Thursday, September 27, 2007

ISHI






















Dr. Saxton Pope, Ishi's physician and friend wrote this in 1916 in a memorial to Ishi, "His were qualities of character that last forever. He was kind; he had courage and self-restraint; and though all had been taken from him, there was no bitterness in his heart." (quote from a children's book, ISHI, by Kathleen Allan Meyer, published in 1980).

Whenever I find myself looking at my life in terms of all that has been lost, I look at this photo of Ishi and think again.

I'll be taking a two-week break from blogging and reading blogs, starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A BIRTHDAY IN SEPTEMBER / REAL DIFFERENT






















First it gets better.
Then it gets worse.
Then it gets real.
Then it gets different.
Then it gets real different.
(Anonymous)

Although I've been in recovery from eating disorders for twenty years, I don't take that for granted. I continue to celebrate two days from the first year of my recovery when I was 36 years old. Remembering those two days is crucial to my continuing recovery.

This is my first year of blogging, so some of you already know about my birthday in May which marks the last day I practiced bulimia in 1987.

September 26, 1987, was the day I realized that my eating disorder was triggered, in part, by refined sugar and alcohol and that if I wanted to be permanently free from bulimia, I would have to stop ingesting those substances. No one told me to do that. It was a decision I made based on experience, a pragmatic decision. It has proven to be the key to 20 years of recovery from a life-threatening disorder which is notoriously difficult to arrest.

What worked for me certainly isn't the standard protocol today when a person with an eating disorder receives treatment from the conventional medical community. In 1987, there were few, if any, treatment centers for eating disorders. I don't recall that medications were prescribed for people with eating disorders at that time.

My story is that I recovered without entering a treatment center or taking medication. I did join a support group which allowed me to find my own way in recovery along with other people who found their own way to live without using food as a drug. Very few people with whom I recovered refrained from alcohol and/or refined sugar, but that is what worked for me. I had a brief but significant relapse in November of 2005, a time when I began eating refined sugar (mainly in the form of chocolate) in a period of severe stress. I didn't go on to practice bulimia, but I did gain 8 pounds in a very short time and developed ocular rosacea from the chocolate. When I stopped eating refined sugar and chocolate, that was the end of the ocular rosacea as well as a return to my normal healthy weight. It is clear that, for me, refined sugar and chocolate are physically harmful. Otherwise, I would love to enjoy them along with everyone else. I have wonderful memories of foods I can no longer eat if I want to remain in good health.

Yesterday I received an email from iTunes announcing September 25, 2007, as the release date of the first album in ten years by Joni Mitchell. So, for my 20th birthday, I'm going to buy Joni Mitchell's new CD, Shine.

When I called the Fred Meyer store to ask if they had the new Joni Mitchell CD, I had to smile when the young female clerk said, "Is that Country or Rock?"




















The photo of Joni Mitchell from January 2007 was taken by Aaron Harris / Canadian Press.

The above gouache and watercolor painting on Arches watercolor paper is "Calendar Series: 28th Month (Return / The Turning Point)," painted by am in 1988 in the early days of my recovery.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

SEPTEMBER FLOWERS / ROETHKE






















Being, not doing, is my first joy.
(Theodore Roethke)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

8 A.M. / LOOKING SOUTH, LOOKING EAST






































The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

(John Muir)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

RAINY DAY / OBOE THE CAT AT ALMOST TWO YEARS OLD / HOKUSAI






































I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six. I drew some pictures I thought fairly good when I was fifty, but really nothing I did before the age of seventy was of any value at all. At seventy-three I have at last caught every aspect of nature -- birds, fish, animals, insects, trees, grasses, all. When I am eighty I shall have developed still further, and I will really master the secrets of art at ninety. When I reach a hundred my work will be truly sublime, and my final goal will be attained around the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life.

-- Katsushika Hokusai / Gakyō Rōjin Manji (The Old Man Mad About Art)

Monday, September 17, 2007

BOB'S KOANS / LIKE A ROLLING KOAN





















How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

(from "Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan, 1965)

Yesterday when I walked into the grocery store, I heard the 1965 recording of Bob Dylan singing "Like a Rolling Stone." Although I've heard that song countless times since I was 15 years old, I heard it again as if for the first time.

The "sound" of the song (not the scornful taunting words) has always had a kind of celebratory quality for me. At 15 years old, I didn't feel anger directed at me as a young woman. Instead, inexplicably, I felt a sense of being included -- that someone cared enough to ask me how I FELT.

On hearing that song with its koan-like questions as a 15 year old young woman, I experienced the parodoxical feeling that although I often felt I was "without a home," I certainly wasn't alone anymore.

There was something in Bob Dylan's voice and range of songs covering the spectrum of emotions that gave me peace of mind for years after that, well into my 40s. I never stopped listening to him, but gradually the "peace of mind" feeling was replaced with a "trouble in mind" feeling. In recent years, I've had to learn to find "peace of mind" within myself but have never felt entirely alone since first hearing what to me is a beloved, bewildering and distinctly expressive voice.

Hearing that voice yesterday gave me a "trouble in mind" feeling.

("Woman With Her Hands Full," gouache, watercolor and pastel on paper by am, 1984)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

UNCOMPLETED TASK






















"Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted
task" (writer and philosopher William James)

("Caught Between Impossible Questions and the Wild Blue Sky of Day," pastel on paper, drawn by am, 1982)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

KOAN? WHAT WAS YOUR HOME BEFORE YOU WERE BORN?
















































I saved the above three recent photos from a webcam in Sausalito, California because, for the first time, I noticed birds in the photos. There have certainly been birds in the images before, but I just didn't see them. If you click on the photos, the birds are easier to see. In the third image, there is a group of birds, silhouetted in the sky above the skyline, which might be pelicans. I'm not really sure if the object in the sky in the second image is a bird.

As I was looking more closely at the cityscape, I suddenly realized that as long as I have been stopping in to look at this webcam on a daily basis, it had never occurred to me that on the left side of the photo is the Marina District, which suffered major damage during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and is where my parents lived in an apartment before I was born. The landlord for that apartment building didn't allow children and, right after I was born, my parents moved down the San Francisco Peninsula to another apartment in San Mateo.

I can say that the Marina District was my "home" in the nine months before I was born in a city named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, birds and the environment.

I've always been fascinated with photos taken before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. For those not familiar with San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is out of sight on the right side of the webcam photos. The San Francisco Bay Bridge, badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake, is visible at the far left side of the photos.

I've been living almost a thousand miles from that "home" for almost all of my adult life.

"I'm out here a thousand miles from my home . . . "
(from "Song to Woody," by Bob Dylan, 1962)

Friday, September 14, 2007

TWO TREES IN SEPTEMBER / REALITY






















Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
(Walt Whitman)

Contradiction is the criterion of reality.
(Simone Weil)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

VISITOR ON A FOGGY SEPTEMBER MORNING






































Didn't have time to set up my tripod. Cooper's Hawk? Pigeon Hawk? The breast coloring was that of a Cooper's Hawk, but the shape was more that of a Pigeon Hawk/Merlin. As it preened, its distinctively patterned black and white tail feathers were displayed, more like the tail of a Pigeon Hawk/Merlin. Before I got out my binoculars, my first thought was Peregrine Falcon.

"NAMASTE" -- AN IMAGE CREATED FOR SANCTUARY FOREST, BY VAL MCKEE OF HUMBOLDT COUNTY IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA


"Sanctuary Forest is a non-profit land trust located within the temperate rainforest of the headwaters of the Mattole River on California's northern coast"





Lost Coast hikes

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

STARRY MESSENGER






















"In a world illuminated only by fire, Galileo described in detail the surface of the Moon, which we now know is 238, 857 miles away. His Sidereal Messenger, also translated as Starry Messenger, was the first-ever treatise to detail astronomical observations made through a telescope."

(quote from the The Teaching Company's introduction to The Sidereal Messenger, written by Galileo in 1610 )

A treatise by Galileo came to me via email recently. I put it aside, meaning to read it when I had some time. When I finally read the treatise a few days ago, I felt as if I were reading someone's blog entry because, in translation, the tone is somewhat conversational, like a letter. Galileo's voice and times came alive for me. It's a verbal telescope into the time when the telescope was first invented. I like what I am guessing are his drawings and a diagram of a telescope.

Imagine how bright the moon, planets and stars were in 1610!

Coastal Northern California in Mendocino county just north of the Gualala River, between 1973 and 1994, is a place where I was able to see the vast night sky as it appears only when one is far removed from large metropolitan areas and their artificial lights.

(the above image, THE BLACK AND WHITE SERIES: INDEPENDENT CHILD / HIS FIRST WORD WAS "LIGHT," was created by am in 2005 on Arches watercolor paper, using Payne's Grey (watercolor) and Permanent White (gouache). The moon and planets are from drawings my mother made as she looked out over the ocean and saw the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and Venus on June 14, 1991)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"SKY FULL OF FIRE, PAIN POURIN' DOWN" / SEPTEMBER 11/ WAR IN IRAQ

When the attacks happened, I was at home in the Pacific Northwest, sleeping. September 11, 2001 was a day I had been looking forward to and had marked on my calendar because it was the day that Bob Dylan's album "Love and Theft" was going to be released.

For many years, my days off had been Tuesday and Wednesday. I worked until 2:00 in the morning and usually slept until noon. When I woke up half way through the day on September 11, I had a phone message from a friend. She said, "You might want to turn your television on. Today is a sad day for our country."

I don't have cable service but, at that time, for some unknown reason I had been able to pick up the network stations and a few cable stations. For the next several hours I watched in shock at the surreal footage of two planes flying into the towers over and over and over again. I remembered standing at the foot of one of the towers in 1982 with my mother and father and looking up at the impossibly tall building and then taking the elevator to the top where there was a Rodin sculpture exhibit which was closed, although the "The Thinker" was visible from where we stood at the entry to the exhibit.

Late in the afternoon I went out to get some groceries and to buy "Love and Theft." Everyone I saw looked fragile, as if some of the blood had been drained out of them.

When I got home, what a shock to hear Bob Dylan singing these words in the song titled "Mississippi":

"Every step of the way we walk the line
Your days are numbered, so are mine . . ."

"Sky full of fire, pain pourin' down . . . "

A few days later I learned that a friend with PTSD from the war in Vietnam had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and that he had three months to live. He said that he felt like his body was one of the two towers. I flew to California from Washington State to visit him two weeks later. The atmosphere in the airports and planes was extraordinarily subdued. My experience was that everyone appeared to be kinder than usual.

How do I feel about it all now? The same way I did during the war in Vietnam. On a daily basis, I feel a measurable level of sorrow, of which I now understand anger is a part. Along with countless others, I have a clinical diagnosis of PTSD. Mine dates back to the five months after my friend returned from the war in Vietnam. My friend is still alive. All lives are a mysterious gift.

I wrote this in response to robin andrea at Dharma Bums who asked these questions a few days ago.

Where were you that day, and how do you feel about it all now?

As one of the commenters, wren, at Dharma Bums wrote, " . . . may all those who mourn be comforted."

("Witness with Courage," pastel image, 1984, drawn by am)

Monday, September 10, 2007

SEPTEMBER AT WHATCOM CREEK #2






















Understanding is the ultimate seduction of the mind. Go to the truth beyond the mind. Love is the bridge.

(Stephen Levine)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

SEPTEMBER AT WHATCOM CREEK

















When anyone seriously pursues an art -- painting, poetry, sculpture, composing -- over twenty or thirty years, the sustained discipline carries the artist down to the country of grief; and that descent, resisted so long, proves invigorating . . . . As I've gotten older, I find I am able to be nourished more by sorrow and to distinguish it from depression.

(Robert Bly)

"Whatcom" is the Nooksack word for "noisy waters."

This photo was taken in Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham, Washington.

Friday, September 7, 2007

THIS DANCE






















This dance is the joy of existence. (Rumi)

This pastel drawing of mine from 1984 is "Woman Dancing By Herself."
She is dancing by herself, but she is not dancing alone.






















This watercolor and gouache painting, "EADGBE," from 1987 was painted while listening to Bob Dylan.

"Unexpected travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

EARLY SEPTEMBER AFTERNOON / LOOKING UP

BEFORE THE MORNING SUN SHINES THROUGH






















See Dharmakaya light and luminous photos of egrets. Latin lumen: light, window.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

LOOKING SOUTHEAST

EMILY DICKINSON AND EMILY CARR (1830-1945) / CONTEMPORARIES OF MY GRANDMOTHERS AND GREAT-GRANDMOTHERS









Exultation is the going
Of an island soul to sea,
Past the houses -- past the headlands --
Into deep Eternity --


Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand,
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?


-- Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

AND:











































"Scorned As Timber, Beloved of Sky"

-- Emily Carr (1871-1945)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

WHEN THE RAIN COMES

I love this video. I found it on the blog called Poetry Hut. Seeing John Lennon's face reminded me that when I was in my early 30s, a young Japanese woman stayed with me and my former husband during the month of August as part of a summer exchange student program. Word got back to me from another host that the Japanese students referred to me as the "woman who looks like John Lennon." I couldn't have been more pleased!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

VIEW OF LIGHT RAIN AND FOG ON A SEPTEMBER DAY

















Click on photo to see more closely.

NO MAN'S LAND / WOUNDED AND DEAD / COMING HOME
















































This quote from Robert Pirsig posted today at In A Dark Time in a discussion of LILA: AN INQUIRY INTO MORALS,


"The Victorian social system and the Victorian morality that led into World War I had portrayed war as an adventurous conflict between noble individuals engaged in the idealistic service of their country: a kind of extended knighthood. Victorians loved exquisitely painted heroic battle scenes in their drawing rooms, with dashing cavalrymen riding toward the enemy with sabers drawn, or a horse returning riderless with the title, “Bad News.” Death was acknowledged by an occasional soldier in the arms of his comrades looking palely toward heaven.

World War I wasn’t like that. The Gatling gun removed the nobility, the heroism. The Victorian painters had never shown a battlefield of mud and shell holes and barbed wire and half million rotting corpses, some staring toward heaven, some staring into the mud, some with- out faces to stare in any direction. That many had been murdered in one battle alone.

Those who survived suffered a stunnedness, and a lostness and felt bitter toward the society that could do that to them. They joined the faith that intellect must find some way out of old Victorian “nobility” and “virtue” into a more sane and intelligent world. In an instant it seemed, the snobbish fashionable Victorian social world was gone,"



prompted me to find the above photographs because I have always been struck by the unequivocal weariness in my grandfather's face as he was photographed while sitting between and distant from my subdued-looking mother and her brother with his enigmatic expression. It was 1919, and my grandfather had just returned to the United States from World War I where he had served as a doctor. My grandfather, the only surviving son of German immigrants whose first American-born son died of cholera, had worked as newspaper typesetter in his 20s and had gone to medical school at Harvard at night when he was in his 30s, possibly attending lectures by the psychologist and philosopher, William James. In 1917, when my mother was 1 year old and my uncle was 9 years old, my then 47-year-old grandfather entered the army as a doctor and served in France until the last days of World War I. The photo was taken in Natick, Massachusetts where my grandmother's relatives lived. My grandparents had married in Boston in 1906. During the time my grandfather was gone, my grandmother spent part of the time in Gulfport, Mississippi with relatives and then must have taken a train to Natick to meet my grandfather when he returned to the United States in 1919, before returning to St. Paul, Minnesota.

My mother told me that her father had told her that he was "not near the battlefront and that not much was happening where he was," but by the look on his face I don't think he wanted to talk about the war.

After my mother died, my grandfather's camera, photographs, letters, documents and other artifacts came to me. The World War I photos in France are ones that he bought in London after the war.

Monday, September 3, 2007

HARRY POTTER / BOB DYLAN or PRINCESS DIANA / BEATRIX POTTER: FINDING RIGHT LIVELIHOOD






































Unable to sleep after taking a half dose of Excedrin at 3 a.m. for yet another migraine headache, I took a Harry Potter personality quiz for kids, based on the Myers-Briggs personality tests. According to that quiz, I'm a Harry Potter type, which is the same type as Bob Dylan is reported to be, an ISFP (Composer / Artisan).

When I first took a long version of the Myers-Briggs test in 1999, at age 49 at the urging of a college career counselor, I tested as an ISFP (Composer / Artisan). All these years, I had been under the impression that I had tested as an INFP (Healer / Idealist), but when I looked through my files recently and found the test results, I remembered that the career counselor had deduced that I was probably more of an INFP and encouraged me to think of myself as an INFP, i.e. a Princess Diana type or a Beatrix Potter type. Over the years, I have repeatedly tested as an INFP until recently when I began testing as an ISFP (Myers-Briggs - short version). Now I'm wondering if I was an emerging ISFP in 1999, persuaded not to explore that part of me that was struggling to be born.

It was in 1997 that I began looking for a new way to make a living because I was starting to burn out as a medical transcriptionist. I'm still in that process ten years later. The process of trying to find right livelihood until I retire sometime in the next four to seven years has been both frustrating and enlightening.

These are livelihoods where ISFPs (Composer / Artisans) tend to thrive:

Artist
Musician / Composer
Designer
Child Care / Early Childhood Development
Social Worker / Counselor
Teacher
Psychologist
Veterinarian
Forest Ranger
Pediatrician

and these are where INFPs (Healer / Idealists) tend to thrive:

Writers
Counselors / Social Workers
Teachers / Professors
Psychologists
Psychiatrists
Musicians
Clergy / Religious Workers

The territory is similar. Harry Potter does seem to fit as an ISFP, as does Bob Dylan. Princess Diana tested as an INFP and strongly identified with that personality type. Beatrix Potter appears to be a mixture of INFP and ISFP. I identify with her most, having just watched the DVD, ”Miss Potter”. That film takes some liberties with the events of Beatrix Potter's life but reminded me how much I love to draw, paint and write. It showcased the considerable beauty of the Lake District landscape. Beatrix Potter clearly loved the same kind of landscape I love. I share her eccentricity and ability to enjoy solitude as well as her ability to love deeply.

It is a given that I will continue to draw, paint and write. Blogging has given me the opportunity to write on a nearly daily basis and to have a public space where I can show my art work. I don't make any money doing this but find it to be intensely rewarding to be part of a blogging community of kindred spirits.

Currently, I am strongly considering studying to be a yoga teacher, given that I have practiced yoga since I was in my 20s and am passionate about yoga practice and philosophy. I wouldn't make much money as a yoga teacher but I would be doing something that I love and that I would love to share with other people. Being a yoga teacher would be compatible with being an INFP or an ISFP. The anatomy and physiology credits, which I hoped would be accepted by the massage practitioner program I was considering, weren't accepted. When I took several sample tests, I realized that I don't have the knowledge needed to pass the challenge exams required to enter the program in a few weeks.

So . . . how is this Harry Potter / Bob Dylan / Princess Diana / Beatrix Potter-type going to make a living? Yoga teacher? Forest Ranger? Counselor? Child Care Worker? Something not yet dreamed of?

By the way, my headache is gone. I will probably be in a caffeine buzz from the half dose of Excedrin for most of the day. I'm still fine-tuning the use of caffeine for these migraine headaches. It is only thing I've found that works, but I have to be careful to take it only in the early a.m. or risk being awake all night. A while back when I had medical insurance through my job as a medical transcriptionist, I had a medical workup for headaches but the prescription medications I was given didn't work. Besides, my current medical insurance doesn't cover prescription medications. I am hoping that I can stay in good health until Medicare or beyond. So far, so good.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

THINGS HAVE CHANGED / DOUBLE TAKE / HOLY LAUGHTER






















Solitary Walker's recent posts about Bob Dylan prompted me to post this ad that I came across when I picked up an AARP magazine in March or April of 2004, a time when I was seriously in need of levity. One needs to be familiar with Bob Dylan's song, "Things Have Changed," from 1999 to fully appreciate why I laughed out loud in amazement at the incongruity.

That song begins with the words:

"A worried man with a worried mind / No one in front of me and nothing behind"

and contains the bridge:

"Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet / Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street"

When I first heard that song on my way to work one day in 1999, I thought I was hearing someone doing a clumsy parody of Bob Dylan, and I felt annoyed. Soon after that, one of my younger co-workers asked if I had heard the new Bob Dylan song on the radio. Double take.

Things Have Changed video posted on YouTube

I especially like the number of times he literally "looks back" and that he enjoys every sandwich. I dreamed once that Bob Dylan and Woody Allen were the same person.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

WHOLENESS, SCATTEREDNESS, SHATTEREDNESS, WHOLENESS

Reading this post by Velveteen Rabbi stirred the following outpouring of memories of my mother, my father, my childhood and youth.

When she was in her 70s, after having turned away from Protestant Christianity when she was in her early 50s, my mother was drawn to Judaism. For much of her life, she had had a distinct feeling that she had Jewish ancestors on her father's side of her family. Her father's father came from Stadtlengsfeld in Germany in the 1800s. She was raised as an Episcopalian in St. Paul, Minnesota, by parents who had married in a Unitarian Church in Boston.

Sometime between 1985 and 1987, she contacted the rabbi of a synagogue in Mendocino County, California and began a process leading to possible conversion. She shared with me her joy in finally finding a community of people where she felt she belonged and a religious tradition that gave meaning to daily life.

In 1987 during the holidays, she sent me a copy of THIS IS MY GOD, by Herman Wouk, inscribed "Happy Hanukkah!" In her letters and phone calls, she talked about the book THE JEWISH HOLIDAYS: A GUIDE AND COMMENTARY, by Michael Strassfeld. Over time I read and sent her a copy each of WHERE JUDAISM DIFFERS: AN INQUIRY INTO THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF JUDASIM, by Abba H. Silver and THE HEALER OF SHATTERED HEARTS: A JEWISH VIEW OF GOD, by David J. Wolpe.

My parents had been married in an Episcopal Church, and I was baptized in that Episcopal Church, although my father had been born into a Norwegian Lutheran family. When I was a very young child, my family attended Lutheran churches. I believe that my sisters were baptized in the Lutheran Church. Beginning in 1957 when I was 7 years old, my family began to attend an Episcopal Church where I was confirmed by the highly controversial Bishop James Pike in 1961 when I was 11 years old.

I almost didn't get to take my First Communion at my confirmation because just before I was to go up to the altar, I suddenly felt overwhelmingly sick to my stomach. Although I was able to go the altar and be given the bread and wine, I felt unable to return to my seat with the other children and, instead, walked down the aisle to the back of the church, opened the heavy doors and sat down on a bench in the May sunshine, feeling as if I was going to pass out. A kind and concerned woman followed me outside and commented that I looked "green." She suggested that I put my head down on my knees so I wouldn't faint. I felt miserable and ashamed of myself. Eventually my mother and some other people came outside, too. The service went on without me. I don't recall that Bishop Pike offered me any consolation or expressed any concern about me, although he did sign my new Episcopal prayer book, given to me by my mother and father.

















I also recall that one of the boys in my confirmation class was always being teased by the other boys. The boys would say, using his name,
" ____________ did it!!!" They would repeat this phrase and laugh uproariously. The teased boy would smile in an embarrassed way. I related to him because that was how I reacted to teasing. The Sunday school teacher would tell the boys to stop the teasing. Years later I found out from my mother that one of the priests at our church had molested one of the choir boys. My guess is that it was that boy. What a strange memory.

Another equally strange memory is that of the Sunday when one of my sisters opened the side door to the sanctuary of the church as a woman was leaving. The woman vomited on my sister.

It was the tradition after the church service for the priests to stand at the door at the back of the church and shake hands with each member of the congregation as they went outside. I came to dislike this ritual, and eventually discovered that I could leave by the side door at the back of the church and avoid shaking hands with the priests whom I sensed didn't like me.

In 1967, when my father dropped me off at the college dorms at University of California at Irvine, his last words to me were, "Make sure to find a church." I didn't. That was the last thing on my mind.

In 1967, during my freshman year in college, I was horrified by a sermon I heard during the holidays when I returned home. Throughout my childhood, I had always daydreamed during the sermons and have no recollection of the content of any sermon prior that one. What I heard that day was the priest clearly stating that there was no hope for people who didn't follow Jesus. He said it wasn't good enough to just believe in God and that there was less than no hope for those who didn't believe in God at all. In that moment, I had the feeling I would not return to church again because what I had just heard went against everything I knew to be true.

During the following week I engaged in one memorable extended discussion with my mother, telling her why I no longer wanted to attend church. My memory is that this discussion lasted for hours. She told me that it might be a good time to talk with one of the priests about my concerns, rather than a time to stop going to church. I argued that I had no intention of talking with a priest. We argued back and forth. Finally she said, "Okay, don't go to church then!" An intense silence followed her words. I felt relieved and shocked at the same time.

Not long after that she stopped going to church. Eventually both of my sisters stopped going to church.

My father continued to attend church for a time after that. On the last Father's Day that my father went to church, my mother said to me, "Your poor father has to go to church alone on Father's Day. Why don't you go with him?" I didn't.

Not long after that my father stopped going to church.

I vowed that I would NEVER enter a church again. I had a recurring nightmare that I was in a church and that my mind would cry out in agony, "HOW did this happen? HOW did I come to be in a church again?" This wrenching dream came to me again and again.

Although I was married in 1976 by a Lutheran minister chosen by my husband who was not Lutheran, I insisted that the marriage not take place in a church. We were married next to a lake surrounded by mountains. To my dismay, the wedding ceremony ended with the priest asking for a recital of the Lord's Prayer. When we had prepared the ceremony, that was not part of it. I felt betrayed by the minister. A few years later I found that the Lutheran minister had left the church and become a real estate agent.

Imagine my horror in 1979 when Bob Dylan, my chosen spiritual teacher since I had been 14 years old, converted to Christianity. It was from Bob Dylan that I had learned about the I Ching and its wisdom tradition and that there were other ways of seeing the world than the one I had grown up with. During the years after I stopped going to church, I grew more and more attached to Bob Dylan. I didn't believe in God, but I believed in Bob Dylan. Around that time I began to read books by Thomas Merton because I read a magazine article where the writer said that he wondered if Bob Dylan had read anything by Thomas Merton. Through reading about Thomas Merton, I learned about Thich Nhat Hanh who was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize and Simone Weil, who spent time reading the Bhagavad Gita as well as having a conversion experience but who declined to be baptized.

I wasn't inspired to return to a Christian church but was inspired by Thomas Merton to continue reading about the experiences of people from all traditions.

Some years later, as my mother was contemplating converting to Judaism, I read an article where Bob Dylan mentioned TALES OF THE HASIDIM, by Martin Buber. I bought a copy and felt a distinct kinship with those stories, as did my mother. My mother loved the song, "Ring Them Bells," by Bob Dylan:

Ring them bells so the world will know / That God is one

My father was increasingly dismayed by my mother's path. Finally he gave her an ultimatum, saying that there were not going to be two religions in their household. My mother appeared to acquiesce, but she went underground with her beliefs. As far as I know, she celebrated the Jewish holidays in secret until she died of a sudden, massive, completely unexpected heart attack on the 6th day of Hanukkah in 1994, the day before my parent's 45th wedding anniversary.

After my mother's death, I found these words typed and glued to a piece of heavy cardboard on a wall in her bedroom:

I believe That God is One -- Spiritual Creator and Ruler of the Universe, indwelling all nature, and yet transcending it; near to man in all his needs, and yet beyond man's full comprehension. That man, while fashioned out of the earth, is nevertheless made in the spiritual image of God. That while he is bound by his physical and mental limitations, he is boundless in his moral aspirations and is free to determine his own spiritual progress through his own efforts assisted by the grace of God. That both body and soul are of God, and that the whole of man -- body, mind and soul -- is sacred. That all men are equal in their essential humanity and in the sight of God. That there is but one moral law for prince and pauper, ruler and subject, native born and stranger. That life is a good and a gracious gift from God. That the moral ills which exist in the world can be overcome, and that in overcoming them lies the true meaning and the adventure of human life. That an age of universal justice, brotherhood and and peace awaits the human race and can be hastened by the efforts of the human race. That there is divine retribution in ways and forms not always clear to man. That man's concern should be with life this side of the grave.

(from WHERE JUDAISM DIFFERS, by Abba Hillel Silver)

I also found these words from a poem by Kenneth Rexroth, written to his daughter. My mother had bookmarked the page and set the book in a prominent place, in what appeared to be a deliberate manner:

Believe in Orion. Believe
In the night, the moon, the crowded
Earth. Believe in Christmas and
Birthdays and Easter rabbits.
Believe in all those fugitive
Compounds of nature, all doomed
to waste away and go out.
Always be true to these things.
They are all there is. Never
Give up this savage religion
For the blood-drenched civilized
Abstractions of the rascals
Who live by killing you and me.

(from "A Sword in a Cloud of Light")

After my mother's death, my father searched for a church to attend. He didn't find one where he felt comfortable but began watching "Hour of Power" on television on Sunday mornings and felt himself a part of that congregation for a number of years until the day he died, St. Patrick's Day of 2003.

After my father's death, I had dream where I saw my mother running to greet my father as he ran toward her on the bluff above ocean where they had lived together for 25 years. In that dream I saw them experiencing a joy I had not witnessed in all my years as their daughter.