Sea Star painting Sea Star is the name of a watercolor in my office, painted by a friend years ago when she was traveling in India. She was on the beach in Goa watching the sea when a local woman, arms full of colorful, dancing scarves, swept up to her: “Sea Star, You want to buy? “  It took her a minute to realize that the woman was calling her “sister,” not selling her sea stars or starfish. Sea stars, or “sisters,” my dear women friends,  have held me in kindness, given me tea and sympathy and laughter my whole life. The painting is a vivid reminder of the strength of this tribe of love.  

And then there are the other Sea Stars, the variegated, orange and purple creatures of the sea that are also called starfish. The sea stars inhabit the temple of tide pools where I return each year on my birthday, smack dab in the middle of summer. Every year it coincides with the lowest tide of the season. These stars are for me an icon of magic and transformation.  

It came about on  my 50th birthday. After three days of solitude, writing and prayer, I stopped by the beach on my way home. It was the lowest tide of the year. I didn’t set any intentions or send out any requests. As I was walking along the beach, I simply thought of my childhood religion and decided to immerse myself in the water of a tide pool. It felt like a kind of baptism for the second half of life.  

I came across a large tide pool, a temple with walls of green sea anemones and starfish. The sea stars bundled together on the rocks, a vivid testimony of beauty. I dunked myself in the water, and when I surfaced I heard the name “Susan Grace” loudly in my mind.  I had been joking about getting a new name, but this was a bit more of a result than I usually got from my off-handed jokes. So I decided not to try to figure anything out, but to simply honor the moment by beginning to use the double name. Since that day I have done the best I could to actually become more graceful, literally, and to connect with my body in movement. I began a mindfulness practice, took more yoga and Tai Ch’i, and added some improv dance classes for good measure.   But most importantly, I began to welcome (and recognize) a subtle sense of being held by a force greater than I could understand.  A force of mystery as big as the Sea Stars (or my Sisters). Thank you, Sea Stars!   What icons or images connect you with the mystery of being? What have your Sea Star women friends taught you about life and love?

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UniverseEinstein famously said that the most important decision we can make as humans is whether or not the universe is kind. As I’ve practiced Positive Paranoia in my life, I’ve looked for evidence of a kind universe for the last forty years. Based on lots of evidence, my own jury has pretty much already decided. But my mind is still open to new proof.

A few years ago my son awakened in the night with his bed on fire. He got out alive, even though the Burn Center doctor said he shouldn’t have awakened because of lack of oxygen to the brain. His apartment hit flash point and exploded a minute after he got himself out. He was flown to a Burn Center in a medically induced coma. We moved to the city to be with him.

At the same time, I was training in The Work of Byron Katie. One of my favorite questions: What if the Universe is kind? “How could this (situation) be a good thing?” became my mantra and my koan (a zen riddle used to break through the barriers of the intellect). I just kept looking for the possibility that this could be true. Each day was so full of kindness from the nurses and doctors. Our friends came with prayers and healing. Our beloved community back at home flocked to support him with benefit concerts and love. Each day that bandages were removed, the results were beyond anyone’s expectations. The list of evidence of a friendly universe took on its own momentum, like a snowball that just kept rolling. By the time he was released it could have buried the town.

And it just kept coming. It’s been almost seven years now, and he has been able to reclaim (and improve upon) the life he was living before. With a trauma of such severity, it’s been a long but steady road to physical and emotional recovery. But what I have discovered is that it is his road. And that makes my universe . . . and his . . . a whole lot friendlier.

Photo by frhuynh, stockvault.net

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Positive Paranoia

June 24, 2014 Aging with Grace
1975. I’m 26 years old and my life is just what I always dreamed it would be, yet I’m raw and desperate. I’ve achieved all the things I set out to do: travel, happy marriage, a meaningful job. I’ve somehow proved myself Successful in conventional ways and unconventional ways, taking on all the tasks of being an acceptable member of the Counterculture of the time. And then, without knowing why, I hit a dead end. It happens in a moment. I’m walking down the street and I suddenly feel flat and hollow inside. Not there. It seems like a dead end: there’s no exit in sight. I’m deeply scared, and my bed seems like the best refuge.
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To Life As It Is

June 17, 2014 Aging with Grace
Only a few weeks ago I saw myself as a Recovering Rushaholic. I was experiencing a few days of peace and a deep sense of optimism. Just as the peaceful and hopeful and reflective Memorial Day holiday was ending, I pulled together my travel stuff, drove a couple of hours to an early flight, flew into the Heartland, drove another three hours, and spent a week in the muddle of family, caregiving, loving and experiencing losses first hand. My speed picked up. There was so much to do, to solve, and only a week to do it! By the time I capped the trip off with two doctors’ appointments and a twelve-hour reverse journey, I was past rushing. It’s taken three days for all my cells to return home. They seem to take longer than the luggage.
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Rushaholic Recovery: An Unbecoming Tale

May 13, 2014 Aging with Grace
It’s been years now since I officially retired from my first career as a teacher. During most of these 25 years all the roles of life converged: Teacher (over 150 teens a day), Mother, Daughter and Sister in a family continually in crisis. Toward the end I also wore the hats of Author and Speaker, with a new book out (and that “baby” to raise). I know. Cray cray. You can look it up in your urban dictionary. It’s a word for that means taking crazy to a whole new level. Times two.
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Deep Spring

May 7, 2014 Coming Home
At my cabin in the mountains there are many deep springs. As in deep pools of water bubbling up from below, with temperatures ranging from cool to dangerous. The water below ground is visible because the mantle of the Earth is a little thinner here. Even though I know where the springs are, they’re always somehow a bit of a surprise, a catching of breath, a tender mercy of heat on a snow day or chill in a heat wave. Since I love playing with words, I’m thinking of Spring (the season), in the same way. Here I was, trudging through the mud and rain, and I come upon a clearing. A deep pool. Not too cold, not too hot, a blessing of refreshment and inspiration.
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The Daylight Bloom of Night’s Dreams

April 8, 2014 Coming Home
I’m a dreamer, and I respect (and sometimes remember) my dreams, in all their vivid and jumbled details. I made it a hobby more than thirty years ago to study them, at one time logging three or four dreams a night for several months. This has offered a window into the subtle realms of healing. From time to time, I delve deeply into the symbols and the details. This is great entertainment, but often there’s way much TMI to decode or recall. Over time I’ve found reason to trust the process, which is beneath and beyond what my conscious mind can grasp.
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The Great Un-Doing of Spring

April 1, 2014 Coming Home
The early warning signs are so subtle at first… a swelling of the limbs, a softness of the breeze/breath, a whiff of possibility. I’ve usually been so busy DOING, strategizing and reacting to the demands of winter, that I barely notice the change around me. After all, my inner Drama Queen insists, we’ve been under siege, and Important Things must be done.
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Charms, Amulets and a Blessed Life

March 25, 2014 Aging with Grace
Charm bracelets were all the rage when I was a teenager. Tiny replicas of the Eiffel tower, new bikes, tiny dog figures, and figure skates tinkled from the wrists of the Popular Girls. I admired the look and the high style, but I never expected that I’d be in the circle of lucky ones who could afford such a wondrous thing. Even if… even if I did get a magical white box from the local jeweler for my birthday. Even if… Even if there was a gold bracelet inside. Even if…. that came to be, what good would it be? What charms would I wear?
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Giving Up the Bone and Proving Myself Wrong

March 18, 2014 Byron Katie's Work
A few days ago it happened. Again. I was wrong. I hate that. I had imagined how I would fit a couple of important gatherings with friends into my evening, sandwiched between two long trips. But my mind didn’t stop with logistics. It found a bone to chew on, a way to try to manage lots of things that were none of its business.
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Discovering my Inner Neanderthal

February 18, 2014 Inquiry
My Christmas present to myself this year involved gathering saliva. First I had to collect it in a very little vial. It turns out that this isn’t a small thing. After sitting there for about a half an hour, imagining grapefruits and lemons, I had enough to send it to 23 & Me, an organization devoted to opening the secrets of your personal genetic code. I just received the results today. I open the virtual envelope. Drum roll, please….and…
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Snow Viewing: Lantern Optional

February 11, 2014 Coming Home
Today so far I’ve moved from one window to the next, staring at the stark whiteness draping the trees outside. It’s the Biggest Snow since we moved here 35 years ago, about a foot and a half. I’m stunned into silence with wonder of it, with the ineffable beauty of contrasts. The fifty or so large oak trees visible from my window have exchanged their emerald capes for something softer and less enduring. The beauty is so exquisite that I can’t seem to breathe it in for very long at all without wanting to own it. I try a little photo shoot with my phone.
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Groundhog’s Day and the Same Old Loops

February 1, 2014 Getting Unstuck
Today I awoke with the scenes from Groundhog’s Day (the Movie) dancing through my head. Not a big surprise. just when when my mind is seeming a a little more peaceful and this body is feeling stronger as a result of my focus in intention in the new year, I get a Change Back Attack. This is personal growth malady that usually includes certain symptoms: fogging out when eating, dropping exercise from my list for four days. and believing the old loops of thought that drove me to make resolutions in the first place.
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Catching a Wave with Your Future Self

January 29, 2014 Getting Unstuck
Every year I usually join in the fun of flipping over the old leaf and welcoming a New Me. Boosted by the ads for health and vitality all around me, I ride the wave of people who want change, who want to see results. This year my modest resolutions weren’t even creative. I changed up my exercise, got myself out for longer walks, went back to strength training, and attended yoga classes that weren’t always labeled “gentle.” Oh yes. And I cut out sugar. Just a few small steps to self-improvement. The part of me that loves challenge is enthusiastic about catching the Big Wave and believes she can ride it to the shore.
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Gracious Living on a Stuck Elevator

January 21, 2014 Aging with Grace
I spent most of last week staying in my very own suite at a Gracious Living retirement center in Missouri. The blustery January weather and my mother’s limited mobility kept us indoors, relying on the elevator, which was the only way to access her apartment from the rest of the building. When I first arrived, I skidded into the place with a screeching Wiley Coyote stop. Next I had to figure out that my mindfulness practice didn’t include taking on the halls as if I were in a video game with the goal of dodging walkers and wheel chairs.
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Welcoming Janus: Looking Forward, Looking Back

January 13, 2014 Getting Unstuck
Doorways and gates. Passages between what was and what is yet to be. A time between times, a time full of potential for transformation. The Romans knew a bit about the power of transition when they named their very own new month January, after Janus. Janus was a powerful Roman god who held the keys to enter all gates and presided over new enterprises. He had two faces: one looking forward and one backward.
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She Let Go

December 11, 2013 Poetry
Last week a dear friend sent me a copy of a piece I had read long ago. It was like being zapped by a magic wand, bringing this Queen of the Universe to a new sense of alignment. I had read it before, but so much depends on timing. Maybe I thought before that I could just let go just a little. Maybe I thought it was a cool idea. Maybe I wasn’t yet ready to take that Giant Step … or Leap. But today I am. I share it with you as a light and humorous and deep reminder. But more, it’s an invitation. As simple as that. Join me?
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Welcoming the Queen of Kindness

December 10, 2013 Byron Katie's Work
Lately I’ve been hanging with the Queen of Kindness, one of the personas of the Queen of the Universe. She has gifted me with a sense of clarity, some R&R, a greater sense of peace. But I happen to know that, under her surface, lies the Red Queen. Some days I can even believe that she’s in charge of the future and it should go her way. Off with their heads! She shrieks when the Universe doesn’t cooperate with her plans. Bless her heart. She’s so innocent in her attempt to hold things together. She sincerely believes that she has The Big View, that she can predict the future and avoid mistakes. She whips herself into shape, continually. And then, as if that’s not painful enough, it becomes her task to do this for almost everyone around her.
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Avoiding the Holiday Tangle: Beware the Season of the Lie

December 6, 2013 Byron Katie's Work
The stories we tell our kids about Santa are basically innocent; the ones we tell ourselves are far worse because they tend to erupt from the depths when we least expect it.  It’s worth the effort to look at what beliefs tend to drive holiday frenzy. Here are a few that I turned up for […]
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Surrender, Queen of the Universe

December 3, 2013 Confusion to Clarity
I often want things to go my way. Like almost always. After all, I have a bit of life experience to drawn on. I often seem to think that I can predict the future based on this experience. It turns out sometimes I can’t. Like almost always. It’s true that my life experience gives me […]
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