Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the night before Christmas....

I don't know where this year has gone. One week left of 2008. The thought fills me with huge regret -- so many things I had planned to do this year! -- and also excitement at the prospect of being able to re-design my life, now that my eight years in Dissertation Hell are complete.

Christmas, for me, is more than either a religious holiday or a secular buying spree. Like Thanksgiving, it's a time to pause in gratitude for the moments of grace I've been granted throughout the year, and to be aware of my gratitude for this life in all its Divine moments. That's something I'm conscious of far too seldom.

Life is one "perfect moment" after another, if only I can be present and conscious. This Christmas, my gift to myself and to those whose lives touch mine is a commitment to be present to each moment. I will try to be more a witness and less a critic. I will try to be grateful for each opportunity that presents itself, and to be more loving and compassionate toward myself and others.

Most of all, beginning this moment right now, I will try to be aware, at all times, of the voice of the Divine as it whispers in my ear. This life is about more than my ego, after all, though that's certainly important. But if all I listen to is my ego and its myriad desires, then I will surely miss out on the Higher Purpose of my life.

Well, that's what I'm aiming for. But right this moment, there's breakfast to be made, cats to be fed, chores to be done. Perfect moments....

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

At Last!!!

Wow--it's real! The spiral-bound copies of the dissertation are here; the hard-bound copy will arrive after the first of the year.

The boxes were on my porch Friday as I was walking out the door on my way to a dance. At first I didn't know what they were, and nearly left them in the foyer, unopened. But I happened to notice the return address. What a strange and wonderful feeling to hold the final product in my hands!

I took one with me to the dance to show it to friends. As I stepped off the porch, the full moon greeted me. It felt like a benediction.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nine weeks and growing

There's been so little time even to think about anything else. Gone are my days of sitting and stitching quietly. But at least Little Bear and Miss Ellie are starting to play just a bit, though mostly she plays "whack-a-mole" at his expense.

I titled this photo "So THIS is where they all went!" My partner tries to keep his toys picked up, but he found them. Now one of his favorite games is taking them from the basket, one at a time, and dropping them onto the floor.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Little Bear

We rescued this little guy on Monday night. It took me an hour and a half in the cold and drizzle to coax him out from under the HVAC unit at a local community center and into a borrowed cat carrier. No telling how long he'd been out there, but a significant portion of his little life--he's less than eight weeks old, our vet says.

I think I'm in love....

Writing? Did someone mention writing?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Golden Morning

Each year, ginkgos drop all their leaves at once in a thick, golden blanket that’s so brilliantly yellow it takes your breath away, even on a cold and overcast November day like this one. Today was the morning. I didn’t have my camera, alas, and the light wasn’t good, either; this image is one I found online, just to give you a hint. It's always a wonderful event, like a benediction on the fall and a welcoming of the resting time of winter.

It's been nearly two months since my dissertation defense, and I'm only now beginning to feel normal again. Amazing, how exhausted I have been--that was completely unexpected by me, though no one else seems surprised. The good news is that I'm beginning to feel like writing again!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I made it!!!

Never thought I'd live to see the day, but I presented ("defended") my dissertation on Saturday out in Carpinteria, at the main campus, and the audience (my lovely friend Leah and a good part of Robert Romanyshyn's clinical program students) loved it!

I had such a good time with it. My nineteenth-century imaginal collaborator Ellen Janney introduced the work, then Robert introduced me (and said glowing things about it!), then I took over. That part took about half an hour, and then we had quite a lively discussion with lots of questions for another half an hour. It was such a blast!

This process has been exhilarating and exhausting. I've been asleep most of the time since I returned home on Sunday (when I wasn't calling a dance) and am headed back to bed now. When I wake up, I'll post more.

Thanks to all my friends who saw me through this process, and whose encouragement and support were so important to me. I love you all!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Well, it’s all over but the shouting….

The dissertation is written. It’s been approved by my committee pending a last-minute read-through by my advisor when he gets back in early August, and I’ll defend at the end of September. I’ve printed off a few copies and circulated them to interested friends—the response so far has been positive. It’s nice when something you care so passionately about is well received.

Once I get the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed, I can figure out what the next stage of my life will be like. It feels like major changes are in the works. One thing is for sure: I do want to turn this thing into a book, for wider circulation. But first, I’m digging my desk out from under piles and piles of books, papers, and accumulated junk. I don’t remember what the top of it looks like!

And I will have time to post things here, too, which will be fun. Gee—a life! I had forgotten what that’s like!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I was doing some more work on the dissertation this morning and came across an journal entry that I wrote shortly after September 11th. It's just as timely now, and something I really needed to remember this morning. Let me share it with you:

Friday, 14 September 2001, 1 PM: On this national day of prayer and remembrance, I went to a local chapel to meditate. I ended up wondering what I, personally, could to do help. The answer came, "Live in peace."

Well, that's easier said than done, I thought, especially at a time like this. Just this morning there was a commentator on NPR who said, basically, that what's needed is to use nuclear weapons to obliterate the terrorists. How can any of us "live in peace," or even hope for peace with the reality of the horrors in New York and Washington, and threats of war and vengeance all around us?

Puzzled and a little bit angry, I headed home. Not three blocks from the chapel, a fellow in a black sports car cut me off; a couple of blocks farther, two minivans wouldn't let me into the turn lane. How rude, I thought. So much for peace--they sure have lousy manners. I mentally flipped them off and sent them on their way. As I got closer to home, a woman on the freeway had her turn signal on. I slowed to let her in, but she didn't move. I waved to her to come on in; she still didn't move over. How big a hole do you need, lady? What a dummy! I had a few choice words for her, too.

And then, finally, I got the message. What's that old song? "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." With me, not with that person over there, or with the President, or anyone else--with me. It's my responsibility, if I want peace for this world, to create peace within myself and toward others. And I realized that I've been doing a lousy job of it lately. Praying for peace--which I've been doing a lot of this week--is a good thing, but what I'm going to try to do now is act for peace, and change the only person I have any control over--myself.

What if all of us did that? What if we all became more aware of the times when anger takes over, or the urge to get back at someone who has ticked us off, or a gut-level dislike of someone who's different in some way from us--in ideology, or skin color, or whatever?

As for me, I'm just going to take it one minute at a time, because I'm discovering that it's amazingly difficult for me to do. But I'm taking it on as my task, my personal contribution to peace on earth.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The draft is done....

I never, ever thought I would live to see this day. Some of it is REALLY GOOD (did I actually write those parts?). At 350 pages, the draft is seriously overweight, but my advisor is terrific at helping his students prune and shape their work.

Someone wake me up in time for the calling party tomorrow night, OK?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel?

This afternoon I put all the major pieces of the last chapter of the dissertation into place. There's still a lot of stitching together to be done, and it's pretty rough, but for the first time I believe I will actually finish this thing, and live to tell about it.

Shhhhh.... Don't say it out loud; Psyche might hear you....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hope, revisited

This is the second week of my latest bout of writer’s block. It’s all the more devastating because I had finally, finally, been making progress on the draft of the whole dissertation. The end was in sight, or so I thought. Then, for reasons known only to Psyche and the Ladies (those imaginal women with whose collaboration this work is being done), I hit a brick wall.

The first inkling I had that something was wrong was after I updated my bibliographic software, thinking to use the latest and greatest version for the final push. Bibliographic software, for those folks who have never used such a thing, saves the writer enormous amounts of time by collecting all the information about each book—author, date, title, publisher, etc.—in one place, and letting you pull in the reference each time you need to cite something from that work. Most importantly, the software collects all the citations in your paper, formats them properly, and then creates the bibliography at the end of the document automatically, right down to all the nit-picky details for the particular style you’re required to use. Anyone who’s ever typed a term paper can relate to this!

The software does this automatically, that is, when it’s working. I loaded up the new version, went to re-format the existing bibliography, and … the entire thing blew up. Locked up the computer, corrupted the files, and then refused to work any longer. Imagine my surprise, dear reader….

Once I got over the sheer horror of it (the files were, thank the Goddess, backed up), I was pissed. Royally pissed. It wasn’t like I hadn’t checked the software’s website for compatibility. Yes, it’s compatible with Windows Vista, and compatible with Word 2007. Hell, it’s compatible with everything! Except, it seems, my versions of Vista and Word. If you drill down on their web site about four levels, there’s this tiny little paragraph that says, “Oh, by the way, it’s not compatible with Vista X.X and Word 2007 X.X. We know about this, but we don’t know why it happens, and we don’t have a patch or a work-around. Sorry….” OMG!

All right. I can type in references, I can enter the code from the database (which I can still view, for some reason). I can live with the fourteen error messages that appear when I open or close any file that contains the codes, since the errors don’t seem to affect the document itself. And I can hope to be able to figure out how to format the whole thing down the road. No worries, mate!

But my momentum has vanished. Between the software fiasco and ten days of nursing a partner sick with the flu, momentum is a thing of the past, and I’m back to aimlessly turning electronic pages and feeling utterly, utterly overwhelmed by the magnitude of this process.

So I’m stuck again, trying to make sense of these events. My best guess is that by trying to “power through” to a first draft, I stopped “listening” to guidance from Psyche and the Ladies. That feels uncomfortably right. But it’s hell! Psyche doesn’t understand dissertation clocks. Mine runs out at the end of September, and the end of September is only a few heartbeats away….

The only bright spot in all of this is that I’ve had “touches” from some of my imaginal friends—a story by Kate Chopin, an email from a friend that references Susan B. Anthony (who showed up early on in this infernal process), some life events, several dreams—that seem to be pointing out what the Ladies want emphasized among the ocean of tears and dreams and data. If only I could get this depression to lift enough to keep my head above the water….

A new friend, a young man who’s also one of Robert Romanyshyn’s students, emailed me the other day to say he’s in a similar situation. We’re both, it seems, in the depths of what he has aptly termed “the Romanyshyn dungeon of despair.”

If I ever mention doing an imaginal research project again, someone please just shoot me. Matter of fact, just do it now and get it over with.

But whether or not I feel able to believe in a flower, in the midst of the frost and chill, the witch hazel blooms outside my front door, perfuming the air with its sweetness.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Blue and silent, a winter’s night.
Black branches sketched against the snow and stars.
I walk in the chill, alone, silence falling around me.

Spring, some spring, will come—
must come—
But my breath freezes on my lashes.

How can I believe?
How, in the frost and emptiness, can I believe in a flower?