The Gift of Writing in the Mindful Word

My first piece published as a contributing writer for this wonderful journal, The Mindful Word, came out today. Please enjoy this esssay about writing and teaching students old and young about the craft I attribute as salve for what ails us in the human condition of illusory separateness.

the Gaze

Lost in Translation…

…I think. One of Bollywood’s finest? Not sure about that but this was just wacky good fun–and so colorful–for the first two minutes, anyhow. :))

Ban it

The California plastic ban that will be before voters in California next general election has been on my mind. Since I live in the only city that has repealed the ban after two years, I thought I would investigate the city council’s doings to earn such an honored historic distinction.

As usual, the war between environmentalists and big business wages. Environmentalists claim the plastic bags pollute and harm marine life. Big plastic says not so, and people will lose jobs if the ban is instituted.

No surprises in the world of politics. Both sides accuse one another of cheating, irresponsibility, and undue influence by monied folk, special interests. And so it goes.

In the end, it matters little the motivations–money or environment–behind the law so long as the law does what it is purported to do and people support it. The larger matter lies in individual responsibility to others, and not just with plastic.

When do we cross the line between a seemingly innocuous lack of consciousness of those around us–say, like my forgetting recycling bags–and conscious disregard of others? The “rugged individualism” (pride of this country’s founding generation and their progeny), pitted against the social contract based on a benevolence toward others with whom we live in society–an agreement to let live–always calls up that question. And not only for people.

Philosopher Peter Singer, in an interview with the New York Times opinionator blogger, George Yancy, earlier this year defined human disregard of animals’ as “speciesism,” when humans give “less weight to the interests of nonhuman animals than they give to the similar interests of human beings.”
Interests like survival in clean oceans, I imagine.
Whether we consider ourselves the shepherds of other species, a posture of assumed superiority, or we consider ourselves on par with other species and posit survival as the burden of each species, there is still a path that is neither too philosophical nor too patriotic. 
When we teach ourselves good habits, the correlative benefits to all society reverberate small and large. And we are such trainable creatures, we humans, if we have the will, both personal and political.



Shhh…don’t tell anyone.

I have a long, torrid relationship with her, my mistress and master both. I submit to her daily, as she owns me now. Though it was not always that way. She once hurt me badly, my heart and body, which caused us to part ways for many years, close to twenty, in fact. But I realize now that she had something to teach me, a lesson I needed to learn about myself–and her–before we could be together, merge our lives seamlessly into the desire and need we are about today.

I met her as a teen with big ideas. I was sixteen then and drawn to everything and everyone I measured as cool, earthy, and spiritual. I read about her in a book I purchased second hand from a used bookstore, and I was immediately lured to her mystique. There was something there I did not understand but wanted to know more about. So I read and learned about her, imitated her every move to earn me my cool. Until one day, I met her.

She was all she was cracked up to be at that first meeting: sexy, lithe, strong and flexible. Muscular and compact, she appeared the picture of youth, while she breathed ancient wisdom, emitted it from her pores. I was astounded and flustered in love.

And though our meeting ended then, we met again, and then again…for awhile…until the pain. 

I had to learn the hard way, as I always have. I was arrogant and needy. Not one to be forced and taken, controlled and overpowered, she left me howling, bedridden for months, depressed and injured. The love affair ended in the slow drip of time it takes to heal a body and mind.

When we later met again, I had changed. She had not. But my approach to her differed then from the earlier times. I did not need her, merely wanted her. I penetrated her eye to eye, then bowed. That made all the difference between us.

We co-exist now, as one. Since our reunion five or six years ago, she has never left me. We live with and through one another.

When I am down, face down to the ground but hips high to the sky, she takes me, makes my breath grow steady and strong; she makes me weep sometimes like this, too much to hold, my arms arrested for the weight of my body. She buckles my knees sometimes, how she holds me in her grasp, in her heart and her embrace, me and all who love her, whom she loves. And she loves.


Stupid Ashley Crime

So help me out here because I don’t get it. The hackers of the Ashley Madison site and other Avid LIfe Media subsidiaries, CougarLife and Established Men, purportedly declared that they attacked the site not for moral grounds, not for sheer mischief, not for extortion, not for revenge nor for a specific social or political cause. No, the hack, along with the threat to reveal member names, fantasies and nude photos as well as company bank account information, resulted in protest of the sites’ unfulfilled “full delete guarantee.”  

The Impact Team, as they call themselves (nothing like themed criminal activity), appear to be disgruntled ex-users. Why else take such extreme action in protest to a failed guarantee that has no relevance to them? Did they think they were the Edward Snowden‘s of the dating site world? I mean, the charges for this crime must come with lengthy prison terms, so the risk must be worth the outcome. 

Or maybe they merely join the ranks of dumb criminals, assuming a public stunt on such a grand scale will go unpunished and undiscovered. Perhaps they count on the public’s disdain for cheaters to get them a pass on the full efforts of the law enforcement agencies called in to investigate this cyber crime.

They must be stupid. Money and reputations stand to be lost, and who knows who risks exposure? Perhaps monied folk, who will not take too kindly for the exposure, a sure generator of pressure to make arrests. 

But the puzzler for me is the lack of logic. Exposing the site’s participants for the site owner’s failed “full delete guarantee” seems like beating the prisoners to expose the abuse of the jailers. 

The hackers complain, according to the Inqisitr write up the other day, that Ashley Madison, et al., charge $19.00 to members for deleting information from the site, but do not actually do so, leaving credit card information with real names attached to them as well as other incriminating information to the cheating spouse. 

Ashley Madison, advertised as a discrete dating site for married adults, with the slogan, “Life is Short. Have an Affair, boasts over 37 million members. According to, this hack follows an earlier hack on AdultFriendFinder, though the connection has not been established to date. Krebs also reports that the hackers worked from inside, not as employees but people who had access to information working on site.

The hackers demand Ashley Madison shut down, unconcerned about the “dirt bags” who risk exposure:

“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”
So tell me again why the hackers risked their lives as free citizens to protest the breach of promised privacy by which this site profited? 

I hate incoherent crimes.

Bottoms Up


It’s true. 
Sometimes you must
start anew
from the bottom up.
And not just once.
But often
on a hunch
you climb the ladder
reach for that highest rung
fingers outstretched
palms wide flung
curled tips in anticipation
of a firm grasp
no trepidation
but slip
fall flat to the floor
bypassing rung after rung
the places you reached before
gripping with all your might
flashing before eyes wide
whirring in a smudge of time
shocked and numb
til bottom hits 
and you think it’s done
and it hurts too much
but the spinning ceases
the dust clears
and your body works
not barely broken
and your heart strength opens
once your mind obeys
so you rise again
like a burning wingless wren
clawing and clutching
fighting air and doubt–again
dizzying your stance 
hands out
feet unsteadily chance
the ground
for the grab
and reach it.
You clasp
the bottom rung.


Mossy Love

Unlike the lascivious thrill seeking a staid life,

heel shadows squeezed in pavement cracks,

one replaces the gaps, pure continuous spill,

fills pores of emptiness, salty sea of exertion,

a satiety unknown til now, she, moss-ful mind.

I miss the way you walk alone apace with love.



Rubber Wear

A friend turned me on to the photos included in this exposé, so I looked into the photos’ back story briefly (busy researching plastic bag bans, somehow ironically related), and my research turned up little more than a Brazilian artist’s attempt at a simple message: wear a condom.

The more interesting story to me is always the imagined pinpoint moment when this artist had the lightbulb appear above his head and thought, “Hey, I think I will go buy ten thousand condoms and make a fashion line with them.” But really, the imaginative design and vibrant color and shape patterns are admirable, bespeak huge talent for this absolutely stunning line–and not as mere novelty. 

I just cannot fathom how condom rubber breathes, however. Those condom-clad models (even scantily) sweating loads under the hot lights of the runway may have less appreciated the clever creativity.

Am I overthinking this?


The Painters of Love: Loving a Married Woman


I adore Anna Pulley’s story ache of loving the married woman, which appeared in Salon yesterday. She not only captures the essence of the thin-tissue-beauty of love, the compulsion of the affair, the ever-turn of the heart toward love, but also the crafter’s gift of the memorable passage. Like this one, for instance:

Ours was a love that hinged on possibility—what we could offer each other was infinite potential. Reality never stood a chance against that kind of promise. I loved her in a way that felt both inexplicable and inevitable. She represented a singular perfection, she had to because she contained none of the trappings of a real relationship, the awkward, the beautiful, the sweet, the ordinary, the holding hands in public, the quiet walks, the bickering at Trader Joe’s. She was perfect in part because she was an escape, she seemed always to offer more.
After an enticing lead-in about long-distant love and steamy encounters, she delicately moves us along the strip tease of her narrative, the movement from reflection to memory slip-sliding her narrative along with the tensile desire of an abandoned lover simmering sleight over time. She does not call herself a lesbian until two thirds in to her lovely essay. She wants to soften us to love first, to focus her reader. A concerted effort to steer her  reader’s mind from irrelevant drift she anticipates–detours like same-sex relationships, polyamory and the like, she withholds. Her story is of love, despite the title–all love. And imagery.
Fantasy. The addiction (cynical), the lure (soft), or the attraction (clinical) to the love of a “taken” one lies in the fantasy and the primal urge to create more compelling than procreation (fewer responsibilities to the aftermath).
We love to idealize love, to be in love, to make it and create it even where it does not exist. I am not suggesting that the love of a married woman ignores the woman, the being, for the objectification of love itself. People mostly fall in love with people, their features, physical or otherwise. However, the framing of love inside the circumstances of the beloved–the out of reach object–often plays a larger role in the picture of love we paint.
The interdiction (legal), the forbidden (moral), and the circumscribed (situational) of the affair seduces the painter in us. We who urge the perfect love, inch closer to its never realization by placing love in an outline, form or box with walls of pristine ideals and requirements. I love my lovers because they are who they are–funny, sarcastic, sensible and sexy; because they love me the way they do–with abandon; because they engage in the most intimate acts with me, thrill my very being and inspire me to create, live and aspire to contribute to humanity–go to work, raise my kids, change people’s minds. They make me feel.
They never sour, fall from grace before my eyes in the daily practices that make us all abject beings: ever cleaning the rotting flesh we are in the pettiness of hourly living. We belch, shit, blame and deflect responsibility. We lie, cower and deny. The human.
Not for the mistress of our getaways. Whether the encounter is a sleazy hotel sex hour or a week at a resort in Cancun, we project our ideal loves in that other we cannot keep, probably do not want to keep except to indulge surrender to the painful satisfaction of longing. Weaned on love stories and poetry (okay, maybe that’s just me), we grow to yearn, throb and grieve. Pain, like love, reminds us what we are. Affairs bring all of that and more.
I once read that our memories change each time we recall them, that we are constantly editing what happened. In the end, we can’t hold onto anything, not love, not even our own truths, because everything moves. Nothing is ever written just once.
Yes, we are artists, all of us. Human nature, the essence of frailty, tells the fallible story of its tellers wrapped in the egos of an imagination. We want. That is our condition. Our art is our necessity. We love to be loved in the art of love. And it is an art.