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Voice = Freedom

June 26, 2012

2012 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. Over 1 million in attendance! June 24, 2012. Photos by Pema Teeter.

What does love look like?


ONE MILLION voices surging in celebration and as many heartbeats collecting in the streets. Two million hands waving in solidarity, ten million fingers reaching into the simple, sweet liberation of being seen, being heard, being loved, together in one place, on the current of a legacy of freedom-fighters begun by one voice and then another, in the clamped quiet dark of oppression, and then a collective, and an ever rising tide, till freedom sounds like life out loud, together and apart, in joys and broken hearts, and the courage not to hide, till hiding un-becomes.

It gets better, indeed.

There is freedom in the light. Person, place, purpose, regime. What’s yours? Let your voice take you there.



A golden pool

Me in it up to my calves. Looking across it at a figure. Lying on his side on a temple, seductive somewhat. Caressing the top of the water with his hand. Looking at me. It’s Ganesh. The elephant god. Eyes black rimmed in kohl. He beckons to me with his eyes, his fingers tracing the water. He knows I want to come. I am afraid. Reverent. I stand still, water lapping at my calves.

The water is not water. It is a liquid golden light. It is a pool of liquid light lapping at my skin and moving beneath Ganesh’s fingers. I am an Indian boy with thick black hair close cropped. I am a girl. I am me. I want to answer Ganesh’s invitation but I do not know if I can rise to it.

He watches me from across the pool.

I see other…initiates? Devotees? Women with loose cloths draped over their breasts, their legs. What are they doing? Are they afraid? They are dipping their hands in the golden light water and dripping it on themselves. Down their chests, behind their necks. I do what they do. I dip my hands in the water and pull it to my head. It runs down golden in rivulets. It feels good. I feel grace. Gratitude.

Still afraid but surrendering

I look over to the other women and when I look back, I am up to my thighs in the pool. Ganesh still strokes the water, eyes on me. He wants me to come to him. I am still afraid, but I am surrendering. He is asking me, isn’t he? Why be afraid? But I remain thigh deep in the golden pool of light. I run my hands in it like Ganesh. He smiles his slow smile. I step toward him.

Are the other women? Where are they? Totally self-absorbed, in their own light. I am chest high now and my arms float at the water’s surface. Ganesh is beautiful and I am closer to him now. He wants me to surrender fully to the light. To come to him through the light. To approach him. His attention, relaxed as it is, is trained on me. His look beckons.

Now it is just me. No more attention paid to the other initiates. It is me in the light, up to my chest, it cradling my arms and flooding my body.

“There’s more,” says Ganesh’s look, which hasn’t changed. His smile is a coy smile. He knows something I don’t.

Worthy or not

Somewhere here, my fear gives way. The resistance leaves and I realize I must submerse myself in the light. Worthy or not, I must dip myself into it entirely. Will I be able to breathe? Am I worthy to approach Ganesh in this way? Will I disappear? What is within the liquid light?

My left shoulder is in. Then my face as I look beneath the surface. And then I am submerged. My fear has left me and there is only experience. Light against my skin. Warm bath of gold washing against me, holding me in it. I am horizontal. Naked. I am caressed by the gold, lit by the light. I see no other creatures but I know that they are there. I am light. I cannot see them because we are all light. I have become this light. I feel like I am exploring this sensation. This experience. This disappearance indeed. But I am calmed by knowing that Ganesh is above the surface, tracing his hand along the water. He is there so that I do not have to be. He is a placeholder for me and a place for me to return to. An anchor. I can remain under the light pool’s surface without fear of not coming back. I can come back. For now, I feel the light. It is light-weight and airy and golden. It is grace.

This is me

I stay because it is not time to leave. And suddenly, I spring from beneath the water’s surface to the branch of a tree on the shore where I started. I am an owl. I have taken the shape of an owl! I spread my wings and shake them. Golden! Made of light! This is me. I watch Ganesh in his shrine. He smiles at my ride in this light. The branch beneath my golden feet begins to turn gold. The light spreads all down the tree. And I am back under the surface of the pool, submerged, floating subsurface. Enjoying this.

There is something more. I can feel it but I don’t know what it is, so I float. I am close to Ganesh and his hand above the water’s surface. I remember that he had beckoned me. I was to walk to him. I go to him, to his hand at the water’s top. My vision of his hand is golden from my submerged view. I place my hand beneath his. I place my hand beneath his and it is a man’s hand. It is an elephant’s ancient foot, leathery. It is a man’s hand again. We touch, my palm reaching up against his.

Several images and sensations of this occur, like flipping slowly through a deck of cards, all versions of the same picture. Our hands touching at the golden light’s surface, me submerged and he aloft.

Me and God

There are a few flashes of this image, and then I am Ganesh, lying on his palette under his shrine’s ceiling, upon the grand, shallow steps of his temple, leading down to the golden water’s edge. I am Ganesh. And Ganesh is me. Ganesh is me beneath the water, submersed in golden light and I am Ganesh. We are one. I am god. This is his lesson. Why he called me from the other side of the pool. We are one. There is no one between me and god.

I trace the surface of the water with my hand. It is warm and soft in its texture. Liquid light. My gaze is fixed on a young figure across the pool. It is me. Or another me. Another initiate, with short cropped black hair, loose cloths covering his or her limbs. It is me and I am Ganesh and Ganesh is beneath the surface of the Golden Light. We create a triangle, timeless. We are God. Ever beginning and ever complete. We are one.


# #


I’m writing memories for a while, in exploration. Staring out the window in the mornings, letting them fall out of lit corners and dark folds, rustling leaves, blunt sunshine of spring. Join me if you please. Write yours in the comments, or link to your blog. Explore with me.


The Waking Up Series

March 1, 2012


I lean against the headboard, laptop and late night my company, lights dim. I’m traversing mental whimsies, and snicker when I imagine a character thinking he can achieve enlightenment simply by waking up early in the mornings, as a practice. “Waking up to embody Waking Up,” I think. “That’s cute.”

I’m still snickering, when I hear in my head, “Well…why not?” Why not practice something physical to find something spiritual, or cerebral, or emotional…some parallel experience by which we can compare another experience for better understanding how to maybe bring it about.


My new blog project is conceived, just like that in the late night and solitude. A 30-Day project about waking up, stories and experiences and guest posts. “My, the topic is so broad, anyone can relate,” I think. I start reaching out to people to open the conversation, asking them to be a part of my experience. I jot down memories and story ideas that illustrate examples of waking up. …But along the way, I start thinking, “My, the topic is so broad, I wonder how anyone will relate. I guess I’ll write stories about my experience, invite others to do the same, and people can follow along if it speaks to them.” I make a contributor calendar and set a start date.

A Swerve the Size of A Continent

I hear a fantastic radio story on “This American Life.” It’s about a guy, a normal dude, who looks so much like this other guy who’s running for president, that he shaves his beard, buys a suit jacket and starts showing up places to feel the rush of the Obama-for-President experience. It’s a story about the way up, the way down, it’s a story about the way people look at you, and about racism, and about hatred by proxy. It’s human and heartfelt, and more shocking by the minute. By the time it’s over, my blood boils, my skin sparks, and I can’t stop wishing, once again, that I could find a conversation-in-progress about racism, buried deep in the recesses of the ways we think and feel and fear, specifically racism quiet or loud in the American electorate, in Congress, staunching the yeses and swaying the no’s, on the House floor, in living rooms, and in the darkness of the never-said but leaking out to the surface in action, inaction, refusal to be led by a Black man.

I’m still boiling when I fire up email and reply to a Waking Up contributor asking for clarification. I let it rip. I don’t know her politics, but off I go, spewing like a geyser, connecting an example of waking up to what I just heard, to allowing different conversations into one’s life, to examine how he or she feels and thinks, and to question if it is fairly serving self and community. I hit send.

I don’t hear from her for a week, till I email her again and apologize for my outburst, and for connecting it to the project between us when I don’t know what she feels, where she stands. Politics, everyone knows, is not for polite company. And heck, I’m the one asking for her contribution here. I’m a jerk. I welcome her to vent anger in reply. I ask for forgiveness. I hit send.


What I get back blows me and my little Waking Up project into the stratosphere. She takes time to tell me her experience, her observations, her profound and profoundly calm assessment of the same things I have been spewing about, whether certain No’s would be simple Yeses if the man were not Black, if certain classes of poor would vote against their economic interests if they were being led by a fair skinned leader.

I finish reading the email and my idea to write introspective stories about personal consciousness, on the path to individual waking, seem tiny in comparison. Then my bell gets rung even louder. I sense, through the clanging of it: this project is not about my personal awakening alone, or others’. It’s about where we wake up and plug it into community. It’s about lighting up our cultural realities with personal possibilities turned outward. It’s about plugging in and flicking awake, like a string of lights down the line, one person and the next, one community coming into consciousness and then the next.

My idea is not new. Religions have been proselytizing for centuries. But it’s not evangelism that powers my exploration. It’s the curiosity of what will happen when we take our own personal revolutions and plug them into the cultural status quo. What then? Even if cultural status quo refers to your personal environment, your family culture, your work place. What happens if you take what’s been waking you, and slip it into a community’s dark edges?

Crack! The lightning of cold meets warm. Current races across the sky. And thunderous conversation roils, about seasons, elements, change.

Building It

That’s the result. That is what we’ll get to. Before then, there are inner miles to explore. I meant to start a 30-Day project today, wherein I wake up at 4am to embody waking up and write about it, toy with metaphors of the physical feeling, see if I can speak the language of wake-up in this way. I will get to that, and will ask for a cohort to wake up with me for that time.

There is road to cover first, however. It’s a road I’m not exactly sure about, but the beginning of which I can see. So today, I step into it. I invite you to walk with me. I’ll post on waking up throughout the month. I’ll publish guest posts. We’ll get out conversations that live in the dark. We’ll retell stories of how the light got in. We’ll follow the yellow brick road. It’s all WONDER after all. And begins today.

# #

Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.


9/11/11 – Memory to Light

September 11, 2011

(Post 2 of 2 today. Please let your eyes wander from the end of this post to today’s first piece, from Laura Smith, a mom remembering 9/11/01 and every day since.)

# #

A masterpiece of moments came together in a swoop. They are coming together still today.

. . .


It’s early July. I have plans to spend the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in New York. My stories will be written by then. The circle that opened there in 2001 will find some bit closure there on September 11, 2011. My pilgrimage will culminate in glorious celebration of the city on the Wonder Walk, the Secret City’s annual 14-hour art and performance walk from the northern tip of Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge. There will be much to marvel at and much wonder to behold, in a city that is still healing from its loss.

I have plans to spend August writing in Santa Barbara. I will miss a big portion of my best friend’s pregnancy. But the project is necessary. It’s a healing and a calling. I’ll squeeze in as much time as possible to make up my absence when I get back, and before I go.

I have plans to spend my birthday with my boyfriend. He’s taking vacation from work to come visit for the week and make it special.


I get a call from a friend in Santa Barbara who says a mutual dear friend and mentor has died suddenly. I feel shocked and sad and unhinged. I feel out of control of my fate in the universe. I set about making it to his funeral, against all good judgment regarding time and distance. But I am resourceful. I have spent a life organizing on the fly like this. I can make it happen. I can begin my stay in Santa Barbara early.

I cancel everything.

In the call to cancel on my best friend, she asks, “When will you be back?” And I say, “I’m, I’m, I’m just not sure.” And she says, with some futility in her voice, “My baby shower is September 11.” My best friend tried for five years to get pregnant. Now, she is living her dream, due in November, with twins.

And I in my spin say, “September 11??” While I’m thinking, “Does she not know me??” And I say, “It’s the tenth anniversary!” And I can hear the loss in her silence, the shock in it, and I can feel the shock in my reply. I can feel the impossibility of it. My best friend. Living her dream. I am not there for it. This dream of my own–these stories that have been trying to get written, too intense to ignore, finally finding expression, ending on September 11 in New York, my dream against the grain of her dream, impossible fusion.

The spin

I tell her I have to go the next morning early. Which means no time to come over and say goodbye. She’ll understand. It’s a funeral. I have to go.

Inside a day and a half I have made all of the arrangements. They slid into place strangely easily. But by the time I finish making them, I am no less unhinged.
I call my friend, Lisa. “Can you help me?” I ask. “I have to talk this out, will you listen?” And Lisa agrees. She listens. And when I’ve spun my wheels to exhaustion, she quietly asks me, “Why did you come to me with this?” And I say, “Why?” And she says, “You know, we go to different people with our problems when we want to hear particular answers. What kind of answer are you looking for from me?” And I say, “Whatever there is for you to say.” And she proceeds–softly, with the precision of a friend whose love observes and waits for the right time to share–to put words to the moments over our years, that I have prioritized death over life, even when we were young and still figuring things out.

And I see all of a sudden that I have chosen death over life. I have chucked my plans that are full of life, full of people I love and who love me back, to be present at a funeral that, while very dear, is a two-hour memorial, for a friend who is gone.


I sit with that. I get it. It is part of the uneasiness I have been feeling in my spin. I just haven’t been able to grasp it.

And Lisa, as my friend for years and years, quietly testifies that it is not the first time. That this impulse in me has had impact on my relationships in the past. And I for the first time am seeing them in this context. Seeing my leaving in this light. Seeing my running toward loss against the presence of love, right here, right now.

I feel the gravity of that. I feel like heaps of shit. I have made a very big mistake. For decades. But for the first time in two days, I am calm.

I hang up with Lisa. I hold my head in my hands. I begin the effort of patching back together what I have undone.

. . .

The Dream

It’s August. I’m in Santa Barbara. I am writing a story a day to give grief its due. From August 11 to September 11, I am airing out grief, telling stories of trauma in my life that came before 9/11, and telling my stories of what I saw that day in New York.

I have come to believe, at the time I begin this project, that giving space to grief by telling its stories is the process of transformation. When we let grief move through us, and outside of us, we let ourselves become who we are meant to be, or who we have the opportunity to be, should we take it.

There is an end to this project, on September 11, 2011. What will the story be on that day? What is the takeaway experience of witnessing, allowing, feeling opening, healing collectively from loss we share in stories?

. . .


It’s September 11, 2011. Yesterday and the day before, I spend in my car, driving to the final chapter.

I arrive. I help set up tables in prep for a gathering. I spend the morning crying while listening to radio interviews and audio files played in honor of the tenth anniversary. I wipe my face of tears while watching videos that are traveling around the internet. I post a poem, remembering what has come and what has gone. And soon, I choose a time to let my crying cease, let the grief be fully felt, and then recede, let light come back into the day, as I get dressed for my best friend’s baby shower.

There are new twins being celebrated today, as we remember the Twin Towers that fell. There are new lives coming into focus today, as we remember the lives that extinguished ten years ago. There is love in a tribe today, collecting around parents and two little humans finding their way into the world, as our nation forms community in remembrance of whom we have lost.

There is life here. There is life in the pain. It’s why it hurts.

There is life in the grief, in astounding volume. There is life past it.

There is love here and love and love and love.

There is light here.


(Post 2 of 2 today. Please let your eyes wander from the end of this post to today’s first piece, from Laura Smith, a mom remembering 9/11/01 and every day since.)

. . . . . . . .

(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar –->)

P.S. I miscalculated. There are, I discovered last night, 32 days between Aug 11 and Sept 11. Today is 31 days + 1. Thanks for reading all this way, or reading bits and pieces. Your presence has moved me into each day’s post.

Thanks for reading Day 31 + 1 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.

Join me

Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.

Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.


Beginnings and endings

I hear so many stories of beginnings from people who were witness to the 9/11 attacks in New York. A friend I met recently arrived the day before in a moving truck. Meg got sober the day before, conceived her child two days after. I arrived three weeks before: Grad school started on 9/10. And the stories continue. Was it a season of beginnings? Or was it a heyday of creation, creativity always beginning at something?

When I went to grad school, I didn’t do it alone. I often referred to it as church camp without God. We bonded immediately, the actors, directors and playwrights. Orientation week got us settled into the city, and on the first day of classes and the first night of taping at Inside the Actors Studio, we laughed as Bruce Willis told us he had saved the world 17 times in his movies. We were 12 hours away from a plane hitting Tower 1 two miles south.

Light framed

We would get to know each other deeply in the ways we exposed ourselves in our work. But the events of 9/11 sped that up in a ghastly precursor that blew open the doors of us, ready or not. Being creatives, the only way to survive was to create. Being theatre folk, the way for us to create was to be together, to open up and dive together into the places in us that would be freed.

Last weekend, Rhea MacCallum, my fellow classmate and playwright, posted a letter on Facebook to Cohort 8 of the Actor’s Studio Drama School. She captured with crystalline detail our excited sense of “purpose, potential, community, security and hope.” Her images are so clear, her memory so dear in framing our hopes and courage and leaps of faith and people who supported us to be there taking them, that they tell a story of light I have wished for as this series nears its conclusion.

With great thanks to Rhea, I invite you into the picture of light that brings to life those days in the beginning, as the end of what we knew of our world was beginning, too.

Dear Cohort VIII,

Ten years ago today we introduced ourselves to each other. So much of our orientation week bounces around like a fiery comet trapped in my brain.  As we filtered into Tishman we were continuously instructed to ‘come forward, move to the center, leave no empty spaces’ and the mostly vacant auditorium vibrated with our exuberant energy.

That day, that first day, we met James Lipton.  We were told that our talent was as recognizable as spotting your sister in a crowd.  We were told playwrights don’t hug and most of us promptly decided that we would be the exception.  Then we got up, one by one, alternating sides of the room and introduced ourselves.  Our name, our track, where we were from, what brought us here.

A few weeks later, after the planes hit, after the towers fell, after walking from hospital to hospital looking to give blood, after surviving world altering events, we gathered again, a bonded unit, for a workshop led by Lisa Formosa.  Our homework was to bring a personal object, something of great significance to us.  Our class work was to share with each other what we brought and why we choose it, in three sentences.

Ten years later our orientation week and personal object workshop have become bits of memory strung together in a not so linear fashion.  When I look back at our grad school experience, and think of it fondly, these two events emerge as moments in which I was filled with a sense of purpose, potential, community, security and hope.

This is what I remember…

Henriette’s map of NYC.

The wooden box A’ndrea received from her boyfriend.

Jamie’s chilling rape monologue.

The beer scarf.  I think it was Waldron’s.

Bi with her boyfriend’s wallet filled with cash he’d earned over the summer.

Pema, the freelancer from Santa Barbara/San Diego/San Francisco, who had a 30th birthday/going away party who also received cash… in a wallet?

Holly and her grandfather’s cross, monologue about being invisible and mutual North Dakotian cheering with Brandon.

Naveen and her frog puppet Dostoevsky.

Monica, who left us for Cohort IX, delivered a monologue about feeling like an object.

Chantel and her cherished bookmark

Fred who brought a telegram from his sister and sang and sang and sang his little heart out.

The clown that Vered brought creeped me out.

Kari’s plain vs. pretty monologue.

Sean Harris in his Counting Crows t-shirt and Claddagh ring.

Bob and his backpack.

Nancy who people seemed to already know and talked about a Friday night party at Battery Park City.

Jacqui tripping her way out of the aisle to introduce herself sang Easy to Be Hard, dedicating it to the people working in the Financial Aid office

Moti sang a funny song.  I want to say from South Park, but something tells me it was Russian.

Mr. Lipton calling attention to Ronit who he swore was the spitting image of Susan Saradon.  And a sheep.  I’m pretty sure Ronit’s item was a sheep.

Billingsley, who made me snort when he delivered the line “Fat people make me feel good.”

Eriko and her father’s watch.

Francis’ photo album.

Cole’s navy polo tee.  It’s the only top I ever remember seeing him in.

Terry who made a number of people sit up and take notice when he said he applied to grad school because “he always felt like a fraud.”

Yasmin calling herself a former Muslim and carried a new ID having destroyed all others.

Uran who sang White Snake, “lived all over” and within seconds of knowing me talked ‘shrooms.

Sari’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody and her brick napping picture taken on Lucielle Ball’s property during construction/demolition.

Melinda bringing an American Flag and espousing the virtues of exercise in her monologue.

Larry’s Hairy Ape monologue and plaque that was given to him as a thank you gift from a recent production.

Jesus who sat next to me and already had an MA from NYU.

Kawanda who thought life stopped after 25.

Luis’ hand carved lady with his grandmother’s name on the bottom.

Casy brought and wore a brooch of comedy/tragedy masks.

Brian with the mug with his brother’s picture on it.

Nichol who ranted like Homer Simpson, carried a journal that was a gift from his father and had just returned from an amazing hike in Alaska.

Sean Stevenson’s miniature mouse.

Kristen, the NYC tour guide whose friend had recently passed.

Mary, who was still holding onto Beth’s ring when she walked away to go to the restroom, leaving a nervous looking Beth alone.

Sayeeda singing You Are My Sunshine and weeping unabashedly about Ellen Burstyn’s performance in Requiem For A Dream.

Soft spoken Matt from So. Pasadena who seemed to have a case of the sniffles.

Rich, who I met in line at the registrar’s office, brought a wallet with an emblem on it.

The ball from Arnold’s first date.  I think it was orange.

Miranda, who tugged at our heartstrings as she spoke of her janitor father who worked extra shifts so she could pursue her dream and made us all chuckle when she brought in a strawberry air freshener that survived, what was it, 7? car accidents.

Trevor and his passport.

Michael Raimondi who had never lived away from home and brought a turtle from Brandon… I think.

Jonathan and the journal his mother gave him.

Colette brought a book.  I’m guessing it was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, not that I remember the title from that day.

Doug and his flask.

Aziza’s evil eye.

Stephanie called herself a Jewish drop out and brought a stuffed animal from an ex-boyfriend.

Seibert who sang The Smiths.

Max and his ball.

Nicole Hurley who sang Lean On Me.

Linda, the lawyer, whose conservative mother would rather she was unwed and pregnant than going back to school to be an actor.

Kira who worked the hell out of her Vagina Monologue.

David Salsa, as in chips and salsa, who spoke from the heart about the Smurfs.

Seth, in his white baseball cap, who showed up to the workshop with Papa Smurf.

Jake who sang If I Were A Bell brought a sprig of eucalyptus, one of my favorite scents.

Kristen and her pig.

Poorna and her house keys.  At least I think it was Poorna.  There were definitely house keys.

I remember we prayed to the sun and the moon and the stars.  We burned sage.  We sat in silence.

I also remember my mother being comforted to hear that I was studying playwriting with a Teeter (my grandmother’s maiden name) and a Stevenson (her maiden name) taught by a Laura (my sister’s name).  She wasn’t normally one to view the world through cosmic signs, but she made an exception.  She felt I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

Try as I might, I don’t remember every one from those early days.  Isn’t the brain a funny thing?  Why do I remember, so vividly, Nicole Hurley who I spoke to once, once in my life, but not so many others?  And as for the accuracy of my memory, well, only you can tell me how well I did.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you, as I do every year when it gets to be about this time.  And when I think of you, when I think of us, as we were in these days, I smile through the tears.

Lots of love,


P.S. from Pema: Rhea brought that day a wooden, multiple-holed picture frame filled with pictures of family and friends and inscribed with “Best of Friends.” It was a thank you gift from a dear friend for having hosted her baby shower.

Rhea’s most recent production, “Independence Day,” won the Audience Award for Best Drama at the Life and Death Matters Film Festival last weekend.

Not her first, and not likely her last award. Congratulations, Rhea. To find out more about her work, find her on her Facebook page.


(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar –->)

. . . . . . . . . .

Thanks for reading Day 27 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.

Join me

Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.

Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.


When my brother died, something happened to my face. It drained of expression. I couldn’t be happy. I couldn’t be sad. Stone set in. What would have happened had I shown some feeling?

At church was the worst. Music would play. History would float from the place I grew up on Sundays, calling back my brother, my grandfather who died three months before. Calling back time that was a whole lot different and a whole lot easier. Tears would threaten. They were pressed back at all costs. I didn’t want to show anything. Because people would put their arms around me and tell me they understood, when they most certainly did not understand. I didn’t understand. People would be achingly nice. They would watch me with sweet faces, from a distance.

High school was hard

I hated the way people looked at me. My life, I was David Teeter’s sister. He was a year older than I, and super cute. In second grade the phenomenon of girls talking to me so they could get to know my brother began. After he died, I was still David Teeter’s sister. But to the people who didn’t know him, I was that girl whose brother died.

Pity sucked

I hated what felt like pity when people would express their condolences. I didn’t know how to accept it as anything else. I didn’t know there was just sadness. Just condolence. I didn’t know how to accept theirs without consoling them back, saying, “I got to grow up with him. I’m sorry for your loss, too.” I said it because I didn’t know where to place their generosity. I didn’t know grace. There was only loss, and hiding out from people whom I had yet to see since my brother’s death, in case they hadn’t yet heard the news. I would sweat bullets and dart around the nearest corner thinking I might have to tell them.


The sun is shining like it did that summer, and every summer before. Flat sunlight on the earthen driveway. We would pull clay from it on rainy days. Celery grew, salty from the clay in our garden. Every summer day is a reminder, heat pushing through cotton, reminding the body of what is. What isn’t.

One night at home, Steve came over. He’s my eldest step-brother. Our family was under its pall. Steve had graduated to his own life years and years before. But one night here he was. I wonder if he felt the lid over the top of us, because before anyone knew it, he had walked through the house, out the back door and jumped into the pool with his clothes on. That led at least two others of us to topple in, screaming and laughing at the saving grace of absurdity.

Our pool was one of those above-ground beauties. Steve is a big tall man. He lumbered up the wood stairs, splashed into a teacup, lurched out a sopping hippopotamus, laughing, tempting the rest of us in the backyard dusk. We were released like atoms.

Writing this is difficult

I hate sending something out into the world and thinking, “I am being self indulgent.” I hate looking in on the Twittermall and thinking, “What am I offering here? I need to sell this harder.” And saying back to myself, “There’s nothing to sell.” It’s weird this compulsion that something’s worthy if it is trade. I offer this product. You offer that. When beneath distraction, protraction, transaction, there is this emotion to feel, this state to say, this experience to be and to release. I’m given to wonder, like I did in high school, “Who’s looking? What are they thinking? Is this bad? There’s that girl who talks about death all the time.”

Sharing is easier

My friend, Tania, said to me, “You carry grief for the rest of us. You actually feel it for us.”  And it’s true. I do. But I don’t know if I want to. I don’t want to carry the water for the world, or even my community. We have our jobs. You clean houses, your neighbor runs the grocery mart, your brother manages the bank. We pay each other for services. I carry grief for people. But that’s not what I want to trade on a psychic level. My job is not the one you pay someone to do for you. It’s the one you invite to help you bring the groceries in. Help you lift that heavy load. Help you to see that gorgeous light I see for you just ahead. See it? Just one more step.

This journey brings light to the system. The personal system. The communal system. We have to grieve. This is not an invitation to dwell in the dark. It is a call to adventure, to find the other side. There is another side here. But if we shirk the dark when it comes, we miss the path and the dark follows us around till we take the path, step by step to the other side of us. The dark follows us around even as we buoy ourselves in purchases and divorces and Sundaes and Words with Friends.

You know what else? If we shirk the dark, we leave it for others to carry. Grief is hard. For a while. And people talk in hushed tones about the trauma. For a while. But when you take an inhale, let it out, take another, let the tears fall, breathe again, and let yourself be held, it subsides. Grief waters the flower to bloom again and again and again.

Emotion is hard

Have you ever noticed that in a relationship, when a couple is fighting, the one who is less overtly emotional seems to have the upper hand? The emotional one is flailing about trying to get the one who’s not exhibiting emotion to feel something, anything at all. Meanwhile the one who is trying “too much” gets labeled crazy or over-emotional or sensitive.

The case may be the latter. But I’m willing to bet it’d be less so if the individuals in the system shared the emotion that is there to be felt, together. Isn’t it easier together? Easier for both? For all? Emotion, reaction, grief, they are entities. Trauma happens. Elephant enters room. What is the reaction? Any? I pray for everyone that every elephant that enters the room is gassy. Flatulent beyond repair. The elephant is an entity, to be seen, heard, supported, and guided back to Africa.

Anger is hard

I have a pregnant friend who got p.o.’d because a guest brought their cold germs into her house and made her sick. Her pregnancy has been anything but a cake walk, and now, she was sick. She shared this anger with her small circle of friends and supporters, to a range of replies. “Don’t be mad!” one scolded her. “You’ll hurt the baby!” Others said things like, “Be positive, you can pull through, you’re tough, if anyone can handle this, you can!”

She got a touch more p.o’d. “I’m expressing the anger so I CAN let go of it. It’ll do my baby a lot more harm to keep it in and let it wreak havoc on all my other emotions.” She got mad, let it go, and the fever and cold she picked up moved through her system in a couple of days, versus the weeks of sickness she had seen before, and was afraid of returning.

My post has an angry hue today. I woke up surly. I worked in the yard to get it out of me, and when it remained, I thought, “Okay, what about anger in grief is there to write today?” And here it is. We are not angelic. We are not “nice” without consequence. We do not hide a part of something major in ourselves without eclipsing more, important aspects that help us be seen and loved and successful in the world.

Hard is not the point

As I come to the close of this blog post, a noisy, yappy, yelpy chorus of coyotes rises nearby. The whole community of them bounce their voices off the hillsides, sound swelling in their barks and howls, a choir, one organism, the pack of them.

There is something to feel here in the depths of us. Something to touch. Something to share. And something to howl together if it is too much to howl alone. The illusion of grief is that it feels so deeply, sadly alone. To remember is that we have been grieving since the separation from our mothers’ wombs. No one is spared from this darkness. But neither are we spared from its light, shining alongside it like a prize.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar ––>)

Thanks for reading Day 8 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.

Join me

Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.

Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.


Trees, sunlight, land
birds, so many birds
buzzing things with wings
Quiet is alive here

Different than a quiet room
with quiet walls
and emptiness
Here emptiness is full

Full of humming, full of life
all in praise
of stillness
Like the elements

shaking with wind
are snickering:
Even stillness
isn’t still

Even death is not death alone
everything is living
all around
life clamors in

sound of voices

populate even grief
to make the pain
and to save us from it


Photo credit: “Memory Oak” – Pema Teeter

Poem credit: “Quiet Is Alive Here” – Pema Teeter, inspired by the loving support of Gina Diaz and Lisa Slavid

. . . . . . . . . . . .

(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar ––>)

Thanks for reading Day 7 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.

P.S. Today, a week in, I am steeped in this experience of letting grief be seen. People who go on food fasts describe the sensations I am having. The first days are difficult, hungry, challenging, exposing of emotional crutches, pains, indulgences. As the days continue come freedom, lightness, a humming, a clarity. Keen awareness that I am not alone, nor is my grief weighing down the world. Rather, my experience of grieving is lifting the world up. That sounds like a broad, bold claim. But it is a buzzing truth. I can feel it. There is light on the other side. Come join me.

Join me

Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.

Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.


Moth, meet Flame

I just got off the phone with Meg Worden, of and Feed Me, Darling. If you don’t know her yet, you’ll know her soon. Because the bonfire she’s building on her beach is so bright, so gorgeous, so big and hot and primal and core, that it’s easy to recognize. It provokes the personal fire, the one within. One glimpse and it’s easy to warm to from a mile away. Easy to move into from the darkness.

Meg knows darkness. As we all do. But she speaks it. In the process and practice of a lifetime, she unclouds her light and just lets it riot. How? In the feeling. In the living. In the telling.

We talked about our businesses and our relationships. We’re both restless explorers and noodle the nature of NEW when we talk. In our conversation’s edgiest moments, we’re addicts remembering a high–moving cities, meeting people, growing fast, figuring it out. Or fantasizing a score–absorbing experiences, eating them alive, forgetting to breathe…then…remembering our heads…cooling out…basking in flight.

What I loved so much about today’s conversation was what she said about telling. Sharing. Letting it out. She said:

“I’m building deep relationships by telling my core story. When you decide to hold totally true to your vision, people are attracted like moths.”

To a flame, people. We want that flame. We WANT it!

A break off the big light

We want it because we can feel our own flickering to get out.

What is your core story? Do you know? Does it hound you to get out? Do you push it back in thinking you’ll be castigated if you share it? Will you be?

What is the prison you freed yourself from? Or the one you’re still in?

Meg also said:

“Your awareness expands the entire shape of you. When you are unconsciously feeding yourself, it IS poverty, even if you’re eating filet mignon.”

She’s talking about food here, right? Being the health:business smart cookie that she is. But I’m gonna spin it to story. What. Are you eating. Unconsciously? What untrue trash are you feeding yourself about NOT sharing. About NOT having a story to express? About not being enough to say what there is for you to share.

You know what I know? What I absolutely know down to every electron in my cells? Your. Story. Changes. Lives. No shit. So does mine. So does your friend’s, your partner’s, your mom’s.

You know why? Because each story is a little (or big) break off the big light. It’s a spark from the big fire around which we ALL warm our hands. It’s life. Individually and in numbers. More specifically, it’s information that someone else needs. Not only in the words, mind you, but in the soul that you express while expressing them.

Snap. Crackle. Listen.

Ever hear someone say about a musician, “That gal, she could sing the phone book and I’d listen”?

People listen. It’s all we want to do. We want to hear and be heard. We want to know we exist, and we know it by seeing ourselves in others. In their stories. In their expression.

So what’s your phone book?

Better yet, what are your stories? Where is your voice? Are you singing it?

Here’s another gem from my conversation with Ms. Meg today:

“What is the difference between the people who lead and the people who don’t? It’s not that leaders have more of anything. It’s that they have the ability to walk into it.”

They have the ability to see, and accept, and BE all that they are, and all that there is for them to be. And to walk into it. That’s it.

I know, right? Phenomenal.

If you are worried that you don’t know who to be, or what to do, or with what to lead, tell your stories. Take a listen to who you are. The answers will come with the expression.

Said Meg:

“What we’re creating is evolving in a way that creates the next hit. We need to just create a life for ourselves that accommodates who we are today.”

Are you stuck on the overuse of that “create” word? Don’t be. It’s there for a reason. Over and over and over. Creation is now and now and now.

Story saves lives

One more thing from Meg before I give the fire back to the flame:

“Use story to create connections rather than having a one sided story about your life.”

Thank you. Can I get a witness. That is WHAT it’s all about. Story inside you runs you. Story outside you makes you friends, community, tribe, witness. Takes you to meet humanity.

Get your story out. Get it said. Go up in flames in the telling if you have to. Inside the crucible is you. New. All clean and transformed. And purified by fire. The fire that’s already inside you. Flickering.


My word for 2010 should come as no surprise, considering this love campaign I’ve launched the last two weeks. But it IS something of a surprise. To me. That two weeks of well intentioned love missives to the big broad world, and to people in my smaller world, can turn an entire year into…


That’s my word for 2010.

The year started with love upended and ugly, face down in a heap of rotted dreams. Hm, anyone detect a bruised heart, beaten ego, maybe a mote, a skosh, of duplicity, and the several seasons of dragonfire that followed?


That was love’s doing. Had I not ventured into it, and its nuclear fallout, I’d not have broken open the cauterized wounds that came before. Love, all of its hopes…and contusions…brought me to the summer, in which I fell deeply madly in love with my Lilith peeps, and to the fall, which has me levitating with joy for the Story Changers participants in my new invitation to fall in love. With the one, this time.

Yep. I’m calling in the one.

Bring it, love. I’m listening.

Which makes next year’s word: LIGHT.

If love breaks apart bad beliefs, and reeducates them, then light will keep them clear, keep me clear-headed, will remind me to BE LIGHT myself, instead of sink, heavy, into darkness of circumstance. Light will help to break apart what obstacles to love remain, and will remind that love…is light…when you give into it and let it do its job.