Tuesday, October 30, 2012

for this life I need a squirrel

I Remember Galileo by Gerald Stern
Originally published in The Red Coal (1981)
I remember Galileo describing the mind
as a piece of paper blown around by the wind,
and I loved the sight of it sticking to a tree
or jumping into the back seat of a car,
and for years I watched paper leap through my cities;
but yesterday I saw the mind was a squirrel caught crossing
Route 80 between the wheels of a giant truck,
dancing back and forth like a thin leaf,
or a frightened string, for only two seconds living
on the white concrete before he got away,
his life shortened by all that terror, his head
jerking, his yellow teeth ground down to dust.

It was the speed of the squirrel and his lowness to the ground,
his great purpose and the alertness of his dancing,
that showed me the difference between him and paper.
Paper will do in theory, when there is time
to sit back in a metal chair and study shadows;
but for this life I need a squirrel,
his clawed feet spread, his whole soul quivering,
the hot wind rushing through his hair,
the loud noise shaking him from head to tail.
   O philosophical mind, O mind of paper, I need a squirrel
finishing his wild dash across the highway,
rushing up his green ungoverned hillside.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

End-of-the-Year MadLove: A Call to Artists and Rebels

Crazy sages, 

I've got some slots open in my coaching schedule, and I'd love it if these next few months especially, I could rock out with artists, rebels and visionaries. YES! 

The back story is I'll be doing NANOMO (or whatever it's called when everyone sits down and writes a novel in a month), and energetically, it would rock my world to be working with clients who are on a similar path. So...

I'm hot to work with people who are:
  • Coming into their artist selves, full force
  • Ready to express themselves like never before
  • Want their expression to be a whole-life experience, not just showing up on the page, canvas or stage
  • Hungry for breath-taking challenges
  • Itching to go over the top
  • Timidity and fear, be damned
**Note: You do NOT have to be a full-time artist-ish to sign on. You just have to desire amping your connection to your inner-expression. Boom.

I'll be channeling my wacky painting professor with the wispy white hair and icy blue eyes who walked in on the first day of class wearing a fur coat and clanking cowboy boots, and said:

"Do not place your canvas upon the easel to lay your paint strokes down unless you wildly believe that what you're about to create will set the world on fire."

Hint: YOUR world is the first world to lite up, brilliant being. Get yourself giddy as fuck: that's what we're going for. Let the magic pour from there.


One month of coaching (three 45 minute sessions, plus a half-hour Spark Sesh on da house) is $180 if you pay upfront, or $210 if you pay per session. 

Three months (eight 45 minute sessions, one 2 hour Discovery Session, and a half-hour Spark Sesh on da house) is $600 if you pay upfront, or $700 if you pay per session.

More on working with me right here, and some loving testimonies clients have offered up right here. Shoot me a line at rachmadlove@gmail.com if you're interested, and we'll get this party started! 


Also! A blog-ouncement:

I'll be hibernating my writing, leaving this baby bare of words for most of the month. Whatever it takes to protect the sanctity of the book, right? 

love love love!

rach-o-ween ;)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Begin, fool. We're all stumbling, anyway.

here we have it, lovelies: a foolish face.
After graduating from college, I was working for Jen Lemen in her little art studio on the third floor of her house, doing fruitless things like trying to get the scanner to work. The reality is, Jen was exponentially generous with her mentorship, and often, I'd leave her house a bit rattled--her capacity to shoot truth like a tin can atop a tree stump, a bit uncanny.

The thing with you, Rach, is you're terrified to look foolish. She said it ever-so nonchalantly one summer afternoon with the windows open and the birds singing careless and free.

FUCK. Don't you love/hate it when someone nails you right on the head?

Here I am, five years later, still stomaching that reality. As I practice the art of stepping all the way into myself, I can feel the precarious edge of foolishness lurking, waiting for my missteps, haunting me with the threat of falling into some deep abyss of shame.

I can feel how unavoidable foolishness is, if I'm to truly pronounce myself, sound myself out one syllable at a time. It's clear that the art of becoming is much like the English language--with certain things that make no sense, follow no patterns, and are just plain old stupid. And still, we must learn them by heart. We must pronounce them wrong, over and over and over again. We must continue to read aloud, anyway. In front of the whole class. Everyone listening as we stumble on words like unique, Illinois, amateur.

So the question remains: Am I willing to lean into the challenge? To try my hand at something that actually scares me? To publicly show you, This is really where I am. Right here, right now, this is my damn best work. Foolish mispronunciations, and all.

And I notice, the best way to write this book might be to pretend that no one will ever read it--no one's actually listening as I sound myself out, one stumbling ah-tem-pt at a time. This is for me. My growth. My learning.

And, you see, that's the whole real challenge for most of us, anyway--to hold (or let go) and evaluate (or not evaluate) our experiences for ourselves. To set our own standards, be our own judges, sing our own praises, feel satisfaction intrinsically.

To cross our own mountains--because we must--for ourselves.

To live for ourselves. To become full and round and every bit as devilish as delightful. To love all our wild, untamed parts, and all the ways we worry. To be foolish enough to begin, not knowing where this damn road will lead, or what might happen along that long stretch of nothing, somewhere between mountain and sea.

Because it's there, in those stretches when you run out of gas or lose the tire like a tumbleweed spinning away without reason, that you grin or sob with liveliness. It's at the edges where you discover indigo, burnt sienna, colors beyond Crayola packaging. Where you find the fullness of yourself. Where you learn to love the fool that brought you there.

So with that, here's a short list of things that I'm letting myself embrace, despite the ways I wobble:

1. Skateboarding. (I suck and I'm terrified, but I love it so much I'm doing it anyway).
2. Dating woman. (I've always been queer, but when you've been married to a dude for 7.5 years, dating women raises all your foolish/clueless flags... as if dating, in general, didn't already).
3. Writing a book. (Okay--I've been writing since I was seven. But a book? About my fucking life? Eeeep!).
4. Going on dates alone. (It actually feels scary to take myself to the movies, a concert, a club. But I'm doing it. Because, hell, I know how to treat a lady).
5. Paying all my bills and completely supporting myself financially. (Brian was the... uh... breadwinner. I tremble every time I open my bank statement. It's a work in progress, but, damn it, I'm committed).
6. Dying my hair. (This doesn't sound like a big deal, but if/when I actually dye my hair red/orange, IT COULD LOOK TERRIBLE AND I COULD BE EMBARRASSED THAT I WAS A FOOL TO DO IT).

And I'm willing to do these things--to take myself to these ledges--to find out who I really am in my discomfort and my power. Because, what the fuck? What else am I gonna do? Stay here? Awkward and afraid? Half-knowing and half-trembling, waiting for someone to scoop me up and save me from myself? Hell no. I may be afraid of myself, but that right there, is a fear I'm willing to face. The most important one of all.


What about you, dear soul? If you were willing to sound yourself out slowly, one syllable at a time, what might you pronounce? What dares might you dream to begin, foolishness be damned, knowing that we all wobble, we all fall, and everyone gets as many chances as they give themselves?

Monday, October 22, 2012

ciao, darling.

half moon shining, 
mo-ped winding,
you dance in the streets like you're free.

and i, a dreamer,
top-down, ever-eager,
can't ever hide the truth in me.

i'll miss you.

more than
you or i
dare say.


standing, shedding,
helpless as a tree.

i don't fear
getting close.

i don't pretend
letting go.

i let you touch me.

i feel every
slowly, slowly.

every biting

every smack
and suck.

i trust
all the way past


Sunday, October 21, 2012

At Least You Get to be an Artist

In 10 days I'll be sweating my way up and down stairs, carrying lofty furniture and a few backpacks full of clothes. I've moved a ton in the past decade. It's the nature of the times. But this feels different. Like I'm moving into myself. And somehow, strangely enough, it feels like the most scary of territories. What are my real limits? Where are my true edges? Who am I when left to my own devices? 

I'm a boarder-free kinda gal, so it's easy to scare the shit out of myself. Few things feel off-limits, bad or dangerous. (Sorry, Ma. I know I drive you up the wall). 

Which brings me to being an artist: 

In August, I challenged myself to writing a poem a day. What resulted was a total undressing. A deluge of rhythms and lines. A river I could not dam up--not now, not anymore. I dug up ten thousand buried moments--past, present, future. I let what was just below the surface bubble to the top, boil over, burn. And burn, indeed, I did. All the way to the bone.

Life has been feeling as unruly as a dancing fire. Where will the next flame wisp? It's impossible to know. There is no pattern to fire. It's free. It's transitional.

And I hate to say it, like it may be true, but perhaps what I'm really moving into is a life that is unprotected, fully lived, felt to the edges with nothing left to do but write about it. Immortalize it. Somehow find its beauty.

It's like my pond mutated into an ocean in a moments time, but my body stayed the same size. I'm strong, a good swimmer, but where am I going? To the edge? Must I always seek the edge? Or could I just let myself float where I am for a while, enjoying the sun on my face, not worrying about where I am? Letting the fire die in the water, if only for a day.

And then there's gratitude. Some of my very closest friends are in immense grief right now, coping with things no one ever imagines will actually happen to them. I can feel empathy swelling in me, as I sit face-forward with their cracked open lives. I know how it feels to be tied to the bed, fucked, trying to find any morsel of pleasure possible, in such harrowing circumstances. 

And I think maybe this is what art is for: framing the unimaginable truth, honoring the tiniest reflections, making sense out of the insane. Staying awake when you just want to sleep, numb, smoke cigarrettes to hell and back.

Because there is nothing sturdy about living. Even when we build stone castles as homes, the troops eventually march in. The catapults fire. It all burns. And this moment is as good as it gets for now. With everything twirling and spiraling in a craze, with no guarantees for the story you'd like to call your own--at least you still get this: to be an artist. 

You get to move into yourself, and travel to the edges you never knew lived inside of you. You get to appreciate the backroads at sunset and curse the traffic jams of your soul. You get to have it all in there, in that crazy self of yours. Again and again, living in paradox--powerless and powerful beyond belief--you get to dance the artists' dance, sweating, pounding, occasionally resting off-beat. You get to make something, as your final shout at life. 

This is the life of an artist. Dam-free. Flowing. Teetering between float and swim. It all pours out, it all comes in. And you are vulnerable. The occasional sink is bound to creep in. But alive, you are. You are living. And while sometimes it's delayed, put off for those late nights clicking away at the keyboard, you are feeling, deeply. You are asked, really, one thing only: to dive all the way in. To get drenched. To show us. Or if not us, yourself.

Because it's really about you, isn't it? Becoming. Becoming the person who's needed in order to live the life that's arrived. Inventing. Surrendering. Playing. Trying shit on until something actually fits your new, unfamiliar size and shape.

There's a lot that I'm showing myself, as a beginning. Writing in private. Experimenting like a 13 year old whose trying to find her sense of style. This book is terrifying me. It's the most fun I've had since my senior year of college when I'd paint for 8 hours straight, leaving the studio as the sun was coming up, forgetting where I was or what was next on my agenda. It's forcing me to stay awake, in a time when I'd be oh-so-tempted to just fall away, asleep, crashed inside an aimless car of fear.

Art. It's saving me. It's making me brave.

And you? What's your artist up to these days? Has she saved you lately? Is she seeking to come out and make something beautiful from your crazy, magical life? Are you letting her?? Do tell. I'd love to hear.

crazy raw + glad,

Danger Danger Danger

source: Keri Smith

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Toss-Up Instructions for When the Rug Gets Pulled Out from Under You


Be with it.
Alllll of it.
Like a full-body experience. 

Let yourself be fed and watered and weeded by other loving hands.
Where are they? You might ask.
Waiting for your invitation,
Your open-hearted quiet request:
Any way you can make me dinner this week?
Rub lotion on my hands or feet?
Take me to that silly movie?

Talk less. And even less.
And even less.
(And even less).

Gather the goods for a divine and righteous cry:
A journal to jot down all you desire.
A mix that reminds you of all you miss.
The letter or picture that leaves the greatest pang.
The shirt, the present, the essence of the missing presence.

Indulge in your tears for longer than you'd like.

Watch your body release
the pent up disease
of denial.

For longer than you think you need.

Graze, bare feet in the grass.

Gaze, a soft glance out the window.
Gather the moment.
Name what you see in soft whispers to yourself...
Tiny slivers of shingle shadows and a bird feeder that's one-third full.
Undone electrical wires dangling from Mark & Meryl's roof.
A frenzying fly, wishing the window weren't so.
Weeds breaking through the blacktop in crooked rows.

Go to bed by 10pm. Really. No excuses.
Wake up when your body is ready.
Really. No excuses.

And if you feel a nap coming on, by all means, let it.

Step. Step. Step. Step.


Ask yourself:
What gives me energy and power these days?
What drains me like a wide open sink?
Make your lists.

Feed your power.
Fuck the rest.

You need to, you do.
Because even when the rug gets pulled out from under you,
You still have yourself, if nothing else... if nothing else.

Find your strength.
Live in it.
Not for the sake of appearance.
(It can look tired.
It can look tasseled).
But because you still have it.
And there are times... times like these
for proving it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

cosmic 25. i'm writing a book.

welcoming my 25th year on Earth like love-happy fools

i'm writing a book because i'm getting no younger.
i'm writing a book that howls like hunger,
and seeps like honey
into a steam of memories--
this past year's spicy chai.

i'm writing a book with frozen fingers.
i'm writing a book instead of eating dinner.
i'm writing a book from scratch--
hilltops, laptops, blacktops, no cash.

i'm writing a book like a tiger: rip, rip, roar.
i'm writing a book like a player: shhhh... not too much.
i'm writing a book like nina simone: moan, moan, moan.
i'm writing a book like a mother: suck 'em dry, baby.

i'm writing a book because i'm not having sex.
i'm writing a book about a fuck-ton of sex.
i'm writing a book with the hope that we have sex.
then at worst, i could write another book about it.

i'm writing a book like a puzzle--
pieces spread on sandy beach house tiles
and nothing else to do 
but fall back in love with quiet.

i'm writing a book with the top down in the winter.
i'm writing a book--tweezing it out like a splinter.
i'm writing a book and i'm dying my hair red.
strength, fire, destruction. enough said.

i'm writing a book because the stars are falling,
the words are hollering,
and i'm hungry for something
that terrifies me.
like you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How the light gets in: 2 years, in retrospect

"don't dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be"

He sings with almost eery depth, that Leonard. The notes breathe into the blue blood cells of my body's ocean. My mind floats over all that's passed in the past 2 years. I don't heed advice very well.

This head has rested in 300 spots. Beds, basements, backyards, barn yards. Tree houses, tents, teepees. Tall grasses along Interstates in the middle of fucking nowhere. Other peoples houses, garages, guest rooms. Jesus Christ. I'm so tired of vagabonding, I told a friend. Feels like a long road home to nowhere? he asked. --Exactly. I want my own bed set. Sheets. Shit on the walls that says something about who I am.

This body split from the body it rested next to for 7 and a half years. After 7 and a half months of living on bicycles together, crazy shit happens. For better and for worse.

I'm so glad I can still call you, I said. It's the way family should be, he said. I blow loose cry-like snot into a rough paper towel. I'm sorry I'm always such a mess when I call. --It's okay, Rach. You're still my best friend. We don't have to give that up.

I've tried on other bodies to fill the void in my bed, my heart, my Friday nights. Some thought they fit me, but I disagreed. Some felt like a perfect match to me, but were too expensive, or already taken by the idea of someone else. Some were impossible for reasons that make you want to hate The Way It Is. I'm learning to go naked. It's uncomfortable, healthy. Strengthening. And when I'm too tired to be so strong, I'm learning to go home and ask my mother to read to me like a child.

Certain things cannot be taken from us. Like love, creativity, forgiveness. We can take them from ourselves, though. I have. Many times. Too many, perhaps, over the past two years, past twenty five. I'm learning to be more generous with myself. It's an art form: suffering less.

"ring the bells that still can ring
forget your perfect offering"

It's not the kind of thing I like to do: offer less-than-perfect. I think in truth, I'm a closet perfectionist. But when you're half-homeless, half-jobless, partner-less for the first time as an adult, and anything but energized, you learn the value of Fuck it. Oh well. This is the best I can do right now.

You forgive me, right? You never wanted anything else, did you?

For a few months I worked at a coffee shop in the city. I was broke, community-less and desperate. In coffee shops, the state of humanity is crystal clear. Why is everyone so fucking depressed? I'd wonder. Then my world got pulled out from under me.

I stood teary-eyed, toasting scones for customers, pouring black coffee into white mugs. Love swelling my heart, I saw for the first time, truly, how deeply most people suffer. I began loving everyone more. Leaning on strangers shoulders. Hugging. Asking nothing much of anyone.

"there is a crack, a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in"

We couldn't believe it'd really been two years when we did the math on our phone-tag saga. We told each other the abridged versions of our lives. The parallels were palatable. Epic cross-country journeys for love. Exquisite losses. Little money. Lots of recovery.

--How do I seem now? I asked. Different, right?
Like Joni Mitchell's Blue album, he said. Her earlier stuff was okay, but something changed in her when she did Ladies of the Canyon and Blue. 
--She lost a lot, I said.
She got humble, he said.
--I feel weathered, and really really glad. 
It's beautiful, Rach. Growing up looks good on you.

"every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee" 

I embarrassed myself the other night. Totally lost my shit. Like, side-walk-fetal-position-while-it's-raining-outside shit losing. It felt excellent. Like breaking something after so much around me had broken. I was breaking my expectations. Curling up in disappointment. Letting those feelings live. Letting them go.

I've been feeling like a quiet wanderer since that night. Like the hurricane is over and I'm trolling the wreckage for small signs of something familiar, but in my heart, I know it's time to look in a new way--not for something, but gently at things, as they are. I'm changed, completely, and nothing will ever look the same. Not this face. Not that house. Not these hands, nor feet. It's all curious now. It's all wild.

Maybe in this shapeless home, I don't need to know the face of God, but I can let the face of everything look at me. And I can feel held by the feeling of seeing.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


perhaps we all want to feel
those big things like
and love
and ... ? the third big thing?
because we're already them

i mean, come on...
like attracts like
we're just projecting our
for what
we already

and expectations...
they're like war
you're bound to win,
you're bound to lose

but behind every great
king of discernment
there's a queen
of curiosity
hard at play

i wonder,
i wonder,
when i'll
all the way

belly laugh in the
of all this
and love

bras and boots and other things that can't be put away

one day we'll tell stories
about half-clothed kitchen dancing
and spatulas that somehow
snuck into the mix--Slap!

you, wearing my bra
me, your boots
my bubby's velvet chairs
standing ancient on your crooked hardwood floors

I need to make you a set of keys
you say ten thousand times

but the doors are never locked
and when they are,
I lay in the yard
and wait
for you to hear my breathing
dance down the stairs
call me in like a street cat
or a crusty punk
whose only currency is kisses

we can never find the keys, anyway
or the shoes
or the other sock that's hiding behind
the famous white couch
that we could never bare to toss

not even when we moved next door
one box, bag, swaggering pile of crap
at a time

everything is tangled
like necklaces in a drawer
of junk]

my records, your player
your children, my lullabies
my dishes, your sink
your cooking, my hunger

the stories we'll only tell when
the children are grown
and messy
like us

Would you like to feel awake?

close your eyes
or go stare them to the soul
and ask
because they know

what your body wants
what your body wants
what your body wants

the rest is a two step saunter:

what else would you like me to say?
the hardest practices
hardly need words

Monday, October 1, 2012

Eulogy for comfort or the soft, safe feeling of laying in the grass under the sun

She called. I answered with definitive speed. Something important on the line. Leave the table at the bar with your friends. Go to the other side of the patio. Sit facing the wooden fence. Yes? What happened?

After she told me the whole story we ended up deciding the definition of courage: Undressing in plain sight. Not hiding. Truth, unravelling you. Letting it.

The husband gave a gorgeous eulogy. We're all going to go, and none of us know when. So take a moment now to think about your maybe-one-day decade-long dreams. Write your music. You do not know when it will be you.

The oldest of their children was not too young to understand that her mother had gone. The younger two would still need time to grasp their loss in words. Everyone felt like a page of their favorite composition had been ripped out and burned.

The wife was a composer. A teacher. A healer.

Who would play those pages? Know how?

On maternity leave with her third child, she decided that she wanted to be a mother, simply. Nothing more needed. Soon after, her diagnosis. Being a mother in a time like this was anything but simple, he said.

So much is irreplaceable.

I imagine a room full of rib cages creaking open, the glow from their weepy hearts whirling into love with each other. Like falling on the couch at the end of a hellish day. Like dad taking off your cleats and shin-gaurds, sweaty socks, after soccer practice.

We lose our mothers. Everything, eventually.

I wonder what to do in between our losses and the loss of us. When the comfort of comfort feels as far as rain in the desert.

In the morning I walk upstairs after a night of wobbling half-naked in the truth. My memory full of foolish courage, embarrassment, some strange version of love. She woke me with a song read straight from my dreams. Her rib cage creaked open with light. She held me as I sobbed. Her face, like the first breath on the first day of fall.