Friday, September 8, 2017

Between the Notes


Our love stands as tall as the far away mountains,
Haloed in clouds, toes dug in the earth.
Our love still sparkles like dewdrops and fountains,
Blessings of laughter, a wellspring of mirth.

Arms flung so wide they could wrap round the planet,
Gather me in with a breath and a sigh.
I can’t help but wonder how I could stand it,
If you travelled on and left me behind.

Don’t waste your tears on what hasn’t happened,
There’s sorrow enough to go all around.
No use in borrowing troubles imagined,
Or weeping for heartache you haven’t yet found.

So shake off the shivers and let’s go out dancing,
Music will chase away dark thoughts and gloom.
Between the notes, the balm of silence,
And we’ll turn away fear as we spin round the room.

---------------------------------------------------------------
Sarah Gowan  September 2017

I wrote a tune called "Tilting Summer In" that fits this poem pretty well.



Saturday, September 2, 2017

She's Really Let Her Self Go

“She’s really let herself go”, they laughed-whispered, 
Delight fighting revulsion,
Fingers crossed against misfortune.

“Why yes I have,” I think,
Admiring my rounded belly
Cross-hatched with scars
My double chins wobbling beneath a crooked grin.

I let myself go the moment I became a mother,
Making room in this body for squirming new life full of need and hunger.
Breasts swelling with milk,
Arms thick with a fierce love that could work all day
and hug, and reluctantly open wide to let those babies go
To a life no longer my own.

I let myself go
To swallow your secrets,
Tucking them next to my heart
To keep them safe,
To keep you safe,
Making room for the pain
And joy
Of loving you

Giggling at the wobbly bits
I let my Self go
To become bigger, wilder, fiercer,
And more loving
Than I ever imagined this fragile bit of flesh, this wisp of spirit, could be.

--Sarah Gowan 9/2/17




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Help Me! Help Me!

What you can't see in this photo is that I'm
wearing my favorite black, knee-high riding
boots. I loved those things so much and
wore them for so long I'm pretty sure
my mom had to cut them off me.

Before we were able to video every blessed moment of our children's precious existence with our Dick Tracy watches and Star Trek tricorders, our family made audio recordings on reel-to-reel audio tapes. Some were made just for fun, many were sent to our grandparents who lived in North Carolina and Louisiana. Thanks to my brother Lon, who rescued a bunch of these tapes and had them digitized, I can now expand my social media oversharing by several decades.


Here is an audio clip from 1969 of me singing "In a Cabin In the Woods".  If you know the song, you'll remember it's done with hand gestures gradually replacing the lyrics so by the end of the song you mime the whole verse. This being audio-only I decided to hum the hand-gestures instead and in this ridiculously cute rendition the humming takes on a life of its own; so much so that I clearly felt the need to acknowledge it at the end of the song.

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along... I leave the hand gestures up to you.

In a cabin in the wood, (trace a cabin outline with your index fingers)
Little man by the window stood; (hand to your forehead shading your eyes and look around)
Saw a rabbit going before, (hold two fingers of one hand like rabbit ears, hopping)
Knocking at his door. (knock with fist)

 "Help me! Help me! Help! he said, (raise your hands up like you're surprised on each "help")
"Or the hunter will shoot me dead!" (gun pointing like Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits)
"Little rabbit, come inside, (beckon in)
Safely you'll abide." (Rock the baby in your arms)

I still love dresses with pockets.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Munlochy Clootie Well

One of the most powerful sites we visited in Scotland was the Clootie Well at Munlochy. A Clootie Well is a place, usually at a spring surrounded by trees, where people seeking healing from an illness or woe make an offering of a piece of cloth (cloot). Sometimes the cloth is dipped in the waters, or used to wash the ailing person. Sometimes coins or other offerings are left. These sites are pre-Christian, but often came to be associated with Christian saints. The Clootie Well at Munlochy is associated with St Boniface and dates to before the time he worked as a missionary in Scotland around 620 AD.

My photographs can't convey the overwhelming power of the grove. When you first walk up the path the site seems quirky and odd, or even whimsical. A pair of trainers over a tree limb reminded me of my Philly home with end-of-school-year sneakers tossed over telephone wires. But as we wandered deeper into the wood, the air became still, the birds quieted and a full view of the offerings came into view.

It took my breath away - I don't think I've ever seen anything so human in all my life. Thousands of wishes and prayers for healing tied to every tree and vine. Suddenly I could see the sneakers were no longer thrown on a dare - maybe they represented a teen with leukemia and the bras weren't a drunken afterthought - they were for a mom with breast cancer. Some people left healing prayers for the world, just wanting everything to be better for everyone. I've seen the site described as "creepy" or "weird", but I wasn't spooked; I felt surrounded by longing and a desire for connection and peace. We live in a crazed world filled with suffering and frustration and yet here in this ancient grove people still come as they have for more than a thousand years to say, "I am one of you. I share your pain. Let's ask for help together."   I don't think I'll ever look at a shopping mall wishing fountain the same way.



























You can read more about the Clootie Well here:  http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/munlochy/clootiewell/index.html

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Memory - Safety Tom

TBT:
When I was in elementary school (6th grade maybe?) I wore one of these Safety Badges, along with the white webbing sash/belt - for about 2 days. The other kids hated the Safetys because we were their friends and "Not the boss of me!" It felt ridiculous to stop traffic because we didn't have any really young kids on the route that needed help and we all were going home to play in the middle of the street anyway. (Car! Car!! CAR!!!) I handed in my belt with a "Thanks, but no thanks".

There was a kid named Tom who took over. We teased him terribly for his high-water trousers, thick glasses, and button-tight shirts straight out of the 1950's. He stoically endured our taunts, staring straight ahead and tucking in his chin with the most determination I have ever seen before or since. But man oh man, Tom had the Safety Arm Spread down to a science and I swear the cars would stop just because he willed them to. He was Safety legend.

Tom also played the piano like a dream - we were in the school orchestra together (I played cello) - and with the same fierce determination he used to deflect 2 tons of metal from plowing through our tiny grade school bodies. While the rest of us sawed and bleated our way through barely recognizable Bach, he held us together with his piano, chin tucked in, glasses sliding down his nose, top button straining, but never flying loose. He had our backs, and with his musical safety net, we navigated the score without suffering any orchestral tragedies.

After I moved away, I wrote him a letter apologizing for being so rotten to him and hoping he never stopped playing. I don't know if he ever got it, or if it made any difference. I hope so. Through a little internet sleuthing I know he went on to get married and become a well-liked minister and that he still plays piano and organ, so I take comfort in knowing his life went on after grade school.

Thanks for looking out for us, Tom. We need more Safetys like you.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sn*w


Me: Is that...?
BQ: Our snowblower dangling from the clothesline like a butchered hog? Yes. Yes it is.
Me: Intentionally?
BQ: Not this time.

The BHE accidentally got tangled in one of the lead lines we use to take the cats out in the backyard and the blower got sucked right up! I thought my hair in the vacuum brush was bad - this was epic!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Thanks, You've Helped Enough

When you have cancer, there are two really obnoxious ways people try to help. The first by telling you you your cancer was caused by something stupid like childhood trauma, or a vitamin deficiency, or lizard spit. Even if your friend is a hot dog eating, cigarette smoking, alcoholic, telling them what you think caused their cancer DOESN'T HELP, so just keep it to yourself.

The other super annoying thing people do is offer the latest in alternative "cures" and treatments. (My personal favorite was the "Baking Soda Cure".) When I told my brother Lon about this, he started sending me these hilarious texts. He may not have cured my cancer, but he kept me laughing...



This was especially funny because I've been gluten free for about 20 years.

















Then when he got injured doing stunt work I got to return the favor....



I love my family.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Art Is Our Salvation

2016 is finally over and, like most folks, I’ve been reflecting on what a bizarre year it’s been. Setting aside the inevitable naughty and nice lists, the place my meditations consistently come back to is the concept of Chaos, that relentless howling wind tearing at our peace of mind. If fear is the opposite of love, then chaos is most certainly the opposite of peace.

2016 has shown us the face of chaos in all of its gibbering glory. From an election full of such hateful rhetoric it’s scaring the pants off of even my most non-political friends, to unimaginable world-wide wars, bombings and acts of desperate terrorism brought to us in living color via the internet. Sound-bites and headlines that make no sense, yet are accepted as truths. The deaths of family, some in their right time, some unexpected, and the deaths of musicians, writers and actors have left us reeling.

Thinking about the year I had an insight as to why we cherish our artists and why we take their passing so hard. I was also struck by how many artists were unwilling to perform for the upcoming inauguration and my epiphany crystalized.

Art is how we as a species tame the chaotic thoughts and emotions of our imperfect humanity. Art is how we conquer fear and birth inspiration and hope. Art, and its cousins science, mathematics, philosophy, and logic, give us a matrix where we can sort our pinball thoughts and feelings and give rest to our screeching animal hindbrains. Art shows us the ways we can feel empathy and gives us permission to laugh at ourselves. Art tells us we aren’t alone.

Our artists have spent years perfecting their craft and learning how to connect with us by understanding us. Artists open their hearts to all that is good and all that is messed up in living life as a human being. They take that stew of humanity and distill it into something we can understand and give it back in a story or poem or painting. Every time we create, we set chaos back, and for that reason alone I believe art will be our salvation. We should sing at the top of our lungs, dance to exhaustion and play music until our fingers bleed. We should paint and draw and weave and sew and sculpt and knit and write write write all the beautiful poems and stories as if our lives depended on it, because they do. In that place of creation we transform Chaos to its beautiful form of Peace and in peace we find our true selves.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Woman’s Choice

You accuse me of “voting with my vagina” and to that I say, Damn straight!
This vote was decided the year I wanted to take shop class, But my vagina was told to learn to cook, Learn to sew, Learn to take care of a home.
This is a vote shaped with the job rejections (and 70% salary) Determined by the very existence of my vagina.
A vote earned with every dollar spent on birth control and health care For my uninsured vagina.
Today I cast a vote with catcalls fresh in my ears, Every abuse, humiliation and torment still aching and raw. And yet I’m still being asked why I didn’t just hold my legs together. My vagina survived… and remembers.
This vote is made with the strength and courage it takes to push another human being into this world and feed her with my body while my vagina still bleeds. Here is a vote for every single time I was told I threw, fought, cried like a vagina As if that was something weak and unworthy.
This vagina has survived pain, felt shame, And shared pleasure. It has carried a lifetime of secrets and memory, And knows exactly what it wants. Sarah Gowan - November 2016