, on the shelf

Books I’ve read and re-read at least twice

Black heavy cast iron skillet always on the front burner

Handmade quilts, made with her one hand

Decorations made of buttons and wire, made when I couldn’t sleep

Old cotton purple dress I throw on each summer and it still fits, but differently

Winter socks and cotton leggings and sweaters and layers beneath

Jeans true blue, worn and light and soft

FOOD – hearty

Sourdough bread from San Francisco

Cookies, chunky to sink your teeth in and chew

Casseroles of chicken and pasta, or chicken and rice

Eggs basted or scrambled or put in a quiche or hard boiled with salt and pepper

Sweet potatoes,

Food I make from scratch: chili, soups, cakes

Salads with blue cheese and berries, or with eggs and salami and onions and pepperoncini or with asparagus, walnuts and blue cheese

Milk evaporated for drinks, whole for drinking

Coffee with milk; cold brew or hot brew

Tea with milk

Sharp cheddar cheese

Corn bread, corn cakes, polenta, Frito corn chips, corn on the cob, corn on the stalk in my garden


Guacamole made of avocado, onion, chili, lime

Watermelon salad with onion, jalapeno, blue cheese, lime

Graham crackers with marshmallow and chocolate

Grilled meat, chicken, fish my oldest son has made on the grill

The strong coffee my youngest son makes

Sweet and salty and crunchy

Food made with love


Art made with love

Love in every breath

All my relations

Copyright 2016 Suzanne








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Three AM, Mother and Child

“It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.”
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Three AM,0300, on a moonlit night. My baby cries.

Babies don’t  have a rhythm yet. They  start to develop a body coordination and  memory from the head down.  Like a wave of sentience, a wave of self-empowerment, the current of development travels downward in their new bodies.

Nurses check at intervals, to see what strength there is, what focus and awareness has opened. They don’t look at it as a race, but rather as a progression.*

My son was now three months old. He’d been born sturdy, strong. He had a lusty cry, a strong appetite. He was a solid, sweet bundle of baby humanity.

The baby has awakened, and I have gone to him.  A soft light comes through his nursery window. The gauzy  moonlight touches the room, illuminates his round perfect head.

Picking him up from the crib, I sit down with him in the turquoise wooden rocker which my husband, who is now sleeping, has painted, for resting  in these early morning moments.

Soon, I will have an extraordinary moment, a glimpse into mystery, and all its glory.

I put him to my full, aching breast. We are both relieved; me, for the release of tension as he suckles, and he, for the warm sweet nourishment I now provide.

He looks into my eyes. He focuses now,and with his free, sweet, chubby hand, he pats my chest rhythmically. Gulp, pat. Gulp, pat. Gulp, pat. Can you hear it? It is music to my ears. I am enthralled.

We rock in the silence for a moment, the only sound, his happy swallowing.

Then, he stops. Stops gulping, stops patting.

And then, he looks. Really looks. Into my eyes. Not just a flicker.  Holding. Holding my eyes. Holding, holding.

I see, in his now wide-open gaze, a second of understanding. I see, looking into his, an experience of who he is, of who we are, not just mother and son, but as selves who are both becoming.

I’m a shy, socially awkward, frightened young mother. Much of that will change over the years, but not all.

In this profound moment,  I see his soul, and more, the soul of all that is. It swirls all around us and through us and with  us. It cares for us, all of us. It is silver and blue and pink and green and loud and soft and everywhere. 

And then, he resumes drinking deeply, patting me once again, closing  his eyes.

I rock him gently and hold him near, not wanting to ever let go. Knowing that he has only been loaned to me, and I, to him. It is a moment in 2 lives; one which he will undoubtedly not remember, nevertheless one of deep profound connection.

He falls asleep. I put him into the crib and stumble back to bed. I wish I could tell my husband, but he too, sleeps, his body replenishing for the next day, for work, for fatherhood. He won’t be with us forever. He’ll leave, seeking something.  But nothing will take this away from me, away from us, away from a mother and child.

The moving moment will be with me for all of my life. One I remember as years go by, when I sometimes feel despondent and afraid. A moment which keeps me going onward, on through to the other side of despair.

Now 40 plus years later, after remembering it often, I still give thanks for it.

Alone with my sweet baby, alone with me in an enchanted hour, taking only what I could give, what I so gladly gave.

Thank you Creator. All My Relations.


Copyright 2016

  • see below:





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Passings:The Wound From Which We Heal – Part Two

Part two of a two-part series, starting with “Passings.” Caution dear reader. Some may be offended by this. I tell the truth, not out of meanness, but in the spirit of healing. I publish the personal to appeal to the universal. Read on if you wish. Take what you like and leave the rest. 

 ~ Suzanne copyright 2016

Every  step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you. ~ Sting

Each of us has wounds. They can result in feelings of desperation, fear, guilt, shame, hopelessness.

I’ll just say it. My wound was abandonment. In fact, it scares me, still, to tell it, as if it’s lurking around the corner. But it’s the truth. The wound from which I have been healing. All my life. Only now, thank God,  I know what to do if it returns. When it returns. Let me tell you more.

How did mine happen? Here are memories, fragments:

Born early, put into a wide sterile incubator, flailing my arms;

Being forced by my grandmother, while my mother was still fatigued from my sister’s birth, to go away, as if I were being thrown away. Wearing my green plaid skirt and screaming as they carried me out the door. Of course, it was only temporary, but I didn’t know that, at the age of four, I thought I was being replaced;

My mother, despondent over our circumstances, throwing herself into deep, swirling water despite the fact that she couldn’t swim. Me, aged 9, rescuing her. Screaming, calling her back. Wading in the water towards her. I wrote about this in another post, Underwater).

My father leaving because of it. No, not because of it. Because he couldn’t look at his part, at his out- of- control alcoholism. He stood there watching. He didn’t know what to do. He ran.

These were not bad people. They were people I loved, dearly, utterly.

Why do I write this?  See, I know people out there have experienced some of what I have experienced, or worse. I want you to know there is hope.  To know you won’t die from it. While it was harsh, it was only a moment, a memory. You can survive.

When a child  rescues a parent, there’s no room to be a child. No way  to tell the truth. Or to have childish needs.  No room for healthy disagreement, let alone achievement.

Alcoholism, if untreated, unless there’s recovery, results in suicide, homicide or death. It affects the whole family.

Suicidality (known in the psychology world as “suicidal ideation”),  in a parent creates a fear, a desperation, and a painful, unhealthy unspoken agreement in a child.

The child thinks she’s the cause, and that she must prevent it from ever happening again. The child thinks:

Don’t leave me. I’ll be good. I’ll die if you go.  If you die, I won’t ever see you again. We will be apart forever. And ever and ever and ever. Oh,  I’ll have to do everything in my power to keep you. I’ll watch you, I’ll anticipate your every need. I’ll  be good. I’ll never leave you, no matter what. I won’t disagree with you. I won’t outshine you. I won’t become the artist, or the writer, or the speaker.  I won’t live my life.

Instead, I’ll heal your sickness. I’ll sooth your fevered brow. I’ll never ask for anything. I’ll always be there for you. I won’t rock the boat. I won’t stand up for myself.

Later, people will walk over me. How could they not?  They  won’t want to, but they’ll feel stifled, obligated. They’ll hate seeing my face, clinging. Feel suffocated by the lack of emotional space. They’ll feel me judging them, wanting them to be perfect. No one can live with that.

I couldn’t live with it, either. My desperation spoke:

Someone, hand me a line. Teach me the secret, the secret of being loved. Help me!

I’ll try to be like you. Or you. Or you.  I’m flawed. I know that you have a secret that I don’t have. And I don’t know how to ask for it.  I watch how you do it, charm the people around you. I want to know. 

First,  we have to seek:

God grant me courage. Courage to face the wound, do something  different.

And before that we need to admit how pitiful we are, in spite  of how we wish we were. Admit that we have no clue.

You mean that I push people away with my so-called good intentions? I push them away because I don’t love myself?  Well, how do I do that? How do I love this pitiful two-legged being?

The search went something like this:

Meditations, retreats, conferences. Psychic readers. Palm readers. Horoscopes. Churches, temples. fasts, quests. Psychologists, gurus. Twelve- step meetings.

With each step, courage grew.

And that is what it takes to face a wound. Courage.

Blind, like a bat throwing its radar against the cavern wall, I navigated.

I read, prayed, chanted, meditated. Danced, walked, ran, knelt . Wrote, painted, drew. I returned to school. And, later, I returned again. Trying to become a new person.  Thinking I needed to eradicate her. The desperate one. I found out I was wrong.

Friends, relatives, strangers, all had wisdom. All gave a piece.

I took the pieces, and tried and stumbled and was disappointed and I thought I was still the old me but no that wasn’t  true because the moment we try something different, we are different. 

I learned to ask the right questions:

What will I do? What won’t I do? What do I want to do? What don’t I want to do?

I asked myself these things. I realized I couldn’t answer those questions. And they were important. So I started to think about who I am, which the questions helped provide.

What I will do? Try to be kind, respectful. Give what I can. Tell the truth. Set boundaries. Nicely.  In a good way. Respectfully.  Live up to my word.

And, do something I’ve always wanted to do. Figure out what that is. Live one day at a time. Cherish my friends and family.


Pray for my enemies. Pray for myself.

Take action and review my thoughts if I feel old hurts.

Talk kindly to myself, catch myself thinking negatively.

Remember: truth, beauty, holiness. Pray, trust,  live.

What I won’t do? Many things (including some that I used to do but had to stop doing): Lie. Curse. Call people names. Hurt my body. Hurt your body. Or Let you hurt me.  Hurt any living thing. Talk politics. Argue.  Allow despair to take hold.

What do I want to do? Finish what I’ve started. Become a nurse. (I did). Paint more pictures (I did). Finish the writing projects I’ve started. (I finished many). Return to school (I did). Now: Try to paint again. Keep writing. Travel before I die. See the Northern lights. Dance. Sing. girl-562156_640

What I don’t want to do? Play cards. Talk too long on the phone. Go to South America.  Be around too many people at once. Wear high heels. Wear panty – hose.

The desperation is gone. Yes, I am still afraid.

I didn’t eradicate her: abandonment is inside me, a part of me. Sometimes things get riled up again, but now I know what to say to to you:

You  want to go? There’s the door.  Maybe we’ll miss each other, maybe we won’t. I can live with that. You don’t have to stay, or do anything. You can be yourself. I’ll be myself. If we get along, great!  But I like my own company now.

I can do what I didn’t think I could ever do. I can look at burning desires, and try new things, even though I’m growing old.

The wound from which we suffer, heals us. There is never total healing. There is a different way of looking at it. 

I can live with paradox. In fact, I love it. I can hold two opposing thoughts at a time.

I love you and I hate you. I want to, I don’t want to. I’m great and I’m awful. So are you. So are we all.

Peace be with you. Yes, I wish you peace, I wish you self-understanding. I wish you a sense of gratitude, humility, and contentment. I wish you healing.

Suzanne copyright 2016









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Passings – Part One

Dear reader: This is part one of a two-part series. These memories are  from the point of view of the eldest of three children, (of my father’s second wife). Got that? When telling a truth, some are offended. No meanness is meant with these words, only the expression of my piece of the truth, and of hope. May not be copied without written permission from the author. If shared, this site must be credited.

Copyright Suzanne 2016

I seem to be on a road, standing still. ~ Annie Dillard (Holy The Firm, pg 68)

Juice flows in. We are infused, our waters receiving the flavor of our lives. We drift and collide with others, whose essences mingle with ours. Parents, brothers sisters aunts uncles cousins grandparents. Friends. Animals. Pets. Plants, trees. All combining with our essence. All one tide.

I started out dry. Fell from the womb early, landed in a glass bottle called an incubator, in which my arms flailed and my mother, weak and helpless, watched. I could have gone blind, for that often happened to incubator preemies in the 40’s. I lucked out. It took a long time for me to see it this way. I formed impressions.

Christmas eve. A phonograph playing Jingle Bells. The scratchy needle fitting into the round, turning record, on the small blue and white phonograph player.  My beautiful dark-haired mother; my sturdily built, short-haired dad. Santa Clause is comin’. The next day: a glass half full of milk, a bitten cookie on a white ceramic saucer.

Thunder, lightning, power- out darkness, my mother’s voice: don’t be afraid. Smoke in the air; my father smoking.

Mother sitting in the bathroom, telling me not to move, calling for my father: Walt, come in here right now.

My father’s thumb cut and bleeding as he puts a coffee can lid over a rat-hole. We move. 

Moving became our story. Away from relatives,on a road of isolation.

Life gives us new perceptions. If we are willing to see them. My recollections differ from those of a cousin, who lived near my father’s relatives, and whom I did not “meet” again until  years later.

He knew them – my father’s people –  personally,  as we, owing to the long distance and lack of communication, did not. I will add his description later.

First, what I remember:

My paternal grandfather, my father’s father, passed when I was fourteen.  When we were 2000 miles apart. I hardly knew him, just that he was from Germany, he was quiet, kind and rich. I remembered his image from the age of five:

He sat on the porch. I remember him this way: He wore a button-up sweater, even in spring. He loved to sit and look at the beautiful blue hydrangeas. They were huge! He died there, on the porch, I was told, as if napping.

Love was round and blue

Love was round and blue ~





Grandmother A-, my father’s mother, had white hair and a stern demeanor. She was a matriarch, whose 3 sons and one daughter did her bidding. I never saw her after age five, although I remember seeing her rolling dough on the kitchen counter, making pies .

Mother told me that we had been living with them in their big old H-Street mansion, since our father was between jobs. Our mother had just given birth to our sister. Grandmother A- ordered me to the home of an aunt and uncle, after telling our mother: You can’t stay here in the hospital, your husband can’t afford it. Being jobless, my father could not take a stand for his wife. Or for me. Mother returned from the hospital with my sister.

I was sent away, after seeing her.  I wore a green plaid skirt that day. I was screaming as I was pulled out the door.

They had a little farm, my aunt and uncle,and I remember the sound of the tall corn leaves rustling in the breeze. I remember playing with cousins, who tricked me often, leaving me alone in the corn field, but always coming to retrieve me.

After spending a few weeks at the little farm, I grew to like it. Then, my father got a job. My mother came to retrieve me, and I felt sad about leaving, for there had been peace and order there; regular meals at table. Regular habits that make you feel safe. Brushing your teeth nightly, bathing with a cousin, J-saying prayers each night before bed, which I shared with her.  Now I lay me down to sleep. It was a place where corn stalks grew ten feet high, and tomatoes spread out  in the garden.  I still love the earthy, somewhat acidic scent, the shiny red skin and thick stems of growing tomatoes. And the rustle of corn as it meets the blue sky. 

The train: I rejoined the family, and we went West, away from paternal family, never to return. Our father went ahead of us. Our mother, carrying the baby in her arms, led me from compartment to compartment on the train, the El Capitain. I remember the rocking, clattering, swaying of that large metal womb. I remember the anxious look on my mother’s face as she carried the baby and urged me forward. Still, to this day, trains soothe me.

Our father’s only sister, E. died at her mother’s home. She had never married, the story told  that her mother never approved of any of her suitors. Our mother said that she loved E. who used to babysit us. She had been a writer, and her letters were in blue ink,  I loved getting those letters, seeing the blue, wide, rounded cursive and seeing the word love at the bottom. Love has always been round and blue to me.

Hearing about grandmother A’s death years later when I was fourteen, meant nothing to me. I heard my father say “she was a great old gal,” and I couldn’t believe it. I just said I was sorry for his loss.

And yet, a different experience reported by distant cousins, told 60 years later.  As I heard this, I felt a new compassion for the grandmother I never knew:

Grandpa died of a stroke while sitting on the back porch of their house on ___. He had just returned from walking to the A&P store down the block. Grandma was with him.
She (Grandma) died in bed at our house. She had come to live with us after her daughter’s passing.She died peacefully with Dad and our family at her side.

The other side:

My maternal great- grandmother. She and my grandmother lived half a state away. (I wrote about Georgia and Maurice in another post:2/26/16).

I remember great grandma J- as large, in loose dresses and sturdy shoes below thick ankles. Her face was round, her hair thick, her mouth a wide  slash. Dark-spirited, but then she had suffered in that convent, or so the story went. She was mean, she  made and drank moonshine, with which she acquired several husbands, including a mayor of the small town in which she lived, and later, a Swede,my great-grandfather, who worked as a boilermaker, who dressed in dapper clothes and inspected his daughters’ clothing for straight seams.

Great grandmother and grandfather 1924

Great grandmother and grandfather 1924

And yet, she sang with an angel voice, my great grandmother. And grew medicinal herbs. She “caught” babies, as a midwife . She slathered goose-grease on my mother’s chest when the cough came. She gave my mother castor oil, for daily habit.

She was Indian,  in the days when you kept that quiet. Or be punished. She had been punished, in that convent, into which she had been thrown when her mother died. Her siblings, whom we never knew, scattered. She suffered, but never discussed those early days.

In her sweet moments, she sang lullabies to my mother in Cherokee (Tsalagi). She died saying she had been poisoned. They found thousands of dollars beneath her mattress. Spent quickly by those who found her. None of it trickled down to those of us who were 500 miles away.

I felt bad for her, and now wish that I had gotten to know her better, learned about the medicinal herbs, told her I loved her.

 1955-56,  A year in which we had no nearby relatives, and few friends,  for this was the era of the Mad- Man. Madison Avenue advertising, emphasis on appearances, era of  one car, and the wife stays home. Of  partying after the paycheck, spending it before finally returning home, broke. Of bill collectors putting a foot in the door, threatening. Yes, they did that. I remember seeing Mother distraught, as she asked him politely to leave.

My true intimates were a beloved white shaggy mongrel dog and lithe, slinky black cat.  The dog always settled down beside us and guarded us. The cat curled warmly at the foot of my bed, there in the mornings. We were far from those cornfields, from  that safe rustling, from that blue sky.

In that year, both of my intimates were lost within a week’s time. The dog got caught under someone’s house and injured himself trying to get out. He had to be put down. The cat was hit by a car. My solace was gone.

Isolation. We were so far from family; grandparents on either coast, no uncles or aunts or cousins nearby, that ours was a pitiful time.  An isolated time, compounded by the disease of alcoholism. There were no neighbors or church families to turn to. We fended for ourselves. 

And then, on a gray cold day, in a few moment’s time, my childhood passed away. My mother attempted suicide, and I rescued her. Unable to swim, she plunged into deep water. That event colored everything in the mother-child dyad, for years to come. (See the post: Underwater – published February 9, 2014.)

From isolation,  I always wanted to belong. From a dry beginning, my journey became saturated with desperation. But this is only part of the story. Because with help, and new tools, we can experience renewal.


I am standing. Still. 60 years later. With gratitude, for what has been given, what has been taken, for all has been given. (From: Babette’s Feast, by Isaak Dinesen).


Each of us has passings, stories of loss, and of redemption. Of anger and forgiveness and compassion. Of round, blue love. In Part Two I will show what happened, and what beauty was to come.

Peace be with you.

Suzanne copyright 2016







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Stomp Dance

A sacred  dance of the Cherokee People.

Once they could not practice, due to brutal laws against it (approximately 1870-1934). Federal agencies punished anyone on reservation for practicing ceremonies and feasts.

Thus, native people were denied freedom of religion guaranteed in the first amendment.

Native peoples were not granted citizenship until 1924, “partially in recognition of the thousands of Indians who served in the armed forces during WWI. ” See link below.

Freedom to practice ceremonies feasts and practices was not given legally until 1978 in the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. However, many legal cases arose, and amendments were created by congress as a result. See the link below.

Disclosure:This author is white, with Swedish, Scot, German, and Cherokee heritage. Never living with the cultures of any of these groups, I nevertheless learned some “Indian ways” – such as self-sufficiency and love of nature- from my limited exposure to my half-Cherokee, half Scot great grandmother. I subsequently obtained a bachelor degree in Native American Studies at Sonoma State University. Native American issues have always been important to me.

Here is a poem I wrote about the Stomp Dance:

Hey – hey!


Hoo hey!

Hoo hey!

Ooh – hey!

Ooh – hey!



Cherokee words sung by the head singer,

repeated by the chorus of men and the jangling of the shells behind them.

Circle in the middle of the

circle man woman

man woman

women with shells, with cans filled and rattling,

circling around, around, around the world.

Women carrying the rhythm, as we all do

in the never-ending circle

the man, the woman,

it can’t be done without both,

holding up the world,

keeping the world going.

Man, woman circle circle stomp stomp sing out sing out sing  up

follow the head man,

circle circle,

all in a circle.

Night visions:

the men and the  women reaching  up from the circle

to the stars in the dark of night.

They had to do it in secret back then,

surrounded by stars dancing, dancing until they were in the stars.

We  are in the stars,

we go out and return,

one with the people,

one with Everywhere Spirit

man woman circle circle, song song

stomp stomp.

Reaching into tomorrow,

making tomorrow well

with singing, dancing, circle, circle.


Thank you!

Suzanne copyright 2015







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