Poem: A Choice of Chairs

A profoundly wise poetic metaphor from my friend Tom

Quarry House

A Choice of Chairs

I will take one chair.
And you will take another.
Perhaps close.
Perhaps not.

There are many chairs to choose from
and we are taught to be safe first,
so distance might be in order.

A few chairs away,
not so far as to be rude,
but far enough
to discourage conversation
or the possibility of a pass.

The textbook way.
And the textbook would approve.

There is danger in closeness.
The danger of being heard,
or hearing. The danger
of finding something you had not realized
was lost. The danger of caring.
Mattering. Perhaps even,

So be careful where you sit,
how you hold yourself,
even where, and how long you look.
A life might be changed,
just like that,
in where you choose
to sit.

About this poem

A poem about all choices, not just chairs. We make them all day long, and…

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This Morning

So fellow travelers, when I woke up this morning , as on most mornings, the first thing I saw was a photo of our two daughters. 


However, unlike any other morning, this morning when I saw their beautiful faces I realized I was thankful they actually do not look more Asian.
And that breaks my heart. 

And then I thought I might not be able to finally set out on my cross-country road trip because while I will soon be fully vaccinated against one viral threat, there isn’t a vaccine which would protect an older Asian-American woman against the viral threat of racist hate.  And that fills my heart with rage.


And then I thought I am actually grateful my soon-to-be 91 year old Mom, who like me was born in Japan, has been safely quarantined in my parents home for over a year. And that brought a flood of tears. 

So I took my dog out and finished crying those tears by my slowly thawing backyard pond. And rain began to fall, as if all of Heaven was crying with me.

And suddenly I was aware of  a sound I have not heard in about five months.

Robin’s morning song
Chorus of hope and healing
Even as we grieve

Time will tell if the leaders of this country have finally had enough of senseless violence. I know reached that cliff long ago and you can bet your chopsticks I’m not letting fear keep me home.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love, not fear, lead the way.

Sally’s Story

So fellow travelers, today I’m taking a break from my own“ memoirs of a pandemic year” to honor a very special team of women and one very lucky dog.

This is Sally. 

On March 8th, sweet Sally  succumbed to congestive heart failure. This is her story, shared with permission of all the amazing earth angels involved.

One year ago, on a cold February day, Sally’s Mom, Susan Popper, succumbed to liver cancer.

Our mutual friend Donna Nicosia, who was by her side in her last days, promised she would find a good home for Sally.

So, Sally traveled with Donna to a temporary foster home with Donna’s friend Bette, where she was cared for with gentle, loving kindness. Bette’s two other dogs kept her company while all the arrangements were made for Sally’s new life. A network of friends made plans and gathered resources to help Sally get to her new home, all the way across the country.  On March 11th, the same day the World Health Organization declared we were in a global pandemic, Donna kissed Sally farewell and bravely put her on a plane. Sally flew from the East to West coast and was met by her new mom, Kathy Cary.  Her journey and safe arrival was a brilliant ray of hope illuminating the darkness of the approaching storm about to upend everyone’s lives.

Sally spent her last year with one of the best dog moms I know and I know a lot of dog moms. She has been cherished with the kind of deep, unconditional love that comes from a heart that knows what it is like to feel lost and alone. Shy, sweet Sally was welcomed by Kathy’s own pack of pups who helped her open up; after all Sally had been through a lot of change in just one month. Kathy has said, Sally’s resilience was, in many ways, an inspiration through what would become a year of unimaginable disruption. Sally’s story from loss to hope and love was a reminder of the good that comes from genuine human connections. Her departure from our world created a wave of grief for the friends connected by her journey, yet I know we all found reason to celebrate knowing her Spirit surely found a joyful welcome.  For her and the friends who brought her home, twice, my own heart found these words.

 One heart says goodbye
As two are reunited
Blessed by friendship’s gift

~ Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way ~

Kathy Cary is an artist and member of a creative collective which was the original connecting point for all of us. Her inspirational work can be seen on Instagram @kathycary

Dreaming of Snow Geese

While we’ve flipped the calendar page from February to March, the ever fickle weather gods of CNY have decided to flip backwards from February to January making the first week of March monotonous, blustery and grey. Even our dog agrees it’s unpleasant for walking.

Worse still, I imagine any spring migrants are feeling pretty discouraged about their decision to show up early; single digit wind chills and blinding bands of lake effect snow are terrible conditions for being a bird or a birdwatcher!

 However, looking back one year ago to the beginning of what would become the last week of the life we knew, there is a different scenario.

A year ago, after traveling to Dallas for a business conference, my husband was visiting with our kids in Portland, Oregon. At that time the number of reported Covid19 cases in the US could be counted on one hand.  The crisis unfolded quickly during the weeks he was away; I was still working at our high school, spending my mornings in classes with my assigned students and my afternoons with one of those students at a career training program.  I was actually enjoying the solitary time at home. I made a respectable dent in the clutter which has accumulated over 30 years of living and raising a family in our big house. I had complete freedom to take long hikes with our dog, to eat whatever and whenever I preferred and, best of all, to head out on spontaneous birding quests. Which is how a wondrous experience with a massive migration of snow geese transpired.

Watching the video again, it feels like something that happened in a dream from a life someone else lived a very long time ago. Only  it’s not.  It remains an inspiring experience of genuine awe, one of those miraculous moments when time stands still. I click <replay> and the confusion, frustration, fear and grief of being separated from my family while living through a mismanaged pandemic, evaporates. For a few minutes, the feeling of that moment returns. It is a sensation of being connected to a transcendent energy I cannot adequately describe but somehow recognize deep in my soul. One year may have passed but the memory reminds me of the possibilities for adventure yet to be lived in the year yet to come. And right on cue, an email from the Montezuma Audubon center brings news the snow geese have started to return.

~ Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready ~

The video I captured on my phone can be viewed here https://youtu.be/1fhBgofT9OM

The Error of Our Ways

So fellow travelers, much of the currently circulating narrative looks back on where we all were a year ago before “life as we knew” it changed so dramatically. The post I was crafting with a similar focus has a distinctly depressing tone and heaven knows I really do not want to add to the pervasive pandemic fatigue and depression which permeates our days. Not when we finally have glimmers of hope, backed by science and facts, shining at the end of this long dark ordeal.
A conversation I had with a bright young artist sparked a shift in my perspective. It centered around the often frustrating effort finding and correcting errors in our work.  On so many levels, that is actually what we have been doing as individuals, families, organizations and communities. The example she shared with me, pictured below with her permission, feels like  a metaphor.

Artwork by
Pragya Tripathi

As she explained how she had to redo the entire design because she didn’t catch the misspelled word until it was done, I had to look closely to find the error. When I did, the phrase created it’s own word magic which became this haiku:

Emrace the errors
for from these gifts of learning
we grow into Truth

While the societal issues revealed this past year are vastly more complicated to correct than simple misspellings, to me there is a parallel; things have gone unchanged for so long because we believed the change needed to restructure entrenched systems was impossible without “starting all over.”  Along comes a year where a complete disruption of our lives left no choice but to confront the dysfunction in everything from a personal to global scale. Now over 360 days later, one way or another, we either emrace or embrace the inevitable because change is already underway.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Here is Pragya’s final rendition

By all means please do follow
her on Instagram as

A New Song

Greetings, fellow travelers!


Yes it has been a long and silent month here. The struggle to find ways to adapt has moved to a deeply personal level and my energies have been focused elsewhere. I am ok, yet many I know are not. And, the ongoing warfare between narratives troubles me- it has stifled my ability to write coherently. Oh, I continue to journal almost everyday, but rambling rants do not a blog post make! Yet, like the glittering magic of the sunlight on snow, I am finding glimmers of hope. Not long after my last post, I started an online class on the intuitive energy of colors which has helped me reclaim my love for drawing and painting. Not that I’ll be hosting a gallery showing anytime soon, but I am finding great joy and even comfort in my creative efforts.  And slowly but surely the words are coming back as well, as are the migrating voices of Spring. 

Morning symphony
testifies Diversity
is Divine’s desire

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

In the Winter of Peril

“Conflict is seductive- navigate it consciously.”  Lee Harris

So fellow travelers, one week ago here in the United States, new leadership took charge of our country, and in the week since I have become gradually aware of waking up with a growing sense of relief and a marked absence of background anxiety, even as we begin to navigate what President Biden calls our “Winter of Peril”

Not that this shift in leadership means a herd of magical unicorns will bring rainbows of namaste that “heals our country.” Given the backlash I’ve seen so far, a herd of enlightened T-Rexs might be more useful. (Yes I know that is a triceratops in the photo- but come on- have you ever tried to get a T-Rex to stop roaring long enough to take it’s photo? )

Hyperbole aside,  that backlash has done it’s best to reinstate the anxiety created by the trauma of being, as I referenced in my previous post,  “held hostage” for four years. I have struggled to find the balance point between judgement and compassion. While recognizing the intricacies of what forensic psychologists refer to as “shared psychosis” it is still difficult to dig up compassion for people still posting vitriolic comments in response to posts my friends have shared. My own social media feed is fairly calm mainly because I have zero tolerance for BS. Civil discourse on differing opinions are welcome, everything else gets deleted and persistent purveyors of misinformation are unfollowed.
Understanding why  “people who harbor delusional narratives tend to bulldoze over reality in their attempt to deny that their own narrative is false,” ( Scientific American ) has not given rise to the level of compassion I have come to expect of myself.  The best choice I can make right now is to disengage from the irrational diatribe, at least until I have more clarity on how to engage without escalating anger.  So, I will, as a personal mentor recently recommended,  simply “stay in my lane” for a while and draw inspiration from the words of Rev. Silvester Beaman’s inaugural benediction*, “In discovering our humanity, we will seek the good in and for our neighbors, we will love the unlovable, remove the stigma of the so called untouchables, (and) we will care  for our most vulnerable…. Neither shall we learn hatred anymore…”

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Peace settle in our hearts

 Note: *Rev. Beaman’s prayer is well worth hearing in its entirety. Listen to it here https://youtu.be/tjc1dHaC-jA


So fellow travelers, thirteen days ago, at precisely the same time as the clock above my desk shows right now, I was working on a new blog post when my phone started “pinging” with notifications. Determined to focus on writing, I resisted the temptation to pick it up, but then I heard my husband, who was on his lunch break say something. Although I could not discern exactly what he said, the urgency in his voice was unmistakable, so I went downstairs to see what was going on.

Much like this image I shot on a hike last week, at first, I could not make sense of what I saw on the large flat screen TV which dominates the far end of our living room.

When I realized what was happening on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, a switch somewhere deep in my brain flipped on.

It was not until later in the day that a comment from my husband helped me realize what the events on Capitol Hill had triggered in my brain.

I  was  living in the Philippines when President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 23, 1972. It left an indelible impression on my teenage psyche. Since then I have, as my friend Tom Atkins so aptly said in a recent post, tried to “extract sanity from madness.”  In the end, I had to accept that the intensity of my emotional response exhausted my capacity to remain engaged. At which point I am once again reminded that “disengaging” is, in fact, a privilege – one which friends who are BLPOC or survivors of abusive relationships do not have. Yet I cannot provide support or reassurance when my own well of faith is empty. 

So I have spent these days leading up to tomorrow’s Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in deep contemplation, because I know everything we react to externally is a reflection of something within ourselves. I have searched deep into myself to uncover what conflicts are raging, what fuels the fire of my intense anger and why judgment of others has overridden my innately compassionate nature.(Photo of a contemplative sanctuary on the lake trail)

For four years I have felt as if we were being held hostage by a madman, and yes I felt that coming well before the events that exploded on January 6th. I felt increasingly betrayed by those in power who enabled this to escalate and I felt helpless. The more events reinforced that feeling of helplessness and betrayal, the angrier I became. This is the same mindset (albeit for different reasons) of those who violently opposed the Congressional vote on January 6th with one crucial difference-the choice to resort to violence and act with full intent to bring harm to others. 
Our choices always have consequences. The attack cost six people their lives, many more were injured. Accountability is a cornerstone of equitable justice and it has been shamefully scarce in our country’s history when dealing with racism. January 6, 2020 will be forever earmarked as a day of our reckoning for that lack. For that, at least, I am genuinely grateful.
This country has been exposed as anything but “great again.” The effects of allowing racism to run largely unchecked finally hit a broad enough target to expose America’s “greatness” as a myth created by white washing the pervasive and growing inequalities inherent in “the American Way.”
And yet, there is hope it has also generated enough forward momentum to enact lasting change. That’s not going to happen overnight, nor even within four years, but for the first time since January 20, 2016, we will be free again to embrace the potential of a more equitable and justice future for all, not just some, Americans.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

Gentle Blossom

So fellow travelers, yesterday brought a gathering of cousins and another farewell. My husband’s aunt passed from this life peacefully, a week ago today.

Aunt Mary was the oldest and, at 102, also the last surviving of her seven siblings. She always insisted she would live to be 100 and like anything she set her mind to she succeeded beyond expectations.

(Photo: celebrating Mary’s 100th birthday November 2018)
She had no children of her own, so her nieces and nephews became her support system as she aged. Fiercely independent, she held onto her life at home as long as possible and when she moved to into long term care, my husband and his cousins continued to provide additional support and visit when possible. Last spring, Covid19 protocols changed “when possible”  to “not possible.” While our deepest regret is not seeing Mary before she died, it is reassuring to know she received the best of care right through to her last days. She died peacefully of natural causes.
Yesterday morning, I rose early to feed and walk our dog before we headed into the city for her memorial. Sunrise painted the winter sky with brilliant colors of pink and rose. I thought about a plant we brought home from her house ten years ago. The day after we received the news of Mary’s death, it bloomed for the first time in several years. From those two moments, came this haiku in her honor. 

Winter sunrise glows
Sacred flower gently blooms
One soul rises free

(photo: Mary’s Christmas cactus (schlumbergera truncata) Monday Jan 4th)

I am grateful my husband and I were able to gather safely with ten of his fourteen living cousins, many of whom we have not seen in several years.  The Russian orthodox service was beautiful and, even through his mask, the young priest singing the liturgy invoked a beautiful, compassionate angelic presence. I have no doubt Aunt Mary’s soul carries all our love and respect as she continues her journey home. 

Mary Lyboult (neé  Dominica “Minne” Rahalski) November 23, 1918- January 3, 2021

Walk gently on the path my friends and let Love Light the way

America is…

So fellow travelers, this will not be a “zen moment” haiku post….

and for my readers who live outside the maelstrom of the United States, bear with me as I speak directly to my fellow Americans. At best you will gain some insight into what the experience of the past 24 hours has been like for the majority of us.

So fellow travelers here on the ground in the  United States, if you, like me, woke this morning with a pervasive feeling of unease because you do not feel safe in your own country welcome to the daily reality of just over 40% of the US population. Let that sink in and then, before fear paralyzes you, understand that this can be a  “truth will set you free” moment. 

My social media media is full of people declaring “This is not America .”  The point of what happened at the Capitol Building yesterday (in fact exactly 24 hours ago, as I write this) is the clear, in our face truth of This IS America and by that I do not mean this is what America “has become.”
What we witnessed is indeed what America is because the majority of us have ignored racism because we can. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s good because it means you are open to changing that. Even this kid from the Bronx, who felt the sting of being called “slant eyes” and the confusion of being told “Oh, those kids didn’t mean that” when she knew damn well they did, who grew up with a burning desire to make a difference, who made every effort to raise her daughters to live in awareness, whose life and career choices focused on being a champion for the disenfranchised, under represented members of her community, still failed to fully take in what it means to live within a racist power based system.
My one saving grace lies in not being surprised (shaken, yes, but not surprised) by yesterday’s violence; at least I immediately recognized it not as an aberration but as the culmination of years of instigation by the leader our government’s power base willingly sold their souls to. Their one saving grace might be the stark reality which hit as they sheltered under chairs or behind lock office doors. It appears to have had an effect, as they pushed back against fear and refused to be intimidated. Our elected representatives returned to the secured chambers and completed the formal count of electoral college votes and at 3am this morning, certified the results of the Presidential election. Democracy survives, flawed and wounded, though with hope not fatally. 

As a former educator, my colleagues and I know the challenge of “resuming the business at hand” after sheltering in place during an “intruder incident.”  I posted a call on my social media for friends and followers to contact their representatives and express their appreciation. After doing so myself, I took my dog for a long walk yet still felt unsettled. I asked for a sign of hope. What I found was this tiny plant- still bearing brilliant autumn colors, refusing to succumb to the ravages of winter’s killing season.
I knew I needed to do more.

So here I am at the keyboard attempting to put words to this awakening which carries more weight than one haiku would hold.

So Now What?
If what we are finally seeing is not the country we want it to be, where do we go from here? I do not have many answers beyond the simple truths which serves as my personal moral and spiritual compass:
Everything I react to outside myself is a reflection of something within me. So, I ask: what does what I am seeing happening in my country say about me?  By starting with my place in this crisis I refrain from the trap of laying blame as a conveniently “righteous” way of avoiding responsibility for the one sure element I can change- myself. That also does not mean I stop holding others accountable for their actions. The lack of accountability is the main reason “things have come to this.” The BLPOC community has been telling us this is for decades. We need to do more than nod our heads in agreement. This crisis does not end on January 20th; the work of equitable change will go on for years. Expect to hear a lot more about that here and yes, there will zen moment haikus included for balance.

Walk gently on the path my friends and let hope Light the way