Saturday, November 13, 2010


The Tibetan Buddhists say that the purpose of meditation is to 'be ourselves'.  Self is a mystery.  Be that as it may, the task is for me to arrive at the fullness of who I am.

As modern people we get a very small view of ourselves and proceed to live in our own self-imposed small world.  The path of meditation leads me to a universe largely unknown to myself, where my personhood can be seen as vast, empty, and boundless.  There is a depth of being and a brightness of mind that surpasses all boundaries.  The discovery of that (experientially) doesn't make living in the world impossible but plausible.  I do not have to cram life into my small thinking--of expectations and judgments.

With this kind of endless awareness and unconditional viewpoint, I have stumbled into the discovery of the 'joyful mind.'  This precious human life becomes a revelation--The gift of myself arrives through meditation (both on and off the cushion).  Mindfully being with the notion of an unlimited self allows me to see where I hold back.  Where I do not want to open.

When I am willing to let go of 'who I thought I was',  I find myself invited into the moment of letting go.  When I am willing to die to self (letting go of all preconceived notions of me) something very different begins to unfold.  As the process continues and deepens, my fabricated sense of self, can be seen as something I hold on to.  I come face to face with my fears and concepts of myself (that are not working) and am, again, invited to let go.

There is a definite gritty nature to this journey; this journey no different from any of the ancient mystery schools and religions.  For me, this meditative path is one of the places in the present culture where this journey of what I can be: is real.  This journey, ever unfolding, is well worth the ride.

Gracie Garp

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Divine Ones....

"Many people hear voices when no one is there.  Some of them are called 'mad' and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day.  Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.
                                                                                                                                    --Meg Chittenden

My area of professional expertise is working with individuals who hear voices...some people like to call it schizophrenia.  I have always called them: The Divine Ones.
I have never been one who works with a 'diagnosis', psychiatric or otherwise.  I prefer, upon first meeting a client, to not ask them 'what they have' but 'who they are.
I am proud to say that I have published articles on my own style of 'treatment' when it comes to working with individuals in 'extreme states of mind.'
Mostly, I have found acceptance and for some, great relief, that I treat (psychotherapeutically), 'human beings' and not what some would characterize as a 'pathological disorder.'

We are all so much more than the labels that society dangerously doles out. This includes labels of stupid, unworthy, mongoloid, crazy, heartless, hopeless and the like.  Had I believed all the labels that have come my way (about myself), I would certainly be caught in the net of no-return, insane.  Am I eccentric? Yes.  Am I left of center? Yes.  I wear these labels like a 'badge of honor'.  Not out of arrogance but from a profound belief that whether I fit in with the 'norm', I possess 'basic goodness and basic sanity.'  The basics can carry me a long way-- I don't need to be 'extraordinary anything--basically human will suffice.

What I strive to be is alive in the world, compassionate, living in the moment with what the moment can that dark or light, difficult or easy.  Do I always succeed in this endeavor? No. Am I able to forgive myself my down-falls? Yes.

As a writer, I do hear voices.  They are the voices of the 'writing muse'... they are a literary divine intervention to my otherwise conditioned mind for what can be said, thought, or written down for the world to see and hear.  There will always be a cacophony of less than kind voices (even those I spew to myself) but I am learning slowly to not indulge the full lexicon of notions about what or what does not make me, or anyone else, a divine one.

Gracie Garp

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Three Jewels...

Today, I took Refuge in the Three Jewels: The Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha.  I received my Refuge Name:  Compassion Tiger Lady or Nyingje Takmo in the Tibetan language.

For the rest of my days, I will contemplate the profundity and preciousness of this path that I aspire to enter completely.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Refuge Vow: The Interview...

"What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.  It is the birthplace of authenticity.
                                                                                                            --Brene' Brown

Maintaining my vulnerability is a daily practice.  Tenderness is always mighty when extended to both  myself and others.  I attended the beginnings of taking My Refuge Vows last night.  It is very auspicious that the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche ( he is the head of the Shambhala buddhist lineage that dates back some 2,500 years) is in town this weekend with his wife (the present Sakyong Wangmo whose name is Khandro Tseyang Ripa Mukpo) to celebrate the end of his year long retreat, and the birth of their  daughter (Drukmo Yeshe Savasvati Ziji Mukpo)...shortened to The Princess for those of us not well versed in the pronunciation of her very long Tibetan name.  Today's celebration was to honor the "Royal Family" being here in Boulder, the birthplace of his father's, Chogyum Trungpa Rinpoche, bringing Tibetan buddhism to America.  Today, was an unprecedentedly warm afternoon...the high 70's, so it was an exquisite autumn day to spend outside with our gorgeous fall colors and the wind blowing the leaves of yellow, burnt auburn, and crimson red to the ground and swirling at our feet.

I arrived with my two 'khatas' (white ceremonial scarves) that the Sakyong blesses and places around your neck, after doing so...Leaving their presence one is met by a Tibetan monk, who places a goji-like berry in the palm of your hand.  It represents long life and one swallows it on the spot. Next in line, another Tibetan monk who gives you a royal purple string to hang around your neck (loosely) to be worn until it literally falls off.  I so love the pomp and ceremonial aspects that the Tibetans buddhists engage in for many occasions.

Last evenings 'interview' was done with an Acharya (in this case: Acharya Ferguson) whom you are introduced to singly to be interviewed by.  The protocol is to meet him and say: "I have come seeking refuge."  He responds: "Why are you seeking refuge?" I am sure no two answers are the same for each interviewee.  I paused a moment and answered: "No exit, no problem."  His countenance shifted to what looked like amusement and appreciation.  I am told that a part of tomorrow's Refuge Ceremony will be the Acharya giving you your "Refuge Name" based on your answer and his felt and intuitive sense of your essence...this giving of a Refuge Name is something I did not know about until this afternoon.

Tomorrow's vow ceremony will be my announcing, publicly, my aspiration to follow the path of the Buddha.  This is not a vow to follow a 'diety' but to proclaim that I have exhausted my strategies of distraction, denial and escapism and to find that learning to experience reality directly through the path of meditation and mindfulness is a life-affirming choice.

There is surely vulnerability in this momentous threshold that I am about to cross.  This threshold is full of beauty and an aspired authenticity that I vow to take hold of and nurture for the rest of my days.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Evacuation #2

Yesterday, the police coming to my door to announce Mandatory evacuation for the second Boulder fire (within a month of each other), was a bit surreal.
This was the second go-round for my being able to once again check in with my non-attachment to 'things.'    So far, so good.

Gracie Garp

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Fairytale....

Written in 1980

The Fairytale

There was once a boy who grew up terrified
in the House of Mediocrity.
He longed for adventure, the wild and the strange,
like an infant longs to suckle from the breast.

When he grew up to be a man he met a woman, a cliff-
walker who, after years of living in the wild, had become an
Expert Cliff Walker.

When he loved and trusted her he would allow her
to take him to the cliffs blindfolded.
But when his love turned to indifference and his
trust to suspicion, he begged her to stay away for
fear that if she blindfolded him she might actually
push him over one of the steep crags.

She knew what he did not...that he was going to the
cliffs anyway.  That they would beckon and call to
him much like the moon to the morning sun.

What he did not know and feared most was that she
would tell him--that if, per chance, he stumbled
on any of the deepest and steepled bluffs, he would
have the wings to see himself safely to the ground.

It was her deepest secret.  The very one he hoped she
would never tell him.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Shopping Cart....

Written in 1993:

           Put A Ribbon On My Shopping Cart

Put a ribbon on my shopping cart.  Let it flutter like a may-day banner in the
spring wind.  The homeless shopping cart.  Mine.  Let me push it through the
Santa Monica suburbs so that everyone will know that I didn't know how to
quite grow up.  That I stayed small, like a child, believing the goodness in my
heart would be enough to survive.  I wasn't prepared for the adult reality that
profiteering and not philanthropy is the way to success.  So call me stupid... I
really didn't know.  Inside my shopping cart there is nothing to show--nothing
tangible like stocks and bonds and real-estate holdings.  There are invisible
contents.  Memories.  No net worth on the Dow Jones, but palpable feelings
attached to following my heart through it all.  All the empty space in my shopping
cart, only filled with and overflowing with the love I have for my two children...
who, forgive me, I foolishly taught from the breast, that what really mattered was
 love and acts of kindness.  I may have doomed them to sorrow.  My worldly
ignorance may cost them dearly in a capitalist society.  They will be handing
out love and trust; smiling, laughing, while not knowing there will be nothing
in their cart to show the world their value.  Oh, but Love is stronger than tax-
free income and if I have loved them, truly loved them, they will  look
over at m own hollow cart and feel the weight of our carts now too heavy to
push any further down the street.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Book....

Written in 1995:

I have to write the "book" so that my children will know that I was more than birthmarks and madness;
more than stretchmarks and mother-love.

So that when they face the the grandfather clock of their childhood ( I could give them no flesh and blood grandfather) to rewind it, they will not just curse me but love me for my humanness (my jelly-popo) and for my heart of gold and danger.

Gracie Garp

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Taking Refuge...Part Two

Six months ago, almost to the day, I wrote a blog entry about my Taking Refuge.

"The Refuge Vow is a ceremony where one formally becomes a Buddhist by making a commitment in one's life to follow the path of the Buddha. In taking refuge in the Precious Three Jewels, we commit ourselves to freedom.  Having exhausted our strategies of distraction, denial, and escapism, we find that learning to experience reality directly through the path of meditation is a life-affirming choice."

My Refuge Vow Ceremony will take place on November 7th-- there will be no bells and whistles that resound after the ceremony.  There will be me choosing to mindfully walk moment by moment through this auspicious, mysterious and unknown journey with asking for no assurances for what I will find.

Gracie Garp

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Wedding...

Where do I begin in writing about Taylor and Christos' wedding that took place on October 16th.

Do I begin at the morning of the wedding with all her closest female friends in a flurry of attendance to Taylor, each of her friends more beautiful and precious than the next....

Do I begin at the moment of Taylor walking down the staircase, before her and my stretch limo arrives to drive us to the wedding sight, whereby all of us at the bottom of the stairs weep at the sight of her pre-nuptial radiance....

Do I begin with our arrival at the beach site where we see the rose-strewn path leading us all to the sacred circle where their ceremony will take place...or the sight of Christos moved to tears as he sees his bride to be coming down the path escorted by her father....

Do I begin at their ritual of washing each other's feet with rose petals and the sea shells from which they dipped their petals for water....

Do I begin at the most moving of endeavors for the blessing of the rings when Christos and Taylor went around the entire circle of family and friends asking each of us to speak our own blessing of the rings as they took in each and everyone's love that was in attendance.

Do I begin at my gazing across from the Italian bride's side to see the Greek groom's family with their astounding beauty, and regal ethnic stance....

Do I begin at the speaking of their vows to each other--spoken so strong, so clear, so heartfelt, so true....

Do I begin at the pounding of the waves crashing behind us and the dolphins and seals that found their way to our shore to add another aspect of nautical magic....

Do I begin at the handful of magenta rose petals that we all tossed at the bride and groom after they were pronounced man and wife....

Do I begin at the reception held ocean-side with the warm luster of tea lights and smiles and tears as family and friends toasted them....

Where do you begin with an afternoon and evening that one hoped would never end?

Gracie Garp

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Absolutes...

Rummaging through some old files of my writings, I came across a list of my own 'categorical imperatives' that I wrote twenty two years ago... this list was originally typed out on my old IBM Selectric typewriter.  For what it is worth, I am posting it today... by the way, after all this time, I still hold these imperatives to be as pertinent for me today as when I first banged them out the old fashioned way.

1. Treat yourself and others as one part holy and one part human.
2. Do not attempt charitable acts motivated by uncharitable feelings of guilt, shame, obligation, pity or moral superiority.
3. Do not consider your well-being or happiness as a present someone else holds in their hands.
4. Do not be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.
5. Make your choice a conscious one when deciding what you want to give, to whom, when and how much.
6. Never leave a person, place or thing more disheveled than it, or they, were when you first found them.
7. Trust your instincts.
8. Question authority.
9. Honor all your feelings.
10. Do not usurp your own integrity nor let others decide your own value system.
11. Take responsibility for your own emotional and spiritual life.
12. Take the words: good and bad, right and wrong, out of your vocabulary.
13. See beyond the black and white of any situation and pray for the ability and sensitivity to see the grey areas.
14. Begin forgiveness where you perceive an ancient hatred.
15. Make allowances for human imperfection.
16. Celebrate the love you have for yourself and share it with others.
17. Feed at least one person's belly, mind, heart or soul daily.

Gracie Garp

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Uber Poet....

Tillcho Lake
In the high place
it is as simple as this,
leave everything you know behind.

Step toward the cold surface,
say the prayer of rough love
and open both arms.

Those who come with empty hands
will stare into the lake astonished,
there, in the cold light
reflecting pure snow

the true shape of your own face.

                            --by David Whyte

Gracie Garp

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Sabbatical Divas....

It has come to pass (especially after my 'fire experience') that I really am being 'called' to take a sabbatical.  Where and when, is yet to be decided but suffice it to say, it will be out of the country.

I have been asking the Divas of Traveling Sabbaticals, to keep showing me the signs for when and where to begin my sojourn.  One of the trickier elements of my leaving in, say January, was what to do about subletting my rental.  I figured Divas of Sojourning do not have as much difficulty with this issue as I might by fretting about I turned it over to them to figure out.  Just this morning, I was sitting on my heavily laden flowered porch, when a woman came by to inquire if I knew about either of the duplexes (one of which I live in) being for rent now or by the first of January!!  Need I say more?

I only have two 'requirements' for where I travel to: must be coastal and very near large bodies of water and must be warm...not 50 degree warm but tropical warm.  I am thinking: Malta, Greece, Italy, Turkey, the South of Spain....or anywhere else that suits my desire to paint and write and eat profusely.

A friend had mentioned that I should see the movie: Eat, Love, Pray--a bit too Hollywood-ized for me but I did respond that I would be very interested in writing the satirical version that I call: Eat, Eat, Eat.  For those who know me well, I have a voracious appetite and although I should weigh four hundred pounds with the amount of food I ingest, I seem to have been blessed with an outrageous metabolism.  No doubt I will eat my way through any country I visit.  My Sicilian grandfather, Nanu, upon our beginning a meal in his home, would always proclaim: "Eat, eat.  Don't be ashamed."  Being reared young, to absolutely revel in the glories of eating whatever one craves, I have yet to confuse shame with eating.

May the Divas of Eating and No Shame be with you....

Gracie Garp

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Fable Worth Noting....


A Fable

Once upon a time there was a child-woman named Tanina.  She lived in a cozy castle with 4 bears and a Higher Power.

The bears came to her, each in their own plight and she named them accordingly: Childhood, Marriage, Divorce and Aftermath.

The bear named Childhood, arrived with a plethora of wounds and wild tales of love, comfort, madness and wanting.  She gave this bear a host of adult attention and parental tenderness, the likes of which it had never seen.  Childhood gave in return and resides very close to her heart.

The bear named Marriage, although anything but idle, arrived in a diffused state.  This particular bear had been to doctors, healers, preachers and teachers but it was not until Marriage came to the cozy castle that it found its heart's desire...the child-woman, Tanina.

The bear named Divorce did not arrive at the cozy abode for some thirteen years later.  The time lag had been choreographed, unbeknownst to Divorce, and in celebration of its arrival, Tanina had a grand recital in Divorce's honor.  This, of course, pleased the bear very much as it thought its self a very bad bear until Tanina taught it and loved it very much otherwise.

The bear named Aftermath, arrived quite unexpectedly.  It was a spring day and Tanina was not expecting pedestrian visitors.  She was almost half-way downtown, on one of her adventure excursions, when she spotted Aftermath.  Upon seeing her, Aftermath did not walk but full-bore galloped to her side.  She embraced Aftermath realizing, just then, that she was short one bear and had presumed Aftermath to be lost.  The brave bear said he preferred arrivals on the Grace and Mercy clock, as opposed to other methods of timing.  The distinguished looking bear carried only a floral sachet and a dictionary under its arm...they immediately hit it off.

And they all lived 'really' ever after....

Gracie Garp

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gracie Garp....

While residing at the most beloved of my homes: 320 22nd Street-Santa Monica, my dear, dear friend, Turtle (Richard Turley) who has known me since my nursing days with Justin, called to my attention that being with me was like being with both Gracie Allen and Garp.  **The androgynous aspect is duly noted.  Thus was born my 'other name'--Gracie Garp.

For those who know me, this is probably a very apt description of what might be termed my zany humor and Garpesque antics....

One Thanksgiving, unbeknownst to Turtle, I had a brass plaque made and engraved.  When he arrived, there was the brass plaque mounted on the front door. It read: The Gracie Garp Estate.  Other than confusing the mailperson, it was there to announce the entry into another realm of experiencing the unexplored interior landscapes of whomever crossed the threshold.

And experience, we all did.  Heretofore, elements of any individuals sense of themselves, was able to be pushed past the envelope that they or anyone else had sealed them into.  Those aspects of 'self' that were buried or unexplored were welcome to make a showing within the walls of the estate.  It was a free for all, except for any acts of violence, that allowed for complete and authentic expression of, or just trying on for size, those attributes that wanted an avenue to stretch and explore. What may have been disallowed on 'the outside' world, became welcomed fodder for heart and soul perusal of the 'explorer.'

The estate plaque has traveled with me to many different abodes but wherever it hung, there was the invitation to be yourself...all of yourself...without editing or stifling that which was safely hiding under any veneer of inauthenticity that one felt compelled to maintain.

Gracie Garp has served me well.  I, myself, am beckoned to proceed (sometimes with reckless abandon),  down the vestibules of my inner life to see what has been hidden that wants to come out and play.  And, so it is, always an open invitation to visit the estate...come prepared for 'not knowing' or needing to know, what will come to the light of day or night.  The door is most often unlocked, so just let yourself in.

Gracie Garp

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zen Koan....

"Quick, without thinking: What was your original face before your parents were born?"
                                                                                                                 --Zen Koan

The first time I heard this particular koan, I was struck by the profundity that my original face is actually a total mystery of my original essence.

Furthermore, we are said to also have 'an original voice'...the voice and thoughts; before we are conditioned to blithely repeat and say all that we were told to think or believe in. That original face and voice (story) held without judgmental self consciousness, is something I want to be curious about.  Dismantling all that was innocently taken on is worthy of my attention.

Who am I without 'this face'; this 'story'?

One of my favorite Buddhist practices is referred to as : Touch and Go.  Utilizing the ability to let thoughts come and go without clinging to them as absolute truth....I can use the thought but rest in my heart; the innocence of the heart. An Indian sage, Nisargadatta, said, "The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it."

I am, myself, a Storyteller.  Stories are not devoid of value.  As a writer, I have come to respect their evocative power.  At best, they replace a deluded cultural narrative or a mis-leading fantasy with a tale of compassion.  Dropping below my story, I can be ushered back to the Mystery of the here and now: when chopping wood, just chop; when washing dishes, just wash.  This may sound is.

Ah, the challenge of not judging my stories or getting too caught up in deconstructing my 'original face', is practicing the mindfullness to question what I have so fiercely clung to as fully representative of my essence, before investing so heavily in a purported solidness that proceeds the danger of becoming a 'fundamentalist.'  Fundamentally, I can fill the bowl with all manner of concretized thoughts and behaviors but I can choose to 'empty' the bowl and allow for a freshness (even for a moment) of 'not knowing; not having to know.

I can almost bring a sense of playfulness to noticing how often I will fill my bowl today and the practice of emptying the bowl...when filling, just fill; when emptying just empty.

Gracie Garp

Monday, September 27, 2010

Autumn Warning....

The Colorado State Department of Fish and Wildlife is advising hikers, hunters, and fishers to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears this time of year.

They advise that people wear noise producing devices such as bells on their clothing to alert but not startle the bears unexpectedly.  They also advise you to carry pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear.

It is also a good idea to watch for fresh signs of bear activity.  People should recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings.  Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur.  Grizzly bear droppings have little 'bells' in them and smell like 'pepper.'

Just thought you should know---

Gracie Garp

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Missy Semicolon....

Although I am fully cognizant and deeply compassionate about the extinction of whales, sea turtles, etc., I am, as a writer, distressed about the disappearing act of Missy Semicolon....

In general the semi-colon (;) functions as a weak period or as a strong comma. As a weak period the semi-colon corresponds to a fading pause and full stop in speech similar to but perhaps not quite as final as that represented by a period.  As a strong comma the semi-colon corresponds to a rising or sustained pause in speech possibly longer or slightly more definitive than that represented by a comma.

All that to say, I have noticed when reading today's media prints: newspapers and magazines;  the semicolon has been ousted for the likes of a dash (-) when, clearly, the 'sassier' of colons (the semicolon) would warrant her proper place in punctuation by being admitted into the sentence's structure.

I suspect the culprit of this phenomenon has something to do with the distinction and nuance of a 'fading pause' or the 'rising or sustained' speech that accompanies the proverbial usage of such a semicolon.  There is too much 'speed' in today's pace to warrant one's mindful attention to pauses and rising or sustaining speech. The beauty of speaking with 'right attention' has all but been lost among the rush of hurriedly babbling , thrusting one's communication, at another, with careless tempo's and cadences.

I, for one, immensely enjoy the lilting tones of word and sentence construction. I don't consciously think of this when speaking, as it comes somewhat naturally to someone like myself, who listens for the melody in communication.  I notice some people bark and some people sing when speaking...I think Shakespeare is a 'singer'; much like my beloved writer: Leonard Cohen.  George Bush barks and Obama sings....Walter Cronkite; a singer.  Rush Limbaugh; a barker. At the risk of sounding political: most
Democrats sing and most Republicans bark. who'da thunk?

I digress and implore you to be more mindful of your speaking style, writing style and correct punctuation....I do not convey this with a bark but sorely miss the literary song of Missy Semicolon.

Gracie Garp

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Second Arrow.....

There is a buddhistic concept (and there are many) that works with the notion of self-compassion.  One of my favorites is that of the Second Arrow.  It goes like this: one finds one's self with an experience that renders their sense of acting harmlessly towards one's self or others, in tatters.  Something that I may have said or done,  or being on the  receiving end of one of the poison darts from life, that causes me great sorrow and shatters my delusional  hope:  that I have arrived at a place where I or others can be spared of any type of suffering.

That 'first arrow' may be described as any event whereby I have sustained a great and grievous  situation; an event that threatens to take me down or pin me to the wall of questioning my own basic goodness. The first 'hit' is painful enough but then I add the 'Second Arrow' of adding to the pain with my own self recrimination or condemnation and increase  the pain tenfold.  I habitually and mindlessly fortify the original pain, with an added bull's-eye that clearly marks me as basically bad...reprehensible through and through.

I am learning, albeit very slowly, that I can instead bring a sort of' tender-hearted mercy of attention' to myself and my actions; to mindfully re-think the benefits of carrying around guilt or shame as any kind of attribute that would carry me down the road of canceling out any sense of dignity or nobility that I 'originally possess'....

My transgressions, of which there are many, is notable purely for its sake of a possibility to transform that which could destroy myself or others, into an opportunity for healing versus further destruction. If the Wise Heart can consciously pull out that 'second arrow' and bleed from only the 'first arrow', I stand to gain a gentler approach to anyone or any situation, without adding to the original pain.  The 'first hit' is hopefully painful enough to capture my attention to stop me in my tracks and change course.

Of late, I have become enthralled with my Second Arrows.  They are the matriarchs of possibilities. I am peeling myself off the dart board, getting out of range of the target practice arenas but, still, the slings and arrows of life will find me...the thud of the second arrow 'to the heart' will not find, so easily, a host for self-prescribed self-loathing  Second arrows can be the friends, the teachers for my learning more deeply, self-compassion. As quickly as I send the Second Arrow, there follows an opportunity to dislodge it and as swiftly as the first arrow was sent, I am getting more adept at pulling out that which I send to multiply  my pain and, hopefully, that which I add to other's suffering.

Learning to suffer, with dignity and grace, I can quell the fears of slaying my own heart, abandoning my own basic goodness, revel in the imperfection of being a skilled archer of self-imposed suffering and fill my quiver with less Second Arrows.

Gracie Garp

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Hmmm, my neighborhood has just been given notice 'urging' us to be ready for a 'possible' evacuation due to the fires (and high winds) surrounding the foothills of Boulder.

What to take?  I realized there were actually very few 'priceless' items that I would want to keep safe.
For those of you who know that I have some wonderful art and furniture, when it came down to it, they mattered very little.

What did matter:
Favorite photos of Justin and Taylor
My art supplies
My writing journal
Assorted papers for i.d.
Emergency money
All things related to Taylor's Wedding on Oct. 16th
A few books
Cell phone and charger
Tax information--Uncle Sam may or may not excuse me for estimated and 2010 tax payments
All of Justin's birthday letters written to me over the years
Asthma inhaler
My pillow
My favorite black leather boots
Lightweight Buddha Sculpture
Phone list of friends, family and clients
Necessary clothing

It is quite something to notice how much I can walk away from...very freeing in it's own right.
My ideas for 'letting go of my familiar shores' has a deeper meaning for me since I last posted something about that on my last blog entry. Venturing out to live somewhere (other than Boulder) which I have been contemplating of late, really feels significantly apt right now.

And, so, I will leave before dark, go to Carelli's and eat copious amounts of pasta  (way east of Broadway Avenue) and watch and wait to see how this all unfolds.

Gracie Garp

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Losing Sight of the Shore....

I have heard it said:  "One cannot discover new oceans unless one has the courage to lose sight of the shore"
Had I known how terrified (or cowardly) I would feel after allowing myself to actually lose sight of the shore, I highly doubt I would have been so fervently asking for 'deep change' in my life; had I reckoned with the possibility that my whole world and mind would turn upside down.
I had not thought of, nor intended, to begin my voyage to new oceans in an environmental hell realm...I thrive in beauty and esthetic balance. For me, my new residence has neither.  Rather, the walls and furniture close in on me and although I do have some exquisite antiques and fine art...they now are suitably placed and feel like ghosts of the past...they used to reflect back to me a sense of creative solace. Now, with a felt sense of wherever I rest my eyes, everything I see looks tacky, dumpy and even funerary!!!  Something is dying inside of me since I moved in. This house is not big enough for two Ego's--one of them will have to's hoping it is my Large Ego and not the necessary smaller ego.
This home is a far cry from the coziness of the Bilbo Hut. I wake up each morning and feel like I have been whisked away to The Purgatory Home for the Wayward.  Maybe this deep change needed to first begin with this amount of disequilibration. It has become apparent that the misery I am  experiencing, is in realizing I 'have' become Wayward!  The material and interior of the house has become a 'mirror' for my plight. This home has been my first step in 'losing sight of the shore.'From where I lay my head at night, I look upon 'things' that no longer hold my adoration.  Well, adoring 'things' is a sure way to get lovingly/lifesavingly slapped up the side the head by the Muses of "Wake Up-Your Soul-Boat is Sinking!!"  Since I have not yet learned to walk on water, I am going to have to settle for the much needed ordinary mode of water transportation: dog-paddling through the under currents of the familiar me now becoming a stranger. In my further search of what really matters to me, I find the need to ask myself: 'What am I willing to risk, lose or sacrifice to find out?'
I have clung so desperately to 'my shore' of having a particular style and esthetic to my home or life; to stave off looking at the current persona that I have tried to project that 'all is well, all is peaceful with my soul.'  This particular move has seemed to just rip off any mask I was wearing from the moment I arrived.  Now, tender, vulnerable and exposed, I sense another pivotal spiritual crossroads is at hand for me. I find myself clearly half way in, with no going back--the shoreline is barely visible at this moment in time.
And so it is, I have set sail and have been 'invited' to loosen all the moorings that I have counted on thus far in my life...Some evenings there is a full moon in sight but there are those moonless evenings, where although I need to make this voyage solo, I am guided by the stars; reminded that there is another shore awaiting my arrival....

Gracie Garp

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Crack....

My beloved Leonard Cohen wrote:

"Ring the bell
the bell that still
can ring

Forget your
perfect offering

There is a crack
a crack in everything

That's how the
light gets in"

Yesterday, I cracked and the Light came pouring in....

gracie garp
without a perfect offering

Saturday, July 10, 2010

This Place...and then...That Other Place

My last blog entry on May 25th was entitled "This Place."....and then, I ran head first into "That Other Place."  That other place where if my beloved friends and family had not pulled me back from the edge of a very deep abyss, with the sheer strength of their heartstrings, I would have surely catapulted myself over the ledge.

Caution: do not attempt entering the forest of the 'dark night of the soul' without leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind you for your Tribe to come and find you, if you cannot find your way back alone.

I was in so deep that I could not have possibly found my way back home without their stalwart and gentle footfalls following very close and very quietly behind me.  I lost sight of them but they never lost sight of me....

I usually begin my forest treks with, at first, a lot of bravado and a backpack of courage but sooner or later the bravado crumbles and the courage flees.  Next thing I know, I am un-compassed, the flashlight goes dead and in the ink-black dark, of course, all the scariest of my inner demons have a hay-day with my body, mind and soul.  Hiding under my bed of tree branches, I try and remember to welcome the demons, serve them tea and cookies; befriend them.  But with the particularly scary one's, I would find myself hurling the cookies at them---breaking tea cups, left and right, while panicked  and scrambling as far away as I could from their draconian taunts.  The more I feared them, the more they would come back in legions.

I found myself shaking and quaking and weeping a lot. Legions love the scent of fear....

Now six weeks into the thickets and thorns of the forest, I began to feel something that only Legions could love...the feeling of losing my mind, forsaking my sense of basic goodness, forgetting the truth of who I am,leaving behind my trust in the kindness of strangers, family, friends and tribe.  I was in deep shit.

Yesterday, I faced my Dilemma: I had succumbed to all the Phantoms of Fear that were happy to devour me.  Oh, and then, the angels, divas, and muses seem to appear out of nowhere. Of course, they were always there but they would never come close until I started proclaiming my Truth out loud...even if no one else could hear me:  "I am love, I am loved, I will not believe the vitriol of self-deception that I need to be more than I am, that I don't need to hate myself to find myself, that I don't need to go it alone, that I can trust those who love me so dearly, that I am not separated from my spiritual core, that I need not be burned at the stake for 'the sins I did not commit.' "

The dawn of my just 'being' was at hand.  One of the Tribe members grabbed my own trembling hand and I looked around me to see all those who love me,  holding hands in a circle of sacred protection.  The protective sacred ring  was for me; was for them , as well.  The circle cannot be broken--my life was inextricably tied to theirs.  They too had experienced the 'forest', they too knew how dark it can get when we believe we can actually let go of the hands that bind us together...the hands that are really one in the same.

That Other Place will always be available to me; the dark forest will wait patiently for me to enter again and again...ah, but the Tribe, also waits patiently for my next quest into the forest.  The Tribe knows intimately the dangers and pitfalls of letting go of self-compassion and venturing out to where we think no one can find us....they are always there, always ready to remind me that I can never really be forever lost in that Other Place.

A Grateful Gracie Garp

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This place....

Oh, I will miss this place; the cows mooing in the morning and the coyote's singing me to sleep at night. I live just a couple of stone throws away from the vast open space at the base of the foothills to the majestic Flat Irons.

This place where the wind blows, sometimes to full gales that make my heart sing and relax my spirit more than most other elements of nature, save the sound of ocean waves and the quiet of a pine forest.

This place that initially felt so foreign from the frenetic droning energy of living inside the sounds of a bustling Boulder, in the central part of town. I will miss the sedentary pace of this, by comparison, rural meadow area where only a few miles away, is a very hip (chichi) and highly rated city to reside in.

This place, fondly named: The Bilbo Hut, that has brought me back to my basic sanity, my basic goodness. I am reminded that this place is an exterior environment that will provide me the 'practice' of remembering that it is my interior environment that need not be thrown about based on where I place a mail box.

This place, inside of me, that harbors my trepidations and fears change (as though no change were possible) will get another test-run of my ability to mindfully ride the waves of living with never knowing what other inevitable changes lie ahead.

This vulnerable place inside that intellectually knows one thing but feels another. This tender place inside, that I will take with me in all of my wanderings....this place, my place, that needs no address to reside in, no place but my heart of hearts leading me wherever I may sojourn and call home....this place.

Gracie Garp

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taking Refuge...

This fall, I will take my Refuge Vows. This vow will be an expression of my freedom. Freedom as a refugee, I can let go of my attachment to basic security--which is actually illusory; there is really no basis of security in one's life. Willingly suspended in no-man's land (no-woman's land) in which the only thing to do is for me to relate to the Dharma and with myself.

This vow is also intended to be a proclamation of my 'one-pointedness'; an allegiance to my sense of discipline, ethics and spiritual path. A heartfelt yes to my Basic Goodness. I am freed from having to be a heroine to a personal success story. This has me planting my stick in the ground and stopping in my tracks, the shopping in the spiritual marketplace for what I believe in. No more sidetracks, no exits. I have chosen the Buddhist path.

There will be no more scapegoats; blaming people, places, and things, for the problems I encounter. No more collapsing into a belief of helplessness whereby I would normally hand my problems over to someone or something else. Being virtually groundless, I can entertain the problems I will most assuredly encounter, as now a reference point from which to continue to practice moving along my boddhisattva path. Somehow, ironically, this affords me a way to relate to my being lost, confused but simultaneously more tenderhearted and open. Maitri-self compassion- will be my internal compass. I am welcoming the Hinayana approach--the narrow path of simplicity and boredom.

I have spent so much of my life caught up in 'dramas'...boredom is such a welcome relief to all the drama-energy I expended or whipped up to make my life tolerable or supposedly meaningful. There seems to be a sensibility and simplicity in working with the sacredness, richness and ordinary magic of my human experience. I am a slippery fish but I am no longer calling on a bigger net than myself for salvation. By this, I do not mean salvation like that of individuals being saved from their sins, their lives and their choices. Rather, I am being saved from a life of never growing up or taking full responsibility for my words or deeds.

I have no desire to go into 'lifetime retreat' or retreat from, I am committed to being wholeheartedly engaged with what crosses my path as I participate in it fully. Fully a part of the everyday ordinariness of walking planet earth. Embracing ordinariness is a far cry from where I began with believing that to not live an extraordinary life or be an extraordinary person, I was somehow betraying my purpose. Fortifying my ego with thoughts of the extraordinary served its purpose: I learned that my extraordinary efforts to maintain myself as "different from", "better than" was not only impossible but ultimately, arrogant, selfish, and isolating.

This decision to take refuge, has been a long time in coming. I have not entered into it naively or haphazardly. There will be no beatific sound track to my life after the Vow. There will be the great unknown, roads less traveled and a heart that beats with both trepidation and solace. Whatever will be, will be and I vow to take refuge in it.

Gracie Garp

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


One of my most beloved friends, David, has the same compunction
and passion for 'reading' dictionaries, as I do.

This particular literary habit began early in my life. Of course, it has served me well as I have an unusually broad vocabulary and am a formidable Scrabble opponent. Once in a while, someone will come across a word that I do not know or have not utilized in years. David shared with me the word: canoodle. At first, I thought this was a noun, like noodlehead but in fact it is a verb...I will let you have the delightful experience of visiting your nearest unabridged dictionary and see the definition for yourself. Suffice it to say, I wish you all the abundant canoodling that you would ever want or need.

As an aside, since I thought I could feature other writers on my own blog, I wanted to submit for your enjoyment another (contemporary) poet's piece called: True Religion

True Religion

Christianity says: God's a man.
David says: Where is he?
The true religion would say, he'll come to you, sinner,
be careful what you ask for.
Christianity says: Sorry, die to meet him.

Islam says: God is great.
David says: I know!
The true religion would say, fine.
Islam says: Say it again.

The Buddhist says: I'm not me.
David says: I'm not you either.
The true religion would say, your born mate lives.
Buddhism says: Vanity begone.

The Hindu religion says: Owe my god.
David says: I can't pay.
The true religion would say, mercy is not strained.
India says:
When you thirst family first
burst nursed stranger cursed.

Judaism, once upon a time the true religion, now says: There's one God.
David says: Let him make another.
True religion says: God is one.

For respect of rights I AM tried on earth to
make the effects of my life one with my flesh.

O my God
I AM show
me myself
great to know.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Are What You Eat....

I have heard it said that you can tell a lot about an individual by the contents of their refrigerator. Some time take a moment to peruse your own frig and see what it may say about you. Better yet, take a look at a friend or family members frig and see if its contents don't reveal something about them that you did or did not are what you eat. I had the good fortune of having my dear friend, Turtle, do an inventory of my frig. This inventory was not planned so as to not think I stocked something to contrive a dishonest 'snapshot' of its full contents.
**You could also approach this list like a short (yet to be written) culinary-novella of my life in the kitchen:


Freezer: Goose Point Pacific Oysters, Organic Asparagus, Olivieri Cannalloni, Collossal Cooked Shrimp, Organic Artichoke Tops, Organic Angus Beef Burgers, La Concha Cotija Grated Cheese, Pork Roast, Organic Chicken Livers, Nestle's Turtle Cookies, Pork Tenderloin, Puff Pastry Shells, Crab cakes, Edamame, Organic Chicken Patties, Pork Ribs, Ben and Jerry Ice Cream, Athens Filo Dough, Belly-Tuna Filet, Astor Chocolate Liquer Cups.

Refrigerator: Roland Large Capers, Papa Christo's Tahini Salad Dressing, Seafood Sauce, Melle Dijon Mustard, Homemade Chili Sauce, Mediterranean Organic Sun-Dried Tomatoes, New England Cranberry Pepper Jelly, Danish Raspberry Preserves, Krinos Taramosalata Caviar Spread, Santini Fancy Pesto, Thai Red Curry Sauce, Rothschild Onion Horseradish Dip, Executive Chef Roasted Garlic, Claussen Kosher Dills, Claussen Sauerkraut, Minced Garlic, Rice Vegan Cheddar Cheese, Christopher Ranch Organic Whole Garlic, Flax Oil, American Cheese, Red Palm Oil, Grapefruit juice, Pear Juice, Club Soda, Pomegranate juice, Italian Pork Sausage, Butter, Stone Ground Whole Wheat Bread, Rothschild Fiery Raspberry Salsa, Pie crusts, Whipped Cream Cheese, Salemville Amish Bleu Cheese, Plum Sauce, Patak's Curry Paste, Fisher & Williams Raspberry Chipolte Sauce, Chantaine Mixed Berry Preserve, Hollywood Safflower Mayo, Heinz Organic Ketchup, Beaver Cream Horseradish, Bel Aria Black Olive Paste, Italia in Tavola Garlic Paste, Organic Sesame Tahini, Fire Mountain Red Cherry Syrup, Raw Hazelnuts, Sour Cream, Napa Valley Wasabi Sake Mustard, Tanqueray Pimento Olives, Tanqueray Lime Olives, Sadaf Sundried Olives, Half n Half, Mezzetta Calamata Olives, Cavi-Art Seaweed Caviar, Presidente Feta, Bella Cucina Tomato Pesto, LuLu Saffron & Garlic Rouille, Wild Oaks Eggplant Caponata, Wine, Beer, Champagne, Justin's Organic Almond Butter, Pine Nuts, Jarro-Dophilus, Imported Pecorino Cheese, Jarlsberg, Chevre, BellaVitano Cheese, Le Petite Dejeuner Brie, Cod Liver Oil, Phillip's Crabmeat, La Recca Anchovies in Olive oil.


Gracie Garp

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Piece for Justin...

July 9, 2006


You were once
the child
steering your own
river boat

Peter and the Wolf
chased you
along the river's
deep imagination

The oars of
frought with
your being
handed a
family's sadly
leaky boat

The college years
when you
were not
the necessary weight
of a
deeply broken heart
Julia and Marco
the river's surface
One taken
by life
by death

Your present
Van Gogh
of the thrill
and passion
of floating
the river's edge
no guarantees

Row, row
row your boat
gently down the
Your heart's bouyancy
will sail you
into all
the days of your life


Saturday, April 17, 2010

More "Wild Mind" Prose....

July 2006

Suffer Supper

The madman from
marking time
while waiting for
the paint
to dry

The bell of the ball
a green toad
under her dress

pay homage
to your
elephant sized

The suffer supper
is cooked
and waiting

Sing Louder

Cradled babies
addled adults
to task

The forever
loud enough
for the
very frightened
to hear

The Falling Out

Too many
easter bunnies
fell out of
her basket

Not enough
in the
reindeer's lair

Go home
the holidays
are over


Friday, April 16, 2010

The Bird Shit Blessing....

For what it is worth, two night ago while reading on my outdoor patio a bird shit on my head....I sent an email to the Tribe that I considered it a blessing of sorts: an ample closure to my sweet time living for the last two years in the Bilbo Hut; a visceral send-off to my new abode and,or, at least a good reminder to not get too heady about my recent good fortune and forget that some of my Dear Ones are still in the midst of the the throws of life meting out different kinds of shitty lessons. Of which, I believe, it is still possible to grow from with a modicum of believing that all things happen (or not) for the good of those who embrace their Basic Goodness.

For any of you getting shad on in this lifetime, I got some very interesting (and heretofore unknown) information on the different notions of what it portends to have a bird shit on your head. For your perusal and aviary-shit edification:

Taylor wrote: "In the Greek culture, a bird shitting on your head is good luck of the massive kind."

Cyn wrote: "It is a very good omen. When bird droppings land on your head many people believe this to be a major sign of wealth coming from heaven. Hence,although it is really yucky and a major inconvenience, when something like this happens to you, take comfort in the fact that this is described as good luck being just around the corner. In fact, most things associated with birds tend to spell good fortune, such as when birds fly to your home and begin making nests in and around your house. While bats bring abundance, birds bring good news and opportunities. Birds are also said to be powerful protectors and guardians. Even crows are said to be messengers of the Gods. So, welcome birds with open arms."

Darel (my dear satirist) wrote: "There must be a tribe somewhere that considers this a great omen. It is a sign of a Grand Stroke of Fortune that will soon be manifested. It is given only to Chosen Ones who have been selected by vote on Mount Olympus. You have been selected for your wisdom, kindness, charity, chastity, purity of thought and love for others. Graded on the aggregate: If you're deficient in any of those areas, your score in the others might carry you."

Apparently, this moment was fortuitous...I wish you all many bird droppings on your beloved heads.

Gracie Garp

Thursday, April 15, 2010


In the spirit of 'wild mind' writing sessions ( thank you Natalie Goldberg) I wanted to post some of my varied prose:

Intelligent Doubt

Make no
about it

Stand up
stick straight

When hatred
your path
blow kisses
her back

Stop loathing
in her
she may
be looking for
one moment
her mind


in the zoo
hold flashlights
late at night
the zebras
on the way
out of
their tight


in pairs

Two children
two lullabies
two wings
two chances
two poems
two deaths
two resurrections


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Dharma of Moving....(Part Two)

The 1920's bungalow sits on the corner of 5th and Concord. I had driven by it by 'accident' when I attempted to find my way back out to a main thoroughfare from Concord that is cut off by the Boulder Creek. The For Rent sign didn't seem possible as I had been faithfully combing Craig's List for all rentals in Boulder. Nowadays, virtually no one still just posts a For Rent sign on their front lawn.

I scan the surrounding homes, there are no plastic pink flamingos in sight....surely, this property has already been seen by multitudes of potential renters. Surely, they have garnered a stack-full of applications and are no longer needing yet one more person to show the rental to. I breathe in my excitement and breathe out the temptation to feel an urgency to have been the first in line to get a crack at being 'chosen' to live there.

This is where the rubber meets the road in my desire to use letting go of outcomes as a 'practice' to trusting what will be, will be. Amazingly, I relax. I do not imagine the best or the worst of outcomes. I calmly place the phone call to the landlords to set up a showing.

Three days later, I am scheduled for the showing. Unimagined, I am the first of potential renters to get a look inside. There will be six other showings after I leave. Kay and Ken (the landlords) meet me at 10am and open the door to what looks and feels to be my 'dream' abode. It only takes me moments to envision myself in this beautiful space.

The landlords and I chat, exchange polite conversation. Kay looks extremely familiar but I don't inquire as to where I may know her from. I give them my application, my references from past landlords and they let me know that they will be showing the property for the rest of the day and will get back to me in the next few days with their decision.

I spend those days riding the waves of anxiety (breathing it in and breathing it out). Will I be chosen? Will they believe my stellar references? Fortunately, the bigger the desire for something is, the greater the opportunity to practice letting go of the desire. I have no pets. They do not know that I always leave a property more beautiful than how I found it. I always pay my rent on time. But there are other things landlords look for...and those things I do not know or have any control over.

Two days pass. I am in the midst of doing my weekly flower arrangements for my home. The seven flower vases are standing sentinel on the kitchen counter waiting to be filled and fawned over by my enormous joy of welcoming their presence into the rooms where they will be lovingly placed. The phone rings. It is Kay. "You won't believe this", she says and I notice that I begin to imagine the worst case scenario... I am bracing myself to fail in my attempt to let go of my expectations of 'getting what I want.' I imagine her saying that the place burned down or the present tenant has decided to stay.

Instead, Kay explains that she saw my present landlord's name on my application and had realized that years ago she spent time in my current home taking care of (hospice style) the dying of both of his parents. The mother dying first (in my now dining room) and the father a year later (from a broken heart) in my bedroom. On the in breath,I am struck with the enormity of having lived for two years on 'sacred ground.' On the out breath, I am struck with the remembrance of where I know her from.

I had four months previously joined a bevy of Dear Ones (hospice style) to help bathe, feed, sing, laugh, cry and love our friend, Trep, on her journey to the 'other side.' Kay had albeit, only once, come to our hospice sanctuary to oversee any pain management that Trep may need. Nothing in 'life', that I had wagered my acceptance on (the ability to afford the rent, the glowing references of past landlords, the coveted good credit score) had informed her and helped her come to her decision. Rather, it was something in the 'deathing' process that connected us both.

There it was again...the interconnectedness of all the threads of our lives, the five degrees of separation that can never quite be separated. The 'in the moment truth' that I need not attempt to do or prove anything....I only need to keep showing up, keep authentically attending to whatever pulls me, keep not keeping score and double-checking my intentions. Just being, just being me was the only requirement to let life unfold in the way it will.

Another 'holy encounter.' Another simple reminder that the unknown is so much more delightful than any known components that I foolishly believe will cement my understanding of how things 'should' work in the world. I will not live forever in this newfound bungalow. I will not live forever on this earthly plane. I will, however, be given a lifetime of opportunity to learn what I have not knowingly chosen to learn, love what I presumed was unloveable, live where I never thought possible (for better or worse) and realize that the Dharma of Moving is just the same as the Dharma of Living: you just stay present, show up and just be with whatever arises on your path be it a bungalow, a plastic pink flamingo, a birth, a death; in the world of non-duality they are all the same thing just disguised with different faces.

Hmmm....after all these years, I think I finally understand what the Beatle's meant when they sang..."I am the Eggman, I am the Eggman, I am the Walrus.": I am the Eggman and the Walrus. I am the plastic pink flamingo and the Crystal vase. I am the chateau and the dilapidated mobile home. I am all these things and none of these things. I am in a constant state of flux, groundless progression, not solid, emptiness of form (unless I fall under the spell of concretizing my experience and put a hard and fast label on it to somehow think the false security of 'knowing' what it is or means will make me think I am safe from another reality than my own), one with the winds of change--embodied impermanence.

When Ken and Kay come to my home for me to sign the lease, I am mindful of the natural interconnectedness of my spiritual practice, living and dying, changing residences and simply living one inhale and one exhale at a time.

Gracie Garp

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dancing in the Kitchen....

Oh, the kitchen. The Mystery School of schools. The magnetic pull of its domain. No matter how large of a home I inhabited, any family or friends would find themselves drawn to it like no other room in the house.

Oh, the refrigerator. Shelves of ingredients that to the uninspired or dispassionate cook could seem meaningless, becomes for me a university of choices from which to choose all manner of supposed haphazard ingredients into concocting an un-reciped meal to rival the well-schooled chefs of the world.

Oh,the left-overs. Some of the best unforseen ingredients that could be thrown in to make something possibly mundane, now transformed in its ability to add what would not normally be added, and tastes not traditionally thought could be mixed.

Oh, the pantry. A Narnia-like cupboard of supposed innocuous cans and boxes that seem to be relegated to just the necessities devoid of any magic. When scanned with the eyes of the ordinary looking to become a part of the extraordinary,they can be the mainstay or the bedrock of unimagined culinary delights.

Periodically, I would be cooking away and call the children into the kitchen. While something was simmering or baking, I would shout out: "Dancing in the kitchen!" Justin, Taylor and I would all break into the most glorious of free-dance moves. Oh, the honoring of the varied ingredients making friends with each other, celebrating the variety of what they each contributed. I would be calling out: "Let them mix and mingle! Let them celebrate the joy of their unique offerings!" If more than the children and myself were home for this 'incantation', to the virgin-eyed visitor, this type of ritual could have been tantamount to a witch's cauldron's chant of 'bubble bubble toil and trouble....' To the children and any dinner guests (of which had previously eaten the 'brew' of my former dinners) this was the call to arms, the quasi-calm before the storm of devouring whatever found its way to their possibly tulip garnished, bougainvillaea strewn and decorated plates.

Jitterbugging, rock n' rolling, and waltzing maneuvers to encourage the alchemy of the potion of delights. The sacredness of the willy-nilly mixing of heretofore unheard of combinations of flavors. The reckless abandon of trusting the Muses of Mayhem-Cuisine to do their magic. The unabashed regaling of praises to the Goddesses and Ancestors of the Butter King, the Princes of Pasta, the Courtesans of Creme.

Pushing back the chairs from the table, sated and full bellied we freely sigh or groan at the fullness of it all...the communion of dinner saints, the grateful devourers of Mother Nature's bounty; the afterglow of Dancing in the Kitchen.

Gracie Garp

Monday, March 29, 2010

True Compass....

Those who know me very well, know that I am among the truly 'geographically challenged'....Do not take me on a road trip and ask me to read the map for directions. Do not give me directions to your home and ask me to turn South, North, East or West on any given street...just tell me to take a Left or Right turn, here or there. I truly marvel that people, cut from different cloth than myself, actually know the Four Directions in relationship to where they presently are. I do, however, have my own True Compass. Some call it 'intuition' or more emphatically that 'still small voice' or the prompting of the Muses. I do so enjoy how those 'vehicles' of divine mystery come unbidden. Whether those messages are something I agree with or understand or feel capable to do and especially whether they sometimes take me to 'destinations' of very perplexing or dark places, they alight anyway. My Writing Muses are somewhat mischievous...they usually start their banter when I am driving my car. Once their prolifically engaged dictation begins, it simply comes too fast for me to keep up with and retain to write down another time. I have, for years, kept a Muse Notebook in my vehicle. I have become very adept at writing furiously while stopped at lights or after exiting highways (contrary to my original destination) to just try and capture the 'musings'. Some of these field notes make it to paper. Some don't make it to the next stop sign.

As a freewheeling writer I expect these predicaments. I pretty much live my life 'left of center' so I do not begrudge the Muses their own left of center style of dictation. There is always that flabbergasting component to some of what 'comes across the wires.' Of course, there is always the potential to have my 'own wires crossed'; who can really approve or disapprove or know for certain what wants to 'come through'?

For better or worse, I mainly trust my True Compass. Hindsight, as they say, is always easy. Accepting life's quick swerving choices with cliff-hanger decisions at any given moment is auspicious at best and foolish at worst.

Fortunately, it appears that some decisions I have made--or not made--ultimately seem to make sense in the long run. Or they don't. Quite possibly, my many faceted dyslexias are my basic nature. Maybe it serves me better than I know. Hopefully, I can continue to believe that life, so lively and strange, has all the mystery in it that I need this lifetime when my emotional/psychological/spiritual coordinates seem askew.

I am sure I have gone both full-bore and half-tilted into purportedly wrong directions--when I thought I knew best--or couldn't or wouldn't come alongside of the Muses. Funny thing, with a mechanical compass you can always get back to True North. So whether or not my North is your South, my West your East, I can rest in the knowledge that although virtually lost, I somehow seem to arrive at where I'm going. In other words, I am a firm believer in my ineptitude and the Muses long as my True Compass goes on working, my soul will surely find its way.

Gracie Garp

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Dharma of Moving....

Since I arrived in Boulder, I have moved nine times in eleven years. Some of these relocations have been welcomed but most have been dreaded....

As a practitioner of the Dharma, I have come to accept that this upending of my nest has become one of my 'practices'. All of the moves have been shrouded by my propensity to look upon the next upheaval with extraordinary hope or fear....

To be honest, more often than not, I took on the search for a new residence with panic and dismay while clinging to the mandatory hope that I would find something charming. Keep in mind a 'cozy home' has certain specifications. Fortunately, I've had mostly 'good karma' finding a new abode.

There has only been one move that landed me in a residence haunted by bad vibes ('Silence of the Lamb' basement cellar) and crushingly too uncozy for me to be readily willing to accept my fate. All my delusions of assuming I knew what was 'best' for me, were met with being at the mercy of the Abode Muses. The entire year that I lived there, my spirit felt incarcerated. I never brought one fresh flower into that home and never cooked a meal....and this was, for me, a total confirmation of my being bereft of whatever good graces move me to do either. The lesson? Hmmm, hard to say. The most I could make of it was that it was excellent Bardo practice; a good 'death before dying' meditation.

This summer I will face another move....Yesterday, I stumbled upon a wonderful Dharma Teaching:

"Don't look back,
Don't look forward,
Don't alter your basic existence,
Don't be afraid
There is no other instruction!

Don't prolong the past,
Don't invite the future,
Don't alter your innate wakefulness,
Don't fear appearances
Apart from that, there is not a damned thing!"
--Patrul Rinpoche

The invitation is there for me to not hope for a chateau nor fear a dilapidated hovel. 'Don't fear appearances'?....I'm sorry but ranch-style homes and mobile homes scare the crap out of me. Patrul's instruction puts me smack into 'middle-ground' territory--not too tight, not too loose; the ultimate aspiration to be here now...with whatever arises.

I have no idea how this next move will play out. For all I know, I may be led to move to Mozambique or reside in a trailer park festooned with plastic pink flamingoes on the front lawns of my neighbors. Could it be that if I put aside my aversion to plastic flamingoes (trusted my Inner-Plastic-Flamingo) to have its way with me, that another kind of wisdom could show itself? Is there really wisdom to anything the color of beige? Are there gems of life buried beneath my constrictive ideas of what is considered beautiful, charming, suitable? Could I really live on tract-housing grounds and not solely identify with all that is has come to mean for me: banal ugliness, catastrophic visual purgatory, death knoll of creativity; the ultimate finale for having reached my limit for the tolerance of 'different.'

Interestingly, one of the bedrocks of the Dharma is the notion of 'impermanence.' Nothing lasts forever...not the good, the bad or the ugly. In between the cracks of my rigid ideas of what I need or want is verdant soil awaiting my 'not' planting my small and limiting seeds of preferred expectations. Both Beauty and the Beast have their basic goodness, their being two sides of the same coin...their being one and the same.

Could it be that a plastic pink flamingo is in fact my next Teacher; the latest one, the newest one? You will have to excuse me but I have to go. I need to comb some neighborhoods and find that flamingo. I need to find that flamingo and make friends with it--

"Let everything happen to you,
Beauty and terror.
Just keep going.
No feeling is final."

Gracie Garp

Monday, March 15, 2010

Empty the bowl....

Fortuitously, some eight years ago, at age 49, I found myself crawling on my proverbial hands and knees into the Shambhala Center Shrine Room.  Out of necessity or, was it just auspiciously timed, that I was able to finally listen to, and act on, my curiosity towards  a more Buddhistic/Taoist/Eastern way of 'understanding' not understanding. And, that there is nothing to understand.  Whatever the motivation, it was apparent that I had run the gamut on over-filling my bowl (my life beliefs) with thoughts saturated by 'my little kingdom of ignorance.'  If I had now come to yet another fork in the spiritual-quest-road, this time looking for  Enlightenment, I had to first learn that the big E is not a noun but a verb...not a destination but a full embrace of the journey of not needing to arrive... 'not knowing' and contrary to my former beliefs, not needing to know. This was not going to be easy for me.    Empty the bowl.

I did not mean this new found realization in any kind of self-depracating context.  I was admittedly tired of creating Suffer-Suppers...gorging on the notion that if my sustained happiness was the only true indicator to gage my worth, value or supposed success, that I was failing at it miserably.  When I first heard that the Buddha's First Noble Truth is: Life is suffering, I was tremendously relieved.  Suffer-suppers are just part of the deal, like yolks at the center of eggs.  Suffering, not as a punishment but just a state of being human. big deal.  Not big deal.    Empty the bowl.

At this juncture of my writing, I have gone back to count the use of the words I, me or my.  It totals 18.  That's a lot of Me-My-I.  That's a whole lot of Self concern....a whole lot of (if you embrace Buddhistic notions) "Thoughts Without a Thinker."   This Self/No-Self and Emptiness is Form and Form is Emptiness stuff, at first, drove me crazy.  It did not however, drive me to drink but drove me instead to the cushion to meditate.    Empty the bowl.

After decades of being non-plussed by 'stillness', I now couldn't think of anything nicer to do than 'sit' in stillness and do no-thing.  What I had never understood nor experienced (outside the mindfulness practice on the cushion) was the incredible amount of energy available in stillness; the galaxy-like and heretofore unexplored internal spaciousness in between all my mind chatter.  The intermittent 'gaps' between my lightening speed thoughts were brief but undeniable.   Empty the bowl.

                                                                                                                                                                 The first time I heard the Buddhistic notion of : exchanging Self for Other...I thought this was going to be another call to sacrifice myself at the altar of martyrdom.  I didn't yet realize that there was no-self to sacrifice.  No dualism: the one who does the Suffering and the one who does the Saving. That the Self they were speaking of was the Self that is not separate from Other...that we are all inextricably tied (interdependent) with all things, no things and everything.  The John Lennon: "I am you, and you are me, and we are all together" comes to mind... " Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"---becomes: Lucy is the sky, the sky is diamonds and the diamonds are Lucy....All One.    Empty the bowl.

Finally, in all this, my verbiage, my writing, my meandering thought streams and purported conclusions...I can now take them all in with an inhale and let them all go out with the exhale and-- Empty the bowl.

Gracie Garp

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's In a Name....

So, the story goes, that when my mother was pregnant with me there was, on both of my parent's part, a desire to honor the other by naming me either Richard, if I was a boy (after my father) or, Tanina, after my mother, if indeed I was a girl.

After my mother devoured a pound of pasta, she went into labor.  A girl-child was born.  My father, deliriously happy, got his wish: naming me Tanina.  My mother, on the other hand, well versed in ultimately getting her way....had, the first moment that she was alone (my father having gone home), called for the nurse to bring in my birth certificate.  Her request granted, she trimphantly wrote in her choice for my middle-name: Richard.

When I was young, when asked the question: "Where are you from?", without hesitation, I would reply: "Italy." ( I truly did  not understand that I was an American, having been so enculturated and  drenched in the virgin-olive-oiled Sicilian culture).  I also answered the question: "What is your name?", with the answer: "Tanina Richard", not knowing that most girls did not have a male's middle-name.

Without realizing it, the name would give me some kind of carte blanche into the realm and freedom of androgyny.  It also won me annual State Fair teddy bear prizes (of which I always won two) when the Fair's traveling psychic would try and guess my name (s). They never got the first name right...Tammy? Tara?Teresa?  For which their wrong guesses won me the first bear, and much to my delight, I knew the second bear was a shoe-in when I asked them to psychically zero in on my middle-name: Rosalyn? Ruby? Rachel?

I had been given a name that blessed me with an initial innocent indifference to social norms and freedom from the confines of gender-rigid beliefs or actions.  I believe it served me well.  I had no hesitation in fluidly traversing the supposed boundaries of what 'boys did or girls did.'  I simply gave myself permission to try both, be both or blend them, at will. I simply took it for granted that everyone knew they were both endowed with male and female qualities, to be explored and freely played with. Dress codes went out the window. Wardrobe options were endless. Named into androgyny gave me an immense amount of freedom of expression.  I also believe that my early-on experiences of being allowed to defy conventional norms, played heavily into my vast exploration (no holes barred) of any, and all, self-defined, creative outlets.

At nineteen, when I took on the 'role' of being a wife and young mother, I saw it as the most divine creative art project ever assigned.  I could scarcely believe that I now had the good fortune of creating 365 different recipes a year... I recently unearthed a box containing numerous ring-bound folders -thoroughly stained- that contained hundreds of recipes that I had carefully pasted into them, to assure my ongoing exploration and intention to almost never having to make the same meal twice!  With my viewing life as an ongoing art project, there were no rules to obey when deciphering how much creativity I wanted to bring into exploring 'the art of mothering' and rearing of tiny creative bundles of joy.  I saw the whole experience of mothering as one huge white canvas.  The mediums one could apply were endless...The world was my 'oyster on a half shell' and my life just one large coloring book waiting to be colored in... outside of the lines.

Gracie Garp


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Donation...

"You are your parents' donation to human evolution."                                            
                                                      --Robert Ornstein                                                                                                        

Lawrence and I would agree: when we pass on, we will have made a considerable (divine) donation to human evolution: Justin and Taylor

Our children's legacies will live on beyond our own and, for that, we are immensely grateful.  Justin and Taylor surely have their foibles, imperfections, glories, and gaffs--they are full of human nature.  They are not mannequin-templates of us as their parents and we would not have wanted it otherwise. 

Undoubtedly, they both have some of our mannerisms but they are truly unique, authentic unto themselves, and very available to be of service to their fellow (and fellowess) travelers.  I marvel at their ability to embody and embrace and trade-off their gender roles.  They live in congruence with their emotions:  they laugh when they are happy and they cry when they are sad.  

They freely scatter the moonbeam and stardust qualities of their personalities.  I don't believe either of them have ever felt compelled to present a persona of who they are not...they are comfortable in their own skin.  They have mastered the wisdom of not repenting for the sins they did not commit.  With reckless abandon they trust their free-spirited natures.  They carry their weight in not being afraid to be  busy-bee hard workers or risk-taking entrepreneurs.  They wound themselves and others; they are not afraid to say: I am sorry.  They help elders cross busy intersections.  They are loyal friends and confidantes. They risk being the fool in the face of staying with their own values and personal integrity.  They make devastating mistakes and learn from them...they make more mistakes and learn from them again.  They hug men and women alike.  They have both lost their beloved pets and have each built the sweetest shrines; boxes filled with the sacred ashes of both Marco and Friday--

They know the pain of coming from a broken home.  They know the travails of joint custody (when they were younger); they schlepped their things back and forth between their parent's separate houses for years on end. They hated it.  They love throwing dinner-parties and a mean left-hand punch if anyone threatens those they love.  They can be counted on to watch each other's backs.  They are the best of friends to each other. They know how to fight and make up. They vehemently disagree with each other and also know how to agree to disagree. They share. They say 'no thank-you' when asked to do something that would have them cross their own boundaries.  They don't apologize for what they believe in.  They both voted for Obama.  Neither claims a religious affiliation; both have extraordinary spiritual paths.   They play hard and don't take skips in line.  They would give  up their place in line to benefit someone less fortunate than themselves.

They know their parents are not perfect.  They know, first hand, the necessary losses of believing otherwise.  If need be, I have no doubts that they would 'take turns' changing our diapers, wipe the dribble running down our chins, take us on outings, help us remember all that we may have forgotten, tie themselves to a mast in a dangerous sea-crossing before allowing either of us to languish in nursing homes, span any bridge to help us get to the other side and respect and protect our last wishes....Neither of them have had children of their own--yet.  When they do, the donation they will make will be obviously considerable---they have already made a large downpayment on further benefiting the next generation by loving so unashamedly, so unconditionally, the humbled donors who gave them life.  The donation their parents made, without ever being able to imagine that the donation their own children would give back to them could never be repaid.

Gracie Garp



Monday, March 1, 2010

The Sacred and the Profane....

In September of 1984, I find myself in the (first of it's kind) class and 12 Step meeting for Adult Children of Alcoholics. My sister had called me, a month previous, to tell me that there was now a name and concept for our heretofore unnamed cognitive, emotional, spiritual (and whatever else you can think of) delayed or stunted developmental growth.  We were both now adults but who could have imagined that growing up with an alcoholic would 'inform' our perceptions of ourselves and our world?

It certainly helped explain a lot of things: just how I found myself, at 7 years old, a 'little adult'---no kidding, I could cook, at 9 years of age, cornish hens (stuffed), with Italian beans, and butternut squash after school, in time for dinner and before the homework that never got overseen.  I could be counted on to drive a car at 15, if the alcoholic needed a ride to or from the Midwestern tavern, or write my own absentee notes to miss school after a night of all manner of mayhem.  I was later to learn that mayhem had a different definition when you were the child of an alcoholic.

It wasn't long before I learned some of the Precepts of 12 Step Meetings and the lingo: Higher Power, One day at a time, Codependency, Restoring sanity and Powerlessness.  I was to learn that this was primarily a Spiritual program...and that without a Higher Power, I had a slim chance in hell to "Recover" and discover the Sacred availed to me by 'following the Steps.'

I attend a Meeting where the topic is Higher Powers.  The dozen or so attendees are to go around the room and share (which is always 'optional) anything they want about their notion of their Higher Power. One woman shares that 'trees' are her Higher Power. Another calls her Higher Power: Jackie.  She explains that "when in doubt" she acts like Jackie Onassis to give her a sense of dignity and strength.  It is my turn to share... "Hi, my name is Tanina and my Higher Power's name is: Fuckface."  There can be no 'cross-talk' at these meetings so instead of words exchanged, I hear gasps!  No matter.  I am pssssed off at the "god of my understanding."  This is also a 'Program' of what they call: rigorous honesty. If my honesty bends them out of shape, that's their problem.  I have my own business to take up with this notion of  surrendering to a 'power greater than myself', that I've surmised long ago was either ignorant, careless or not the adult child of an alcoholic.  Trees and Jackie are not going to quite cut it for me.  I need to rage and bark at the moon, if I'm going to honestly express my dismay over what I've been raised to believe is a loving god.

Flashback: I am a nine-year-old secretly sneaking off to a Catholic church, each day after school, to beseech the mysterious trinity to intervene on what looks to be an imminent divorce for my parents.  This clandestine date with the father-son and holy ghost, goes on for weeks.  Of course, I am promising the moon and the stars of 'good behavior' if I might be spared the terror, travesty and embarrassment  of being the first of my peers to come from a broken home...and it is surely broken.  The day the divorce decree is final, I 'march' into the church.  I don't kneel this time but take a defiant stance and lambast the 'betrayer.' Hmm...promises of extremely good behavior is not enough for this heartless and maybe
pick-and-choose kind of god.  Jesus, Joseph and Mary are now on my shit-list.  "Okay, Big Guy, let's see what you do with a reformed believer, a Joan of Arc style avenger."

Actually, this self-induced excommunication, was going to be the precursor to finding my own way spiritually.  I had my own suspicions very early on in my childhood experiences of 'religion.'  The beach, nature, drawing and coloring seemed to bring me closer to the "creator" than any communion wafer swallowed or catechism class that I had been forced to attend, lest I burn in  hell with all the other sincerely loving individuals who, unsuspectingly, were going to find themselves really surprised when entering Dante's inferno.  It just didn't make sense: the non-catholic milkman seemed kind enough to help hoist me through the milk-shute that cold January day when I had been once again locked out of the house;  my social studies teacher, jewish by birth, who took me privately aside to assure me that he would not fail me if I was having trouble at home...I had the capital-T kind of trouble at home.  Oh, well, I could just hold the teacher's and milkman's hand when we were thrown down into the abyss of 'eternal punishment.'  I figured they were a better bet than the neighbor (a professed church-goer) who constantly invited me to sit on his lap when the rest of his family was out of the room.

I never did complete The Steps but did soften up on 'the old guy' and decided that the 'goddess of my understanding', my Higher Power, was named: Grace and Mercy. Today, being more of the 'buddhistic persuasion', I now embrace what is called My Basic Goodness and the Sacredness of the World.  I have dropped the good versus bad, the heaven-bound or hell-bound, the perfect versus imperfect.  I don't look to a belief system for confirmation or condemnation. The one thing I do aspire to is: To not be so heavenly minded that I am no earthly good.

Gracie Garp

Thursday, February 25, 2010

La Familia--Part One--Side One

Part One-Side One:  (My mother's side) of my La  Familia is almost pure Sicilian (Palermo).  Yes, the Mafia capital of Italy--more on that another time.   My grandfather--Nanu...Jimmy Balzano, a feather-weight boxing champion in his day, reigned over his four daughters and their families.  We numbered: 24.  He reigned 'supreme' (the undisputed Godfather) at ALL Italian Feasts of La Familia. It goes without saying, that our Italian Feasts (which went on for hours) rivaled "Big Night" and I think whoever wrote "Like Water For Chocolate" must have, at some time, come under one of the frequent  'culinary spells' cast on guests at one of our over-the-top-dramatic and deliriously divine dinners.... My grandmother--Ma--Rose Balzano, was also Sicilian but with just enough of a dash of Romanian Gypsy, bequeathed us with a wonderful addition to  our already inherited, exotic and we would all agree (fortuitous), mixed-and hot-blooded veins.  Ma Balzano had the proverbial light black feathered mustache that always puzzled me as a child.  Her simmered and Mason jar-bottled italian plum  tomatoes (for homemade sauce at a  moment's notice) were carefully put on shelves in their downstairs cellar.  At any one time, there were enough jars to feed Mussolini's army or the Mafioso, if they dropped in.  

All Christmas Eve's (at Nanu's) have Ma and her four daughters cooking and preparing in every corner of the kitchen. The live lobsters and crab could be found swimming in the bathtub until they were ceremoniously thrown into a huge pot awaiting their demise. With the lobsters, once submerged, you could hear their high-pitched squealing "to death." Their plaintiff cries engulfed the kitchen.  My Irish friend recently told me that if you throw a lobster into boiling water (head-first), they die instantly....Nanu threw them in more like a 'hit' from the mafia (the full body plunge).  I never did hear the crabs make any death knoll sounds but, then again, I probably missed their immersion.  I always ran from the kitchen once the lobsters started their thrashing. Helplessly, in way over their heads, they roiled among the bay leaves.

Any time of day or night, you could walk into my grandparent's home and be hit with the very pungent smell of freshly grated (only the imported kind), very sharp Pecorino cheese.  I loved the way the scent of that cheese permeated everything in their home. The first time I was old enough to answer their telephone, I picked it up and even the mouth-piece had the strong lingering aroma of this same cheese...still, just to think about it, makes me want to consume a pound of linguine.  I always marveled as a child, when I was invited to a friend's home for dinner, for something they called: spaghetti.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  We only ate 'pasta.'  To my astonishment, the mother (especially if she was the scandinavian-looking type) would throw in about a quarter pound of 'spaghetti' to feed six people!!  Six people?  I didn't know any Italians that didn't eat at least a quarter of a pound of pasta by themselves....To be fair, my friends had their own surprises when coming to our home for dinner.  They had never eaten escargot with lots of garlic butter, octopus or raw oysters and all in copious amounts.  Most of them never returned a second time to try the mussels or soft-shell crabs.

Nana Tanina, Nanu's mother, from whom I inherited my name, (Tanina, not Gracie Garp) lived with my grandparents.  Always dressed in widow's black, she scared the bejesus out of anyone of my friends who had never seen a 'live' version of the 'black widow.'  I adored her and she me.  As her 'namesake', I always got preferential treatment.  When she died, I was 7 years old and my preferential treatment extended to her funeral.  Out of my fourteen cousins, I was the only child permitted at her funeral.  The only child that got to see her Italian aunts wailing; (each one competing with the other) to be the first to hurl themselves into the casket to show their devotion.  My mother, Tanina Rose, Nana's first namesake, seemed much more refined and contained.  I nervously wondered if she and I would be required to take a more regal and dignified stance (befitting a Tanina) before being entombed with my Nana. I wondered how we would both fit, especially with what seemed like a million red roses beside her and those gracefully laid over her crossed hands that held her favorite rosary.

The last notes of Ave Maria are being played.  The weeping and gnashing of teeth has escalated. (Really, if you have never attended an old-Italian style funeral, you haven't lived)...Something feels like it is nearing the end of the service.  My father moves comfortingly close to me.  The next thing I know, he has picked me up and is walking toward the open casket. Unbeknownst to me, it is tradition for me (as a namesake) to kiss my Nana goodbye.  Nothing is being said to me as we approach her casket.  My father, teary-eyed,  tenderly hoists me over her body.  He whispers, "kiss your Nana goodbye."  The only way Italians kiss is on the was considered very disrespectful to do otherwise.  I am now in mid-flight and in my father's strong arms hovering over her ( I feel like a butterfly).  It feels like forever as I am being lowered closer and closer to her mouth.  As I continue the descent, the aroma of roses is overpowering. When I kiss her, her lips are ice cold and I can smell the embalming chemicals.  The feel and smell of her lips is that of the red clay that I used in grade school for modeling my first sculptures.  I never again smell roses without the beatific butterfly memory floating back.
 Nanu, Ma, Nana Tanina and my mother, Tanina Rose,  are all now in some kind of heaven...hopefully a Sicilian heaven where they are perpetually in a state of eating.  Those deeply and natively cultural Italian
experiences have informed much of who I am today.  I can always be counted on to consume more pasta, at one sitting, than individuals twice my size.  I am frequently counted on to cast "Sicilian-Gypsy Spells" on any situation crying out for 'good outcomes.'  I do not throw myself into open caskets.  I do relish my good fortune of being born into this particular aromatic Tribe.

In closing, let me extend an open invitation to anyone wanting or (craving) a seat at my feasting pantry and kitchen are open 24 hours a day.  Laughter, screaming, over-abundant dishes of pasta and cheese always await your arrival.

(Gracie Garp)
Tanina III