Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Prose - Swimming

The fear of water began long before I got to a swimming pool. It began at a very young age, having my water element hampered through sexual abuse.
So when my Mom took me to the neighborhood pool, around five or six years of age, for swimming lessons, I was filled with apprehension. Somehow, I did okay until we had to put our heads underwater. My Mom said I wouldn’t go back after that.
As I got a little older, nine, ten years old, I began to hang out at the pool to be with my friends. All this playful hanging out resulted in being thrown in the deep end a few too many times. My fear pulled me down. There was no popping back up. Someone always had to jump in and get me. These times sealed it for me, water was not my friend. Where was the gumption I needed to work through this.
I loved the ocean though, getting to spend lots of summers in W. Palm Beach and Palm Beach with my Aunt Jean and favorite cousin, Sigrid. My cousin and her friends took the ocean for granted and loved spending their time in the swimming pools, just across Ocean Drive from the beach. But still I didn’t learn to swim.
In my teens, after I met my future husband, we would join others at a nearby lake for water-skiing. With a life jacket on, I attempted several times to get up, without success. I kept pushing down my failure about water.
When I had my own daughters, I made sure they learned to swim. It was a challenge for my youngest, having to have many special classes with Janet McCabe’s Swim School, where the teacher apologized for having to be so firm with Laura. But it worked.
Finally, a miracle came about in my early forties. Someone fell into my lap who wanted to give me private swimming lessons in trade for bodywork. We started at Rally Sport. Oh, my god, the water was so cold. I couldn’t relax enough, so we soon moved to Mapleton Center, where the water is much warmer. And at the time it was naturally sterilized. I actually began to have fun and enjoyed looking forward to my lesson and moving my body in the water. My special goggles helped a lot. I actually learned to swim, not great, but overcome some of my fear. Its never flowed fluidly, but, I still love to go to the Mapleton pool, whether to do my playful swimming with the floaters or their water aerobics. Each time the water welcomes me more and more.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Swimming as a teen, I dove into the pool. Mid-trajectory, I saw someone suddenly headed on a collision course with my own destination. As I instinctively swiveled my body to avoid smashing into him, I twisted my right shoulder unnaturally and it popped out of joint as I splashed downward into the water. Intense pain pooled in my throat as a scream that I had to hold in, while holding my breath. Then I aimed upward and pushed myself towards the air, a missile of hurt exploding out of the water. That scream erupted as I made it to the edge and was helped out by friendly hands. The once-dammed scream continued to pour out until someone pulled my arm to reset the joint socket properly and restore the calm flow of my body.

--Terra Rafael

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Is There

What Is There?

All my juices
Squeezed out of me…
What is there
When all is not?
My mind tries to flee
To concepts to hang on to.
“Maybe it will be like this”,
Or, “This is why it must be so”.
Stop right here!
Stop right now!
No conjecture.
Nothing to fathom.
Just being in this breath.
The reaching for reasons
Dissolves into a puddle
Of question marks.
Identities, personas
Become the dust pile at my feet.
What is there
When all is not?

Prema Rose

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poem: We all have a place in this world...

We all have a place in this world,
a place that is ours.
If we fail to show up,
fail to reveal our authentic selves,
the world misses a piece of itself.
Our piece of the equation,
our piece of the truth
is then an empty space.

For the totality of the world's
wisdom and well-being,
we need everyone's contribution
of their heart and authentic selves.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Yesterday we had the Great March Blizzard of ’09. It had been announced, announced, and announced, one more time, on the news the night before. Getting up at five a.m. I looked out the window to see a mere dusting on the grass. “Well,” I said disgustedly before tucking back under the covers, “they got it wrong again.” I was disappointed. When I woke up at seven a.m. it was a different story. By nine it was looking official. By ten is was the real thing.

I was reminded of winters in Michigan where it seemed like every snow storm was a blizzard and snow was piled high all winter. It was my favorite season. I liked shoveling snow and taking the big straw broom to sweep the porch steps whipping small swirls of white beauty into the air. I am not sure the steps were worry free when I finished but I had fun. That big old broom was my partner as together we swept every tree within spitting distance of the house while, Suzie, our dog danced behind us. I especially liked reaching high with the broom to hit the drifts off the evergreen trees. It was a never-ending surprise when the snow fell on my head drifting down my neck to melt with a squeal under my coat. On snowy days it was my delight to be out until soggy mittens or frozen toes drove me in.

Yesterday I got out Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, The Snow Storm.
“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, arrives the snow.”
Yesterday was a poem of a day.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

If I were Queen for a day…………

If I were Queen for a day I would roll up my sleeves and get to work. Before breakfast I would immediately freeze the wages and bonuses of all the highest ranking traders and officials of the New York Stock Exchange companies and our largest banking institutions. They would need to convince me that they are the “best and brightest in their fields” because at this point in time they look a lot like crooks and swindlers. There is obviously not a “checks and balance system” in place to moderate their greed, therefore they must be held accountable. I would recommend that they spend a two month tour of duty working beside regular people in a place like New Orleans rebuilding houses and schools. How many houses can you build with one 33 million dollar bonus check?

I would then rally up our troops and send them to the tobacco fields in our southern United States and have them plow under all tobacco fields. I would bring back in the farmers to plant hemp. I would create a crew of architects, engineers and construction workers to draw up plans to renovate all of the tobacco processing plants into manufacturing plants that would use hemp to produce paper, cloth, oils and all of the other useful things than can be made from hemp ~ a wondrous product with many uses that does not involve killing people. In the short term this would no doubt produce much work for rehabilitation centers and medical doctors to wean people off the previous government sponsored nicotine addiction. However, in the long run it would massively free up billions of dollars for the Medicaid program.

Later in the morning I would have a meeting with the Department of Education. The first order would be to instruct the school lunch program across our great nation to serve fresh healthy foods, as much as possible, to feed the brains of the next generation of world leaders. All music and art programs would be re-instated, especially at the elementary and middle school levels. We would immediately add conflict resolution, yoga and meditation to a revamped curriculum, beginning with kindergarten and pre-schools. Our children need a broader skill base to work with.

After lunch I would form a committee to conduct research on how to bring a stand alone energy system to every household. I am of the opinion that this technology has already been developed but has been bought up and destroyed by the oil and gas companies. Its day has come! You might miss it, but you will never again hear on the evening news about thousands of people being without power for extended periods. This technology will of course be shared with all the third world countries that we now pay millions of dollars to every year in financial aid. This will save the taxpayers, such as myself, money from our own pockets and have a wondrous affect on our foreign relationships.

And then I will invite young children in for milk and cookies to advise us what we should do next.

* annette

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Universe's Charm

Sometimes I just love the way the Universe unwinds things in ways we could never imagine. The fact that I participate in a blog is miraculous enough. I’m not what you would label technical and didn’t even have my own computer till a few months before I was blogging, I’m sure I would never have ventured into that world without my writing group. One of my sisters reads that blog each week. Last week was the Milk story connecting childhood memories to milk. With the writing groups encouragement I posted that story. I don’t tend to put longer pieces on the blog and didn’t think it was that interesting but I listened to their cue. Because I did post it, my sister read it the next day and called to tell me she couldn’t believe I had written about milk. Even the references to the milk man, glass bottles and the charm bracelet, as she had just had a conversation talking about these things the day before. She also recalled riding her bike, with a basket in front, to carry the milk home from the milk machine and our Italian neighbor, Micky Mangiola, who drove the milk truck. Her father-in-law had also been a milk man, which I never knew, and it had come up in that context.
I’m thinking “What are the chances she had similar memories surface about such an unlikely topic, at a similar time.” And how we would have never known if I hadn’t put it on the blog. I’m fairly sure it was a subject that would not have appeared in one of our weekly phone conversations.
Then she says “There’s more.” “What does that mean?” I reply. “I can’t believe we never told you.” (we being our other sister and herself) “Told me what?” “About the charm bracelet.” “What are you talking about?” I said. An aside for anyone who hasn’t read the previous story; after one of my magical walks to the milk machine I was digging in the yard and found a charm bracelet. I thought this was a gift, directly from God, encouraging me forward in my suburban life. Next she says, “Well, we stole those charms and the bracelet at Macys. We finally figured out we had to get rid of it or we’d get caught. Mom was bound to find it, wonder where it came from, so eventually we threw it into the bushes.” I’m stunned. Not in a million years, not to mention the last thirty-seven or so, would I have come up with that scenario. “I’ve actually wondered about the origin many times.” I told her. “Even when I wrote the story, a few days before, it occurred to me that we were the first people living in that house. It had been an undeveloped area so how could there be a charm bracelet buried in the dirt?” I’d always chalked it up to a mystery and thought it added to my ‘gift from God’ theory. But they stole it. I couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe they never told me.
Once again I’m the last to find out. This relates to another story involving Santa Claus but I’ll save for another time. It does remind me the universe can deliver playful surprises with a charm of it’s own. Being the last to know something gives it a lot of room to work with.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prose - Road Trip with Cigars

The breeze, even though humid, felt good blowing through my hair, until every few minutes when I would get a big waft of cigar smoke. If the car slowed down at all, the breeze would stop and the sweat would start up quickly, wanting to mix with the cigar smoke, a lovely combination.
My Dad, Arthur and step-grandfather, Challey, were enjoying their cigars in the front seat of our 1949 Oldsmobile, along with, I’m sure, a flask of bourbon, tucked away somewhere. I say step-grandfather so you know he wasn’t my Dad’s real father. All the while, my Mom, Ovada, and grandmother, Alma, my Dad’s real mom and I were in the back seat. I never remember any complaining about the cigar smoke, but I hated it. I’m sure they past out pigskins, the southern “chip of the day”, or packages of peanut butter crackers to help if the cigar smoke went over the tolerance of the stomach.
Here we all were, driving to Florida in the 1940s, before air-conditioning. We were headed down the east coast, just below W. Palm Beach to visit more relatives who made a home for my great-grandmother, Melissa, Bompa, to me. An occasional stop at a gas station was the rest area of the day, where we bought Cokes which most people liked to pour a little bag of peanuts into. I liked mine separate. It was a two day trip from northern Alabama, which was home to us. There were hundreds of miles of long, flat road. Lots of it was dirt, or more appropriate, sand. Sometimes the sand had a lot of grass, especially down the middle of the road, like it was hardly ever used. I felt so far from anything, but excited for the adventure and what I would see next. Although, there was lots of napping, until you woke up in a pool of sweat. The lull of the road and the heat made it impossible to stay awake. There was a lot of trash on the highways in those days, before we became a truly first world country. I also saw a lot of Burma Shave signs, a highlight for a kid. They were small signs following each other, telling a story. They all had a different message and carried some of the best entertainment at the time, when you were traveling on the road.
We felt like we were getting closer when we got to Ft. Lauderdale and civilization. The excitement of bumper to bumper cars and so many people got my juices flowing.
I survived these cigar smoking trips, never understanding the thrill or need for a cigar, until I was an adult. At a Plant Spirit Medicine graduation party I actually partook of puffing on a cigar. I was very much surprised how good it tasted. Maybe some part of my unconsciousness forgave my Dad and grandfather right then and there. Although its still amazing remembering how unconscious we were oh so many years ago. What are we doing now that will be considered an unconscious act years from now??

Monday, March 23, 2009

Refining Sweetness

Mother’s milk is sweet. This primordial flavor primes our sweetness taste buds, associating sweetness with mothering and nurturance.

And most all of us want more sweetness. Ayurveda says sweetness itself is grounding, building, and cooling. Refined sugar is another thing, just as cocaine is to coca leaves. Refining sugar strips away nutrients, leaving an empty high that weakens rather than fortifying.

I grew up, a child of the 50’s, bottle fed and sugar filled. My mom has always been a fabulous baker and the bag of “C&H” sugar was always nearby. “C” was for California sugar beets. “H” was for Hawaii’s sugar cane.

I went to college in the middle of Red River Valley sugar beet country. Miles and miles of flat land were plowed to extract some sweetness from the soil. Even regular beets have a sweetness to them. These were bred to sugar. The nearby sugar beet plant filled the air with a sticky aroma that clung to the nostrils and literally sugar coated everything with a microscopic layer. It was mildly nauseating.

Sugar cane was foreign until I visited Hawai’i. The large sugar cane plantations long ago moved to cheaper labor markets. But I saw the slender black stalks growing in the botanic garden of Hawaiian plants. What alchemy was needed to change the inner juice, used as medicine in Ayurveda, into the white crystalline drug, called sugar, I do not know.

Now the cornfields of central US provide the ubiquitous sweetener of today – high fructose corn syrup. In the center of our grocery stores, where packaged processed foods abound, it is found on many, if not most, of the ingredient lists. Cheaper than sugar, it replaces more expensive sweeteners, often 2nd or 3rd on that ingredient list.

Even more concerning is a recent study that revealed that a large number of sampled foods with corn syrup had mercury in them. Why? Because an out-dated processing procedure used by some companies allows a bit of mercury to remain in the corn syrup. Unfortunately, this heavy metal accumulates, so even tiny amounts, if consumed frequently, will, over time add up to toxic levels. How could the people who own these processing plants knowingly continue to slowly poison people, especially when there are newer, non toxic methods available? They say that the levels in products are safe—that the result of repeated ingestions isn’t their responsibility. And they run ads on TV ridiculing people who are concerned about the health effects of high fructose corn syrup.

How about a return to Mother Nature’s own nurturing sweeteners—those we can grow, gather, or prepare in our kitchens? No mercury processes required.

--by Terra Rafael

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I examine my hands,
The hands that have
I have carried with me all these years.
So many expressions
Have enlivened them,
As they tell the stories of my ages
In minutest detail.

I remember really seeing
My hands as a child,
Fascinated by their dexterity and strength,
Wondering at their abilities.
The nails, the cuticles,
Fingers, knuckles, and the palms,
Intimate with my perusals.

They bore the silent signs
Of my bad habits,
And all those cuts and crushed fingers,
Lovingly adorned with band-aids.
How cleverly they can untie
The knots of countless dreams
And strivings.

They spoke of brimming pride
With blood red nails.
They received the precious fluids
Of the newborns.
They dug the earth,
Planting the smoldering seeds
Of future gardens

So gracefully, they stretch
To touch the
Unreachable shores of infinity.
How precisely they hold
The pen and paintbrush,
Portraying the inner visions
Of my mind.

I fold my hands in prayer.
I lift them upward
With reverence and intention.
Blessed hands,
Now blue veined and wrinkled,
They betray the passing of the years.
Someday, you will be folded on my heart.

Prema Rose

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Favorite Fairy Tale

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair.”

I can hear that line in my sleep. It was a story on a 45 rpm yellow record that my mother put on our record player when I was a kid. I’m not sure if it rivaled Wonder Woman whom I read comics of and saw cartoons about. But Rapunzel was the earliest memory of fairy tale for me.
The prince would come and climb up the tower wall, holding onto her hair, to rescue her after she had been imprisoned all her early years.
What a set up! I remember the sing-songy voice lamenting, “Pitiful Rapunzel, oh what will become of me”, before said prince showed up.
Unbeknownst to my mother, this fairy tale spoke of giving one’s power away, self-imprisonment, victimhood and waiting for rescue. What a model of feminine behavior to give two young innocent girl children.
It’s not like she slid down the wall and rescued herself. She remained there until Prince Charming came charging up on his white horse and saved the day. Most of the men that even carried that Prince Charming mystique in my experience, turned out to be serious toads in disguise.
Many years later, especially after the book, discussions and movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, that whole fairy tale seduction has fallen flat. I feel I could’ve made a better Prince Charming than any of them, and I was supposed to be the Princess!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I have never been around goats before. Go-tee belongs to my housemate, Neally, who raised her since she was twelve hours old. She has lived at my house for several months now but I have only recently begun a relationship with her. I mean, I feed her every morning and we exchange pleasantries but I never really connected with her until just recently. Once, when she first got here, I went into her pen to get her water bucket and she was rubbing on my leg with her head and neck. She whacked me hard with her horn right on my kneecap. She didn’t mean to but it hurt quite a bit. From then on I tended her from over the fence ~ it was quite a civil arrangement. She leans against the gate as I rub on her sides and scratch her neck around her collar.

So it was an enormous shock last week when my housemate pounded on my door and said, “they killed my goat”. I ran down the side walk and looked and there were two dogs in the goat pen; a Rottweiler and a pit bull. They were just setting there, quietly looking at us, apparently unable to get out. Go-tee’s body was in the corner.

I ran in and called 911. They dispatched an animal control officer. It took almost an hour for her to get here, but Debbie was wonderful. She gave the dogs some treats. They seemed happy to see her and you could tell they had no idea that they had done anything wrong. She put collars around their necks and they wagged their tails as she checked their sex and looked for identification. Debbie easily got them into two cages in the back of her truck. As she worked, she explained the process to us. The dogs would be impounded and the owners would be charged with “dogs at large” and some sort of property damage. The dogs could not be released back to their owners until a formal proceeding had taken place, and maybe not even then. The dog’s owners would not have our names or addresses. Neally stepped back and I helped Debbie get pictures of Go-tee. It was hard for both of us and I saw tears in her eyes as she wondered out loud how frightening it must have been.

This is a lose-lose-lose situation. Go-tee lost her life. Neally lost her friend. Debbie told us there was a good chance that the dogs would be euthanized. It is easy to see that they are nice dogs, well taken care of, very friendly. But she said that once they have killed like this, they often get a taste for it. I can only guess that the people the dogs belong to will be devastated. It could easily have been a freak accident that the two got out of their yard; we have never seen these dogs running around before. Neally and I are dog people; she works with dogs every day. We do not wish these dogs ill. We don’t know their owners; we can only guess how this will impact them. Go-tee is going to be buried under a tree at her old house. This was a shitty day in paradise.

Conclusion. It has been 10 days since the incident. There was a knock on my door and a man standing on my front porch who introduced himself as a neighbor “down the way”. He said “I understand that you had some trouble with some dogs and your goat.” I nodded this to be true.

“Well , I just thought that you would like to know that those two dogs attacked my goats this morning and I killed them; they’re dead.” He said that Debbie had been the officer that had responded to his call as well. I still have several questions about how the dogs were released back to their owners, and what happens next. But for the dogs, and Go-tee, the story is finished.

* annette

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


When I was really small I remember milk getting delivered to the slate grey box that sat just out sided the front door on the stoop. The lid lifted up and inside was four glass quart bottles and the empty ones went back in the box to be replaced by fresh ones. This didn’t last too long, maybe my first four or five years. I’m not sure what happened to the milk man or if it just became cheaper to pick it up yourself or some other possibility not known to me. I know we had a neighbor, two doors down, that drove a milk truck. That brown truck, a lot like todays UPS ones, was parked in the driveway every evening and it left way before dawn. So somebody kept having milk delivered because he had that job his whole life, till he retired.

I also remember a milk machine. It was in the middle of no where. Maybe there was a few cows on the property but I don’t have any recollection of them. There was no store any where nearby but one of the older, more original homes of the area, sat a short distance away. Maybe they kept it stocked but I don’t really know. And where was it plugged in to keep it cold? I didn’t ever think to ask those questions but by the time I might have it was gone. So it remains a mystery.

I know I walked, by myself, at a pretty young age, to get milk when we ran out. It was more than a half mile, to the milk machine, from our house each way. I can still recall the feeling of an adventure when my mom would hand me the change that would delivery the milk out of the machine. It was a lot like todays candy and soda machines but quarts or half gallons of cold milk cartons popped out instead.

I was always so happy to be going. Partly because I got to go and no one else did, that they trusted me. But I was not more than eight so my siblings would have been much too young. In later years I would have to take one of my sisters with me which changed the whole dynamics.

This walk went by many homes but the closer I got to the machine the bigger and more magical the trees got and the further away from each other the homes got. It was an older area, not as developed, and the trees were by far the best part. Sun dappling through their leaves made it a walk into another world. They would reach and drape over the road creating a canopy of delight. I’d create fantasies about being in a secret world or on a mission, or finding a hidden treasure. It was all in my mind as the only real adventure was dodging neighborhood dogs. But those little journeys enriched me as they now enrich milk because they think we need all this extra stuff. But I’m sure I did need the extra stuff of my imagination to survive the suburban life I found myself surrounded with in the mid-sixties on Long Island.

I do remember digging in my yard one time, shortly after returning from a milk adventure, and finding a charm bracelet. I thought this must be one of buried treasures I’d imagined on my walk finally coming to me. As I wiped the dirt off from all the charms I was sure God was sending me a reward, a confirmation. Keep imagining, keep digging, keep going for milk and you’ll find your charms.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Poetry - Indecision

Indecision has me in its grip

The wooden vice of indecision
Is squeezing so tight
I feel I may
Never see clearly again.

Long moments of wondering
How to figure out
The next move

As indecision keeps sliding
Me down the path to nowhere

I feel it sling me so far
I end up teetering on the edge.

If only I could jump into the void
Its got to be better than this

Screaming comes to mind,
But won’t come up through the body
And out through the mouth.

Thank Goddess for writing
It’s a way forward.

Monday, March 16, 2009


In 1959 one of the wonders of our newly built house was a laundry chute from the bathroom down to the basement where the washer lived. It was amazing enough to have two floors to our house now—ground floor and basement. But it was luxurious to have that slot to transport laundry and not have to pile it up in a basket to carry down, load after load. A family of 5 had a fair amount of laundry. Mom divided the clothes into piles according to colors – whites – reds – blues – blacks/browns before washing on Mondays.

I remember that old washer. It was a round, white tub with a black agitator in it and a wringer attached above. The wringer was made of two tan rollers. We’d stick clothes through to wring the excess water out into the tub before hanging the clothes out to dry. The washed ribbons of cloth came out mostly dry. Just seeing the extremely squeezed clothes underlined the verbal warnings not to risk our fingers near them.

The clothes lines stretched between two T-shaped metal poles in the backyard. I wasn’t tall enough to reach the lines so I didn’t have to help with that. By the time I was tall enough we had a drier – well received by Mom after hanging out clothes for years for our big brood.

Ironing, well, I was tall enough for that. First I’d mist the clothes with water to help the cotton fibers smooth more easily under the heat of the iron. I learned to move methodically and still follow the same order when ironing a blouse or shirt – the collar, inside then outside; one cuff and that sleeve on front & back; the other cuff and sleeve; the back yoke, then the rest of the back; then the front. Luckily, we didn’t have time in our large family to iron such things as underwear and sheets.

--by Terra Rafael

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

It was a sunny November day in Philadelphia and I decided to wander through the historic section of town to explore the old cobblestone streets and the quiet quaint shops. I was having a wonderful adventure as I had been steeped in early American lore, architecture, and artifacts throughout me teenage years. My mother had taken on a momentous challenge of restoring a pre-revolutionary house in East Hampton, Long Island. I had pitched in to help when I was home from boarding school and the project took several years to complete. I loved the discoveries, and smells, and textures of the gifts from the past that we lovingly collected, sorted, and stored to be given to one museum or another.

Anyway, it was a leisurely Friday morning before our performance with the National Repertory Theater that evening. Our company had been touring around the major cities in the United States and we were closing in Philadelphia the next day and moving the truckloads of sets and costumes, as well as the cast and crew, into Washington. Our opening night was being telecast throughout the country and we were having a gala reception with the President, the Congress, and the elite of Washington. We were being declared the National Theater of the United States of America. What an honor!

I was walking on air that day and the well worn cobblestones were the Yellow Brick Road. I stopped at a small gift store that caught my eye and I entered into its enchantment. The woman behind the counter had her radio on. She informed me that President Kennedy had just been shot.
Oh my God! The horror and despair of that moment will live with me forever. In shock, I went back to my hotel room and like everyone else, tried to absorb the reality of the events. Of course, all our grand plans for Washington were scrapped. We arrived that Sunday to a city in mourning. No one was thinking of going to the theater. Although we played our run there, it was a solemn engagement.

I did stand on the side of the street to watch the funeral cortege pass and grieve the hope we had for America. What now?

We changed the schedule of the tour and, after playing in several more cities over several more months, we opened on Broadway at the Belascoe Theater.

Prema Rose

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Writing Prompt: If I was Queen for a day...

If I was truly a Queen for a day, I would call a halt to all the wars in the world for twenty-four hours. I would order troops to feed their country’s hungry, and suspend punishing laws and retributions.
Because I know that twenty four hours in even a human life-span is a drop in the bucket, and because I know everything would continue on in the very minute past that curfew, I would have already worked with any disappointment that might come up. In some ways, that one day would give me, and anyone else who was aware and watching, a glimpse of what could be, even centuries down the road. It would give Hope to all those who had hungered for peace for their whole life until that day. It would show others the possibility of what the world could be.
In my Aquarian idealism, a day of peace, without hatred, power-over and war, a day where the true human nature of each person was invited out into the day’s business, would be the satisfaction in itself of being Queen for that day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Back Then

In the summer time we would play triple deck canasta and get in big fights because we all cheated. We spent the hours before falling asleep dreaming up devious ways to cheat our other six siblings. We would form alliances to gang up on one another with secret counter alliances and double blind espionage being major tactics. Sometimes the fighting got physical and then the fists would come out ending in a bloody nose. Then our mother would ban us all from the house to sort it out among ourselves; which sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t.

If someone yelled, “I’m going down to the river!” that was the signal that the fight was off. We’d go running down to the river jumping into the clear water cooling everyone’s tempers. Oddly, we were ethical in the water. We might have a water fight but that was as far as it would go. We never dunked one another. We looked out for the little ones. If a crab was spotted scurrying under a rock a warning shout would go up. Nobody wanted a pinched toe. We harmoniously hated blood suckers in unison. Swimming was good.

Sometimes those fights were just too good to give up. We were not into conflict resolution and no one taught us. Our parents operated under the homegrown philosophy that if we didn’t kill each other eventually everything would turn out. We carried on for days at a time taunting, calling names and making up lies. It was fun. It was mean. It was evil. We loved it. My sister, Sally, was the best at pushing buttons. Hers was psychological warfare throwing out little loaded comments at the dinner table resulting in thigh pinches under the table. She never forgot anything and gathered ammunition daily. Anything was fare game with her. Two of my brothers never caught on and it only got worse as they grew into testosterone-laden teenager boys.

I was the runt of the litter so hiding was my game. Being little had its advantages. I could hide in boxes, under stairs, behind corners, anywhere. I was a terrible liar and always got caught along with my little brother, Jerry. I don’t know how they always knew but they did. Jerry and I were the least social of the siblings. While the others could seemingly carry a fight on forever we two would eventually go out into the woods for some quiet time. We got pretty good at playing Indian and being invisible. If we heard the thundering heels of the other five coming for us we’d climb up a tree or crawl under thick bushes. It was a thrill to watch them run by calling to us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Birmingham Hospital Diet

It was 70 degrees today, and sunny; hard to believe that it is still February. A girl friend and I have challenged one another, and mostly ourselves, to lose a few pounds before the summer season fully heats up. It is time. I thought I heard my horse groan the other day as I pulled myself up. How embarrassing.

I got a copy of The Birmingham Hospital Diet from a girl friend two years ago and practiced it for one whole spring. In my defense, I typically eat pretty healthy food. My downfall is “portion control”. There, I said it. I am a decent cook, and I make enough to guarantee leftovers so I am not cooking every day. Sometimes I try and visualize my stomach as I fill a small plate with food. Surely that will be enough to fill my stomach … but it tastes so good that I go back for more. Argh!!

This diet has very specific guidelines for three meals a day for three consecutive days. You are not to deviate from it … at all. On one hand, it makes it easy to shop and I don’t have to spend any time at all planning meals. On the other hand, you starve for three days in a row. Okay, I know that it is gonna have to hurt a little bit to be effective.

Day One. For lunch they allow you one half cup of tuna, 1 ounce of cheddar cheese and a cup of black tea. I am into this so I bravely set my lunch on a wood cutting board and head out the back door to take my lunch in the sun, which I believe will be the only redeeming quality about this meal. Alas, I knock the board with the door and my little can of tuna lands on the sidewalk and bounces into the grass. I quickly bend to pick it up. I feel like the little orphan boy in Charles Dicken’s story. “More please.” Most of the contents have remained packed in the can, thank God, but a part of me wants to get down and lick the sidewalk. Those few morsels might be the difference between failure and success on Day One.

Breakfast on Day Two is one egg, one slice of dry toast, ½ a banana and black tea or coffee. In preparation I have hard boiled the largest eggs in the container. I slice one into 6 wedges and sprinkle them with pepper. Are there calories in pepper? I don’t know, but it is allowed on the diet, it is a healthy spice and I apply it generously for the sake of good health. I cut the dry toast into six tiny slices. I take very little bites and chew it slowly. This is doable; I am Queen of my destiny. Black coffee makes my stomach queasy, and you definitely do not want to be unnecessarily aware of your stomach when you are dieting, I mean, Duh! I tempt fate with a small shot of milk. Life is good!!

This diet does not allow snacks but you are allowed diet sodas, which I do not drink. I take a few supplements, fish oil and glucosamine for my joints. The label recommends that you take them with food but I save them till 2:30 in the afternoon. I use my gel capsules as a mid day treat, taking them with a glass of watered down fruit juice. Food, and pleasure for that matter, is in short supply for three days so I try and make the best of it. The juice feels like sinning ~ and it fills me up ~ so I allow it!

For lunch on Day Three I am allowed a cup of black coffee or tea, one slice of dry toast and a hard boiled egg. I try not to hurt myself as I lick clean the serrated edge of the knife holding droplets of egg yolks in its fold. I am doing well. I have only minimally modified the regime. But I make sure that no one is looking as I lean over the counter top to inhale the tiniest of bread crumbs. Standing back up, bending at the waist, could be considered an element of exercise. I don’t think about what I will have for lunch tomorrow, I remember the feel of sunshine on my bare legs in the summer sun. I Can Do This!

* annette

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Washing over all cells
its healing balm
held inside its syllables
release, cleanse, imaginary

its soothing sound
falls all around
dances between
illusions of wrong

fills the cup
to the brim
over flowing grace
innocence in its place

drink deeply its song
let it carry you along
singing its way
throughout your day

Reaching its hand
through all your plans
touching your heart
giving a new start

Innocence in dewdrops
rain and sun
open and let it come.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Prose - The Wind

The wind has been gnawing at us for weeks now.
Global warming is happening everywhere. The moisture is leaving us, the freezing cold is slowing down, but the wind is back. Its in its usual season again, having wandered for a couple of years into spring and summer. But its always been at its strongest in the winter months.
Its drawn my attention even more because its been warm enough to hike, but miserable in the wind. I could have been painting my cold frame, but it would have been covered in dust and twigs.
In Native American lore, the wind is known as the Grandmother, cleansing us, and bringing us messages. It’s a challenge to hear any message, with all the howling and whipping of air. As far as cleansing, it feels more like the positive ions has left a jumbled mess in my being. The wind is capable of great damage, physically, emotionally and mentally.
So when I was talking with a client and she says she thinks of the wind as a frustrated lover, I somehow began to relate. The wind, with its power to thwart is so great. Just think, she says, “it blows and blows and blows, but never has an orgasm. It tries this way and that way, another gust here, one there, but it never comes. Finally, after much efforting and we are all worn to a frazzle, the wind just gives up, it falls flat, much to everyone’s relief. Quiet, silent, peaceful, still air, bringing sanity once again.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dinner Rituals, 2009

About 4 pm I start working on dinner for my family on the days I’m not at my part-time job. Habitually I turn on “Oprah” to keep me company. I enjoy working with the food and not having to dodge around actual human bodies. Having the girl talk on the TV somehow helps my domestic goddess to emerge.

On the first night of our turn to have Evan, Victor’s 7 year old, I always try to cook child-friendly meals – tacos, spaghetti & meatballs, minestrone or chicken noodle soup. Evan has developed a strategy for not burning his mouth on my homemade soup. He puts ice cubes into it. It’s his ritual now. He does it even if the soup isn’t too hot. I guess the comfort of that ritual might help make up for the adjusting he has to do to eat dinner in two different homes with two different cuisines and routines.

My daughter, Alana, 19, surprised us a month ago my eating dinner with us 3 nights in a row. Usually she waits until we’re done and scavenges or fixes her own meal according to her latest dietary rules. She is finding her way to a sustainable way to eat through her food addictions.

Matt, also 19, comes up from his basement lair to check on dinner plans about 5 pm. “Cool.” He never complains about what we have to eat, merely avoiding what doesn’t appeal, sometimes picking out specific morsels which he puts to the side of his plate. He likes lots of paper napkins available. He usually has a second supper about 10 pm, just after his dad and I have retired to bed. This must sustain him for his late night on-line video games.

Victor’s dinner rituals are as old as Holland, so old to be translucent. He eats as regularly as clockwork. He holds his knife and fork in the European manner, fork in his left hand with knife poised in his right. His immigrant parents taught him so. But none of his children follow the tradition.

And so we sit at our table together, each with their own rituals, the dinner table being the life raft of our fantasies of family.

--by Terra Rafael

Sunday, March 8, 2009


After I came of an age to be allowed to eat at my parents’ dinner table, and not be relegated to the children’s room to eat with my older sister and governess, dinners became very stressful for me.
We had a long table in the dining room. My mother sat at one end and my father at the other. My sister sat on one side and I sat at the other. We were served by the maid, always from the left. Dishes were removed from the right. We had finger bowls that I delighted in. They were glass and had a little glass figure attached to the bottom, a frog, a flower, a fruit, or…. What was I going to get tonight?
I had to sit with my back straight and not touching the back of my chair. My left hand had to be in my lap, holding down the linen napkin that matched the place mat. We, the children, were not allowed to speak unless spoken to. It was my parents’ time to discuss the events of the day.
My attention would go to the Italian glass bowl, the centerpiece, filled with glass grapes and fruit. There were lines of little bubbles running through the irregularly shaped vessel, starting larger at the base and then diminishing in size as they progressed up the sides of the bowl.
I was sent away from the dinner table so many times, for breaching the protocols. Usually, by then I was in tears. I don’t remember what I did wrong, even if I may have known it in the moment. Once, after I had been sent to my room without supper, my governess came to me with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on rye bread. I hated rye bread, but I was so hungry that I ate it, and liked it. From then on, rye bread has been a favorite of mine for sandwiches.
Later, when I was in my early teens, my parents relaxed somewhat. On hot summer evenings my father would ask permission of us to take off his suit jacket. That was only in New York City. When we were in the house in the country, everything became much more relaxed and casual. Of course, several cocktails and a bottle of wine helped the atmosphere around the dinner table immensely.

Prema Rose

Saturday, March 7, 2009


What I notice about yoga is that, even though I can’t do a posture in the beginning, if I attempt it everyday, not pushing, but gently moving into it more and more, that within a short period of time, I am able to do it.

I’m giving my body the imprint, the suggestion of where I want it to go. Muscles nudge themselves into place, or wake up as the case may be. Sinews and ligaments stretch a little to go where they haven’t gone before, at least to that degree. And suddenly, a few weeks or months down the road, I am able to complete the posture.

I remember my fear of doing a headstand. I found a wall in the room where I did my early morning asanas, and began the modified headstand.

First, I was just creating the foundation for it, literally. Measuring off, long fingertip to opposite elbow and vice versa, and then clasping hands together like I had to do every morning on my desk in Catholic school as a kid, I created a tripod. This triangular base of planted elbows and clasped hands became the balance for the posture. As I opened my palms, moving them sideways with fingers remaining laced together, I then put the hairline edge of my forehead into that pocket. I walked my knees into my chest, small step by small step, until I was tight in a crouch, and then levered my lower body upward. Now I was in a half-headstand, with the soles of my feet planted flat against the wall above me.

Little by little, each day, I began to strengthen that foundation until I could keep my balance and extend my legs upward. The wall was there to catch me on those wobbly days, when my body lightly bounced off that backup support.

I had been told that the headstand, any inverted posture really, was the coup d’ ta of yoga, flooding the brain with nurturing blood, and draining the legs. So I was determined, despite my absolute fear of falling over backwards, that I would one day execute a full headstand in the middle of the floor.

That came on a warm early morning in August a few years later. I decided it was time. It was time to let go of the crutch the wall had become and just do it.

Slowly I measured off, long middle finger to opposite elbow, rotating my elbows out to clasp hands together, opening palms to create that pocket to hold my head along the back of my scalp. I placed my forehead on the floor, finding that exact point where skin met hairline and planted myself. I moved my body up slowly, so as not to fall, the muscles I had been working with, tightening and fluidly raising up the rest of me. I extended my legs and held the posture, keeping my elation in check so as to not wobble and over correct. I remained there, taut yet relaxed and let myself savor this long awaited moment. It was the crown jewel of my yoga life. I had worked slowly and gently to get myself there.

I unwound from the position, coming down, allowing myself time as I relaxed on hands and knees first, so that the blood in my head could drain back out slowly. I then sat up, grinning from ear to ear. My diligence had paid off. I could do it. And did do it everyday for years. A car accident many years down the road, with injuries to my cervical vertebras would put an end to those inverted postures, yet I’ll never forget the beauty of that particular pose and the success I felt at getting there.


Friday, March 6, 2009


Two Ladies
Two blue ladies
Haikuing under the moon
Bloom in the night

Rain gently comes down
The earth opens to heaven
A tulip reaches up.

Blue Spruce
Sheltering my home
The great blue spruce touches my heart
As I come home.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

He’s Just Not That Into You, the Movie.

My friend and I went to the movies last week-end to see He’s Just Not That Into You. We had been waiting months for it to come to a theatre near us. Several years ago she had lent me her copy of the book by the same name. I had been moaning over a love affair gone south and she was tired of listening to my pathetic laments. To reinforce my lesson, she lent me the audio tapes to listen to in the car. She made me promise that if the same thing every happened to her, I would call her on it right away, before she fell into the pit of remorse.

We got to the theatre early and grabbed good seats at the late afternoon matinee that most suits our budget. The opening scene is a riot. It sounded like every woman in the theatre exhaled something that had been stagnating inside for a very long time. I am fricking serious! There were twitters, guffaws and laughing, but it was out there in the open …. finally someone is talking about it!

I really did not have high expectations for the movie but I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised. There were some big names in it and I thought it was well cast. I am certainly not a harsh movie critic; I enjoy almost every movie that the professional critics pan. I like to be carried away with period pieces and children’s fantasy movies, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or giant white bears carrying little girls across polar ice caps to save their friends.

Okay, back to this movie. A couple sat down in front of us which proved to be very entertaining in and of itself. The guy laughed at places that we didn’t. He sighed, slumped down in his seat, and put his hands over his eyes ~~ even as I gave myself a case of the hiccups trying not to laugh so loud as to drown out the dialogue. Part of my movie experience began to be about being aware of his reactions. I thought indignantly, “what is he groaning about? That was a perfectly legitimate request she just made!” even as I laughed at the whole scene.

Damaris leaned towards me and whispered loudly, “kick the back of his seat for me.” I shot her a glance and shook my head. There weren’t a lot of men in the theatre; we definitely had them outnumbered. I think he should get two points just for showing up. His date was laughing with him as they got up to leave at the end, so I assume it worked for them.

Anyway, I give it two thumbs up for a chick flick … as a date night ????? not so sure about that! I thought the ending was a bit too cliché but it worked.

* annette

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Writing Prompt: What I Resist Writing About

What I resist writing about? I resist the notion of picking anything. I think "Why even think about what I don't want to write about?" Why place the chain, assign such a label, on any subject? It is all so new. Each day, each time I sit to write, I find my way down the path of words and ideas to step off into an eddy, a side world filled with rich, tasty treats that were previously unknown. Or maybe it is a familiar smaller pathway, like the deer trails I like to find and explore on my walks. They often veer off the main trail and, I've found, can take you to unexpected treasures. I always think "Well, if the animals take this way, I might too and discover something only they know about." When I'm on those trails I like to imagine the fox or deer walking along knowing he is out of sight of the humans but not too far away either. So too with my mind heading into all arenas, following thoughts into unchartered territory, that often lead to new insights, off the beaten track and even into realms I might resist.

So how can I label some area off limits? I might need something from one of those places I said I resist or rebel against. Each and every moment along the way of life could be a source, a tidbit, of crucial information. You never know when you'll need that experience or feeling you had or heard about for a description. I could see myself scrambling though those drawers, the ones I put the label of "Don't want to write about." to find that one person, word or experience I need for a poem or fiction piece. I guess I'm reluctant to rule out anything at this stage. I think all things, occurrences and people are redeemable - to be used again. I might just want to dig that old boyfriend up out of the grave of unsuccessful relationships, dust him and his memories off someday to add color to a character or highlight a particular trait he embodied so well. Or he may mirror some part of myself that wasn't able to be there when I needed it to be, a story that may be waiting in the wings that needed a couple of decades of marinating inside of me before it could surface. So how can I say I don't want to write or I resist writing ....this is my resistance, my rebellion, not choosing any subject.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Poem - Homesick

Homesickness isn’t always a place,
It can be inside of us,
Our true home.

This kind of homesickness is of
The nature that can really make
Us sick.

We flitter, flutter and flatter,
Never quite making it to the
Inner home.

We toss, worry, run to others,
Wondering where to go next.

We know its in us somewhere,
We get close, feel a little spot.
Oh, this must be it, I’m feeling better.
In a flash, it seems to have disappeared.
Homesick again, why can’t I trust, its always there.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Green Gold

Over 30 years ago I had a conversation with a stranger on the East Colfax bus in Denver about avocadoes.

“Yes, we had a huge avocado tree in California. When they were ripe we had to prop up the branches with boards so the tree wouldn’t cave in. We’d fill brown paper bags over the top with them and transport a bag full to each neighbor.”

Its stories like this that have swollen the population of California over the years.

I still haven’t seen an avocado tree in its full glory. A few times I’ve sprouted the tan, oval seed mined from the center of a store-bought avocado and grew a baby tree from it. I didn’t dare imagine this spindly thing ever bearing fruit. But then my Capitol Hill apartments weren’t California.

I never tasted an avocado or guacamole growing up in Minnesota. Somehow it didn’t fit into our austere diet of meat and potatoes. And even in college I didn’t have the pleasure. Maybe in those days Colorado was just close enough to California to ship them here. I’m so glad they did.

When Charlie and I took a budget trip to Mexico, we rode buses and dined freely on avocados. For lunch we would open up a couple of them with our Swiss army knives, sink the blades into the seed to extract is and squeeze limes into the bowl where the seed had been, followed with a pinch of salt. Yes, that was simply delicious.

That silky smooth, oily moist green avocado experience really appeals to my love of slimy foods. Not everyone shares that food preference. My step son Josh swears that he’ll never eat avocados again after once having them in his mouth. And he even lives in California. I trained my babies to like it at a young age, mashing the avo together with tofu and a little tamari.

One of my attractions to a fantasy life in Hawaii is about avocadoes. Last fall when we visited the Big Island, Victor & I stopped to buy a famous chocolate-covered treat called Donkey Balls. The perky woman with long blond hair who received our payment was excited about growing her own food. She said it was a challenge with tropical bugs, fighting back the jungle, and preserving the excesses of harvest. I asked her if she grew avocados. She smiled and said, ”Wait here.” The wooden screen door slammed behind her as she rushed out and returned several minutes later with 3 avocados in her hands.

“Here, try these.” They were each a different variety. Later, at the condo, we ate them with our grilled fish. Yum. I especially like the smoky flavored kind.

I look forward to smelling avocado blossoms someday.

--by Terra Rafael

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Bursts out of every breath,
Crying into void-like echoes,
Reverberating in the caverns of my cranium,
Deafening my inner ear,
Precluding judgment and caution.

I have been living on Hope,
My only sustenance
In these rocky times.
But Hope itself is getting thin
And plays its game
Of hide and seek.

Now, its presence fills my heart.
Now, it teases and tantalizes.
Now, it is the whisper of a dream.
Can I still find you, Ariadne’s thread,
To guide me through the labyrinth
Of doubt and despair?

Hope, you are a will-o-the -wisp.
My most intimate friend,
Permeating my waking moments
And, like fire-flies,
Flickering before me in the dark,
Lighting my way.

Hope’s quiet certitude
Overrides the deafening
Clamor of the fear.
Hope, I know you’re there,
Rocking me in the lullaby of
All is well.

Prema Rose