Monthly Archives: October 2013

Mountain Poetry

Siskiyou Mountains

The Klamath Mountains straddle the Oregon-California border, and are one of the wildest, most rugged ranges in the lower 48.

Fall in southern Oregon is magical. This year especially so. I’m grateful to be having abundant hiking time in the mountains that surround the Rogue Valley. Here’s a poem that describes the over-flowingness of mountain bounty, and its effects on my “bubble of a heart.”

Piute Creek

By Gary Snyder


One granite ridge

A tree, would be enough

Or even a rock, a small creek,

A bark shred in a pool.

Hill beyond hill, folded and twisted

Tough trees crammed

In thin stone fractures

A huge moon on it all, is too much.

The mind wanders. A million

Summers, night air still and the rocks

Warm.   Sky over endless mountains.

All the junk that goes with being human

Drops away, hard rock wavers

Even the heavy present seems to fail

This bubble of a heart.

Words and books

Like a small creek off a high ledge

Gone in the dry air.


A clear, attentive mind

Has no meaning but that

Which sees is truly seen.

No one loves rock, yet we are here.

Night chills. A flick

In the moonlight

Slips into Juniper shadow:

Back there unseen

Cold proud eyes

Of Cougar or Coyote

Watch me rise and go.


Link to the poem here.
My photo, taken October 18, 2013 in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest along the California-Oregon border.

Choosing metamorphosis, part 4

Monarch chrysalisThis is the story of an incompetent chrysalis.

I saw my wonderfully proficient and compassionate surgeon this week for my six week post-hysterectomy check-up. It turns out I’m healing a little slowly, about five days behind the average, and there’s granular tissue on the incision, which is essentially scar tissue covering up an unhealed spot. The granular tissue has been bleeding a little, and my proficient, compassionate surgeon cauterized it with silver nitrate so the incision can heal properly.

Since that appointment, I’ve been beating myself up for being incompetent and defective and a crappy healer and generally being mean to myself. I asked my husband last night if he was disappointed in me, then I cried. I was aware enough to know that’s nuts. I knew, for my own sanity and self-care, that I needed to consider what metaphor I was living in, because, as Martha Beck says, “the metaphors you live by shape everything.”

I realized I was seeing myself as a taker of some high-stakes test, like the SAT or Britain’s A-levels, who’s anxiously waiting for her scores. I believed there was some outside judge or external evaluator who had the power to say whether I was good enough, whether I was competent or incompetent. And woe to me if I was deemed incompetent.

But what would be a metaphor for healing that felt kind and compassionate, that allowed me to take care of myself? A seed? An egg? Those were possibilities, but they didn’t feel quite right. I went to bed pondering the question, and woke up with the answer. If “metamorphosis” seemed like a perfect metaphor for this hysterectomy journey (see my first hysterectomy blog post for the full story), then obviously a chrysalis was the perfect metaphor for healing.

When I chose metamorphosis as the metaphor for this process, I chose better than I knew. Because I made the decision to have surgery at this time, I thought I was more in control than I actually am. But a chrysalis takes all the time it requires to form a strong and capable butterfly. A chrysalis runs on kairos time (God’s time), not chronos time (clock and calendar time). A chrysalis is only incompetent when she white-knuckles life and short-circuits what needs to happen, when she pushes the poor butterfly out before it’s ready. So I’m giving myself the gift and grace of time. I’m accepting and embracing my wonderful body, walking in these familiar mountains, sitting in the luscious sun, and being kind and gentle with myself.

And I’m saying these words of Mary Oliver’s, over and over, like a mantra:

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.


CSNM pond

A pond in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, where I sat in the sun today