Thursday, December 31, 2009

Full Long Night (Blue) Moon

It's a cold, rainy New Year's Eve, and the full moon has taken cover behind the night clouds. We can take that one of two ways:

1) Ominous signpost (eek!), as in: there's something about a blue moon not showing her face on New Year's Eve that doesn't bode well for the coming year, or

2) Crossroads signpost (eek!), as in: the second full moon in the Long Night December has withdrawn to give us a little moment to get our (collective?) acts together, and decide which way our (individual?) futures run.

Four paths converging. Which way to go?

Head north into the night, and ride it out alone in the cold comfort of some dark mixture of fear-ignorance-loathed-to-try?

Head south to the Party with the bright lights, the Hail Fellow Well Mets!, and the company of the inebriated, where tomorrow's hair of the dog competes with the sting of regret?

Head east to the measured consumption of wine and cheese, networking, home by 12:30 - "Love to stay, but the babysitter, you know..."?

Or, head west on a crooked path that meanders into God-knows-where - "but, hey is that a blue moonbeam sneaking out to shine down yonder? No? No, really, I think it is!"?

So many choices, and here we have a brief (some might say manufactured for the holidays) respite in which to pause and reflect, to decide what version of ourselves will ride the year. Is it Reluctant You, Risky You, Responsible You, or Courageous You? Is it Confident You, Clever You, Dark You, or Shining You? When we cross each other on the path of 2010, who will we meet?

Whoever it may be, I hope that we will love and help one another. I hope we see the best in each other's eyes, peeking out like an errant blue moonbeam in the last moment of the year.

The happiest of New Years to you and yours.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Post-Christmas Fog

Dear me.

The snows came and went.
The rains came and went.
The presents have been bought, wrapped, delivered and unwrapped. Some may even have been returned and exchanged for other booty by now.

And, here in Pennsylvania, the fog has rolled in. It's that post-Christmas fog that usually descends on us as a result of too much food and wine, too much song and gifting. Tonight that expected mental fog has actually manifest as real, water-suspended-in-air fog.

Perhaps all that running from store to store, all those online shopping bits and bytes, all that toasting and roasting, all those Joy-filled carols, all those Warmest Wishes for a Happy Eid, Happy Divali, Blessed Solstice, Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa actually raised the temperature here in Pennsylvania, giving the post-holiday fog a physical form.

There's something fitting in that, because fog quiets things, tones it down, slows us down like a soft, cool blanket. Despite what you hear, you can actually think within a blanket of fog seeded with sedatives. Less input to distract and all.

So before the fog lifts to let in the New Year with its celebrations and resolutions and raised expectations, take a moment to relax.

And, Warmest Wishes for a Blessed Fog.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All

Moon over Malvern
Christmas Eve 2009

May your heart be filled with love and light.
May those you love be close at hand, and if not at hand, then in heart.
May this season of light carry through to the next.
May you get the chance to give and receive, to help and be helped, to love and be loved, for it is when both sides of the equation are realized that we are truly blessed.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Rivers Family 1967
(I'm the one in the cat's eyeglasses)


We take it for granted,don't we? Those people we have grown up with. Those people we have joined with. Those people to whom we claim allegiance for all the right (and wrong) reasons.

Unless we don't have it. Or, at least the piece of it we most desire.

Then, we rail at the heavens, demanding justice, demanding love, demanding understanding, demanding some explanation for why the vision of family that somehow nestled in our heads and hearts is not the family we experience in real life.

When we are content with our families, it's all OK, all warm expectation of that existence we happily take for granted. Arguments and angst? Meaningless in the long rolling skein of time. When we are not content, we withdrawal into our own, or join another tribe, or want without fulfillment. We are disconnected. We are tribal animals that either embrace the pack, or become some distorted, pack-less, falsely contented rendition of ourselves. Or who we (think we) were "meant" to be.

Then come the holidays with their ability to illuminate and emphasize. And, they are never more powerful than when they are the winter holidays. Those chilly, golden times that begin with Thanksgiving and conclude with Happy New Year! Those times when we return to the nest, or write, or at least call to say, "As the year winds down, I remember you. I remember us. I remember what it means to be a part of something greater. And I want/need/have to say: 'I love you."

I love you.

Is that not the best of all the things that could be the expected?

I love you.



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Second Snow

2nd Snow of 2009, Malvern, PA
December 19, 2009

Eeesh! Best laid plans and all that.

I planned to take my Dad shopping, but the snow fell and fell and fell, so I watched it fall instead. I would like to say that the snow turned out to be an ill-timed but welcome respite from the rush-gush-rush of the Christmas season, but the truth is that I have not felt all that rushed. Other concerns have crowded in: work, finals, economic concerns, artistic exercises, political snits, blah, blah, blah ... Christmas is creeping up on the radar in that slow, steady way that big events travel. You know: far away, far away, far off, still a-ways, RIGHT THERE (!) in all its panic-inducing glory.

For now, I will just watch the snow fall; let the random, inescapable carol float in; admire the lights and decorations of the committed; and anticipate that moment when Christmas seeps in to fill my heart with golden light.

It always does, and it's always right on time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ow - My Head ...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Can someone call me a doctor? No, really. I have insurance.
(Turn off the music at the bottom of the page. Unless you prefer the distraction.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Moon-y

Well, thank GOD it's a new moon, because I am in dire need of a new cycle.

For some reason, I feel a little divorced from the Happy/Merry season. I see the lights. I see the trees. My breath floats in my face in the night. I am assaulted by the music at every turn. I have eaten too many cookies, and have sipped my share of wine (and eggnog). I have even bought a few Christmas gifts.

So why am I unseasonably unseasonable?

Maybe it's this long-running health care fiasco. People taking up sides on account of politics, not even bothering to make a coherent case anymore. People voting for hysteria with their mouths, and for the status quo, because status quo does not require vision. People standing on the side of those who put profit over lives, while other stand on the side of ... what? Compromise? Bi-partisanship? A bid for ANY bill over NO bill? All the while, sifting the dust in their empty pockets for a bit of self-respect. People demanding without heart, and waxing passionate without muscle. I do not think there is a health care plan that covers those ills.

Ah me.

Then there are the soldiers, sailors and marines deploying before Christmas. Yes, deploying anytime is not a cause to celebrate, even in those fabled "times of necessity," but before an emotional holiday like Christmas, and with so much resistance to the war? Well, it just feels like those sugarplums are still backstage looking for their dancing shoes.

Ah me.

Then there is this Christmas 2009 shopping vibe. Do we guard our wallets until we are SURE we have navigated the economic shoals? Do we shop till we drop in support of the Good Ol' American Economy? Do we take this opportunity to shift from gain to love, from Wii! to joy, from the glitz of Christmas lights to the Silent Light of the winter sky?

I don't know, so I will just say, "Ah me."

Thank GOD for the new moon and a new time to turn toward joy (to the world).

Monday, December 14, 2009


What to do when you are up to your ass in commode content, and you haven't a clue how to dig yourself out?

At some point, the crap rises so high, that your survival hinges on being really clear on:

a) Which way is out.
b) Why we want to get out.
c) What we plan to do when we get there.

At this point, I am convinced that we haven't a clue about any of it.

Ass? Elbow?

This healthcare thing? Surely we couldn't be more incompetent if we sat down with a cabal of stooges and created a three- year plan for launching a crack house.

Perhaps I am being simple-minded. OK - I'll own simple-minded. Sue me. Slay me. Prop me up in an endless line of patients awaiting a life decision from their health insurance companies. Better yet, poke me in the eye with a ballpoint pen covered in hot sauce.


Surely, there is some sense in re-engineering a system of hospitals, clinics, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies that relinquish their lauded pledge to heal in favor of shareholder profits.

Surely, the high road runs toward "insuring" that the "richest country on the planet" is the place where the world's "best medical structure" takes care of everyone.

Surely, those other countries that provide universal healthcare have the right of some part of it.

Surely, the duly elected Representatives and Senators, the men and women of the people, are for the sick and the lame, the indigent and the desperate, the child in pain, the man injured at work, and the woman supporting her family while waiting for the results of her biopsy. And, not nestled in the pockets of the Connecticut- based insurance companies, as Joe Lieberman is.

Surely our President and all his peeps are willing enough and strong enough to shrug off the lobbyists, the political dogma, the commentators, both Houses of Congress, and party pressure to delivered what they promised us.

Surely, there are those among us who recall the good goal. Yeah, the one that promised no one would be denied healthcare. Period. The one that is slipping away under the momentum of people who only have to say, "No." to win the argument. Those that only have to turn away, to make any - any - argument against, and hold their breath until they turn blue, to foil the purportedly good intentions of a dream team.

Am I simple-minded? Pollyanna-fied? Pathetically enamored with the dream?

Because, there are folks out there who make very effective hay out of partisanship. To them, the other party is the enemy, and the defeat of the enemy is the most important thing - always. And, they reject the need to listen to any other source of reason than that which comes from the lips of their own tribesmen.

See, our tribes now elevate incestuous resolve over reason, and we are no longer capable of fighting tribal doctrine. We can only nod and smile. Or nod and shout. Or mutter, shake our heads, and seek sedation in whatever form is available.

Meanwhile, our dreams slip away; we become disappointed, jaded and de-fanged. We rail against the "fat cats"; we snarl at the opposition; we blame everyone but ourselves; and we sink into the inebriated dream.

We are so easily disenfranchised, because we are too hungover to demand the reality we dreamt of, in the long ago.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow and Waning Moon

First Snow in Malvern

Yesterday, the first snow of the season hit the Philadelphia area. This morning, it lies heavy on the evergreens and coats the branches of the maples as if something thought to create art. Something new. Meanwhile, the moon has passed through its magical, mad phase of fullness, and is on the wane. One thing begins, another ends, and both do so with regularity. Of course, these are only two of the wheels constantly turning in the universe. The seasons, the phases of the moon, the days and nights, the years, the galaxies, the lives – all turning, all travelling cycle after cycle.

People are like that. Going through phases, choices, passages of life, over and over and on to the next. There’s this theory or philosophy or religious dogma (pick your descriptor) that defines life as a never-ending series of wheels. We jump to, hang on, and cycle through. If, at the end of the turn, we have learned the featured lesson, we jump to the next wheel. If, however, we fail, we must remain for the next turn. It’s a string of over and over agains until we master the lesson. We must learn to progress to the next lesson, the next program, the next life. And it does us no good to abandon the wheel; it will simply keep turning¸ and, one day we will jump unawares and find ourselves on that old wheel again. Only the lesson will have become bigger, longer, uglier, hairier. And, perhaps without the nice parts – like good relationships or pleasant scents or distracting music – once available to make the process more palatable.

So, the world turns, the galaxies rotate, and our lives come full circle with an alarming frequency. Observing this doesn’t seem to matter. We repeat the same bad choices. We ignore the signs that would help us to master the lessons and warn us against the same old pitfalls. We forget all that occurred in the last cycle as if we had more important things to remember. And, we complain that the wheel does not turn fast enough, as if we weren’t the ones always trying to shift into reverse or drag our heels when the ground passed by.

When we do succeed and move on, we are not quite sure how we did it. Or how to replicate the results. Or how to help our loved ones negotiate the same turns. All we know for sure is that the seasons, the world, and we keep turning as regularly as the rising sun. And, perhaps we should view such turnings as not a second chance to fail, but a reasonably long chain of opportunities to become our better selves.

Monday, November 30, 2009

President Obama Should Listen to Some Better Voices

You might dismiss Keith Olbermann as a liberal, partisan operative. You might squirm as you watch him wallow in his own brand of snarky grenade throwing. But there's no denying it -- the man have a way with a Special Comment. Here he counsels President Obama to throw off the self-serving advice of his military advisors, reject the loaded demands of his opposition, and resist the (continued) escalation of war.

The President needs to listen to our better voices.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let us love one another ...

Mom & Jackie at our crazy, patchwork Thanksgiving table.

For decades, holiday dinners equaled high drama for my family. Suppressed feelings, hurt feelings, submerged anger, expectations gone awry – all these simmering feelings seemed to boil over at table during the holidays. You’ve seen its like on TV: the shouting matches, the tears, the storming exits, and those who sat through the storm, nibbling on pie, unfazed. Why, we even had a surprise proposal made and declined at table, which pretty much rocked Mothers’ Day dinner.

Thanksgiving held a particular pumpkin flavored drama. Angst over turkey and all the trimmings. Amazing that we kept coming back year after year.

Then, somehow, all the drama seemed to dissolve.

I cannot even pinpoint the year. Maybe (some of) the crazy people stopped coming. Maybe (some of) us realized that we could manage our relationships with dialogue rather than avoidance. Maybe we all realized that we love each other, and when we remembered to notice the love, then that was truly enough.

Somehow, the holiday at the Rivers’ table became cordial, then pleasant, then downright happy.

We have grown and grown up.

We have added family members through


and osmosis,

And, with good food (Jackie really is the best Thanksgiving cook EVER),

good people,

and good conversation,

there really is an incredible lot to be thankful for.

So in this world where political, economic, environmental, cultural, religious, gender, racial, ethnic and personal tides threaten our sense of self and right and wrong; where dark forces seek to frighten us into embracing dubious agendas; and where it is so easy to turn off rather than stand up, I think it important to remember who we are and who we love. And, if you think you have no one to love, I will go out on a limb and say you’re wrong. Unless you choose it so. Hell, come to our house. We’ll LOVE talking the ears off of new people!

Let us rail against the darkness. While we're at it, let us appreciate the blessings we know, and work to recognize those we have yet to acknowledge. Let us reach out. Let us love one another. Let us give thanks that by reaching and loving we enlighten the darkness.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Skin Between

Hunter's Moon over Malvern
(October 4, 2009)

Ahhh ... too cloudy for a Hallowe'en Moon ...

The Skin Between

They say the skin between the physical and spirit worlds grows thin during the month of October, and thinner still during the night of Hallowe’en. Now is the best and greatest opportunity for all manner of wraiths, ghosts, disembodied and dead personalities to pass through the curtain from the hidden realm of the spirit to the prosaic land of the living. Before I heard this, I wondered why I have always felt freer, lighter, and happier in October. I sensed an air of expectancy, as if something special waiting just around the bend (Now, I still wonder, but what’s life without a bit of mystery?).

And, Hallowe’en? Before the last decade brought sudden and inexplicable fears of hobgoblins and witches; before Hallowe’en Parades were deemed dodgy, and forced into a box labeled Wholesome Harvest Festival; before hospitals started offering to X-Ray Hallowe’en candy (does your health insurance cover that?), Hallowe’en was labeled F-U-N, and, nothing more.

Now, the spooky festival is either a dangerous party or a reason to party dangerously. We go full out ghoulish or try to rescue another holiday for Christendom. Witches compete with angels; goddesses war with [pregnant] nuns; candy cigarettes have been replaced with bags of generic sweets that bear the guarantee: “A scripture in every snack!

Meanwhile, no one but the neo-Pagans wants to talk about the thin skin between the worlds. Come to think of it, no one wants to talk about the thin skin between the people either. And, probably for the same reason: thin skins are truly scary. Where the skin is thin, you never know what you’re going to get. Good spirit, bad spirit, neutral indifferent spirit. Flu, STD, Hepatitis C. Lover, hater, interloper. Those who open up, those who open you up, those who walk or run away. Those who shred the tissue between, unrepentantly, stare you in your third eye, and dare you to blink.

Tcha. Such a crapshoot when the armor of the world or the armor of the person is breached. So terrifying when the defenses are down and you don’t know what’s coming over the wall.

Trick or treat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Pink Roses of August

I resist pink. Like sidling-away resist.

So frou-frou. So emotional. So indicative of some high-handed, high-maintenance, messy state of mind. All poodles and PMS and salon pedicures. All Barbies and beaches. Not to mention bitches. Oh, pink looks sweet, smells sweet, and tastes better. Think cotton candy, watermelon balls, soothing Pepto-Bismol even. What’s to fear from such a delicately shaded sensibility?

Do not be deceived. Pink is a bully in damsel clothing. A special brand of tyranny lurking behind a perfect smile. It is the princess as likely to punch you in the mouth as to argue with you. And, you never know what hit you until it’s much too late. Sometimes you never figure it out at all. ‘Beware the pink,’ I mutter, and walk the other way.


So I’m in the supermarket last night. See, they position the flower shop just inside the entrance where you’re still open to frivolity, not yet disgusted by the five dollar boxes of cereal and the four dollar loaves of bread. Ooohhh. Roses. Not even close to being my favorite flower, but they’re right there, and wouldn’t the white ones look nice on my counter? Or the passionate red ones – Mmm. About that time, I should be pushing these thoughts aside and heading for the bread aisle, but then these silly pink roses start seducing me with their obvious glow. And, I am sucked in so easily.

Maybe it’s too much work and too little play of late. Maybe it’s chanting crowds channeling too much fear of death panels and too little condemnation of Big Med greed. Maybe it’s long rains in a short summer. Maybe it’s the tireless romantic in me …

Tonight, the cicadas are singing, and big pink roses grace my kitchen counter. The blooms have unfurled in the heat of the day, at once delicate, exotic and vaguely dangerous. Despite their gaudiness, their scent is surprisingly subtle, and suddenly, I am not so tired or weary or whatever I have been this summer. Somehow, a bit of frou-frou has re-established balance somewhere, and I am restored. And content.

OK. Just a little pink.

Friday, June 26, 2009


So suddenly. So soon. SO sad.

Because whatever your opinions and thoughts of his foibles, his strangeness, his proclivities, his parental drama, his body issues, his face issues, his hair issues, his wives, his children, his siblings, his money, his decisions, his estate, his animals, his childishness, his politics, his hopes, his dreams, his re-inventions, his setbacks, his life ...

... there was always the music, the movement, the smile, the vision, the electric joy, and an unparalleled talent.

I hope you are moon-walking on the Moon.

Rest in Peace, Michael. Good peace.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Playing Tag with the Sun

It’s the first day of summer, and I am still waiting for the sun to take up its rightful residence.

Sure, she arrived with the Spring. She blazed to warm the earth. She politely yielded to the rains in respect all the things that needed growing, but then she seemed to forget to return. And, now she seems loathed to do so.

Rain, rain! Go away! Come again some other day!

Didn’t work.

April showers bring May flowers.

Yes, but what do May showers bring? And, June thunderstorms that shake the very earth?

Baby, can you stop the rain?

Apparently not.

Say - Can I PAY someone for a … sun-fluffy-cloud-blue-skies dance? Really.

Meanwhile …

It’s the Summer Solstice. That longest day with shortest night. That celebration of the triumph of all that is green and warm and full-out blooming mixed with the recognition that the power of the summer god must now begin to yield to the silver god of winter. Why are all the god chronicles so very, very neurotic?

Meanwhile …

The paranormal, metaphysical ones consider THIS solstice a special solstice (link here), complete with planetary vibrations heralding a new age, complete with connections to both the Mayan calendar and the Harmonic Convergence. There is the expectation of a rising wave of energy that can remove the things that have been clogging up your mind and soul. Have something you would really like to happen? Focus. Make plans now. If not now, when? But, isn’t that always so? Umm … what are you waiting for?

Meanwhile …

I am sick of hoping for the sun. I am sick of rushing out to bask in an hour of sunbeams. I usually love rain, but enough. So this afternoon I vowed to chase it. Yes, you have a solar system, a sky and a horizon. I only have a car and a will.

Silly me.

Tag! You’re it!

Blessed Solstice.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dogs in Paradise

Once upon a time we adopted a beautiful dog, and named him Raistlin (after a thief in a fantasy novel, for crying out loud). His mother was a wire-haired terrier who conveniently went into heat while on a camping trip out west with her family. Biological imperative drove this well-behaved dog to escape into the wild woods, eluding her searchers until she found satisfaction with some wild dog. Raistlin looked like a white German Shepherd with wiry hair. He had gentle brown eyes, and flowed like wind through the grass when he ran. And, having inherited his mother's gift for escape, he ran frequently. Our neighborhood was his hunting ground, and he was king (let us not discuss the unfortunate incident with the Senator’s prize miniature rooster).

But, there came a time when Raistlin could no longer move without pain, and when my Mother saw that we could no longer ease his suffering, we had him put to sleep. Hot bitter tears, that night.

The next evening, my Mother dreamed of Raistlin running through a bright green field under a brilliant sky and shining sun. He ran as if he could fly. He ran with delight. He ran up to her to say: “All is well. I am well. Farewell.” And, then he was gone.

Yesterday, a good friend of my Mother’s wrote to say that she had to put down her beloved dog, Panda. Driving from the vet, she had a vision of Panda
“… running in an open field (like the one in our neighborhood where she liked to go). She was healthy, it was green, sunny and she was running toward me, almost smiling like she could do. Ears flapping, tail twirling … I told her to go to Jesus in Heaven. She looked peacefully at me, and then she was gone.”

Two stories, two visions, so similar that somewhere there must be endlessly green, sunlit fields beneath brilliant skies were all dogs run like the wind in paradise.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Walk/Drive-Bys

Geese vs. Cars in PA?
Geese always win.

May was a good month. Even the rain seemed filled with purpose.

But this June, the rain is driving and relentless. I've felt cloistered, cut off, submerged. Each time I thought the sun had returned for good, thunder rolled overhead, the lightening flashed and crashed, the skies opened, and the rained poured. Again.

But not today.

Today the clouds yielded, and the sun called. Time to be out.

All is overgrown green in Pennsylvania.

Or working hard to be.

We are as attached to our ruins as the brush and vines.

Not everything made it through the winter,

but for every naked tree, there are a thousand Goddesses of the green.

Random rabbit on the path,

competes with random corporate art,

competes with temporarily impotent clouds.

History is thick in Valley Forge,

with covered bridges

preserved log cabins

Monuments to George Washington

and his Revolutionary soldiers

And, just when I think the clouds are making a come-back,

the sun shines through with a last burst of light.

Happy Flag Day.