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Saturday, October 19th, 2013
9:36 pm - my 32nd birthday was yesterday: the annual self-portraits

current mood: still alive

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Friday, October 19th, 2012
11:30 pm - my 31st birthday was yesterday: the annual self-portraits

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current mood: here, alive

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Thursday, January 12th, 2012
4:10 pm - liturgy of the hours
the right hand migrates instinctively in slow, bestirring movements: fingers cold, close-clipped, and inked with the healing stain of turmeric (an ayurvedic poultice), marked thus with ministration, catch tears that trace the contours from cheek to eyes still-closed. the ache of dreams carried over like memories of a past life. awakening at dusk after twenty-two hours of sickly sleep, rifted even from diurnal cycles, a world only of night and transitory sun. (how, then, to sanctify the day by canonical hour?)

the tightened strings of electricity (curling fingers, contracting arm) occur even in slumber, embraced too into the particular vividness of dreams born of fever and isolation. there are visions still of kindness, the outstretched palm, the resting touch. the radiating aura of pain becomes an enveloping, extracorporeal body, starved of human contact (its exhilarating nearness, its astonishing presence) -- responding with a whole and exquisite trust, whispering "come close." love as opening and assent. may it be done to me according to your word.

sleep and its illusory comfort. electric strings contract puppeted limbs. in this way, we renounce attachment to the body -- offering ownership, control, and fear as fuel too for the fire of love to consume, a meditation on fullest surrender. a deep somatic lightning pierces even the dream. the man who nurtures, the gentle companion, is not real: an imaginary clemency granted me by my own mind. seeing my distress, he responds not with dread or revulsion but with loving entreaty. an opening of heart from which come compassion, tenderness, the eagerness to ask and to offer, the unloosed and immediate desire to Give; eyes whose gaze is too shockingly kind to meet. i am bound by an experience of body so small and constrained, in which even unconscious processes are made conscious as they are taken away -- i cannot speak. "what does it mean when you cannot speak?" he asks, with a look of imploring goodness. i point toward a printed emergency protocol, one copy framed on the wall and the other in my wallet. each movement a dialogue with muscles and limbs, a quiet plead, a persuasion. one hand closes into a silent, frozen gesture, as in iconography, communicating much by the placement of fingers, the angle of wrist and palm. what does it mean when you cannot speak? invitatory: open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.

i wake mute with a paralyzed left arm, awaiting the gradual return of speech and movement, acclimating again (after the sting of temporary, imagined relief) to a daily life of hostility and seclusion. outside, night begins to blossom, the dark hoarfrost-flower. the practice of waiting asks for complete, attentive presence, an utter clarity of being, even -- especially -- when the waiting will pass. i lie alone in a room lit only by the wintered blue of dusk: the cold, elliptic light and shallow sun of gloaming, of northern latitudes. there is the painful enormity of loneliness, surpassed only by the painful enormity of all-encompassing love.

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Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
4:30 pm - my 30th birthday is today: the annual self-portraits

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Monday, October 18th, 2010
1:26 am - my 29th birthday is today: the annual self-portraits

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Monday, August 2nd, 2010
6:07 am - deus caritas est
we who live on the cusps of chronology, who exist in infinite ecstasies and the tender temporality of pain, have such precarious knowledge of weeks and their orders. days ebb between solstice and equinox, as observed through the small panorama of windows -- the trees and sprawling verdure evidence of a slow, sun-kindled fire.

thus passes the growing season. the near-transparency of fleetingly new leaves and the now-unfurling stem reminds one of the most vulnerable places of the body: the wrists, the neck bared by lifted chin, the innermost and uppermost thighs, all places with the strongest immediacy of blood and pulse.

i hold a fever under my tongue that the noon rises to meet, a torpid heat that burdens breath and draws out water -- the beaded brow, the humid air. a calescence builds within us that scorches even fecundity into barrenness. now the flora wilts, and now the womb is fallow.


the abundance of summer spills always into death and disarray, from one transience to another. months entwined by a surfeit of storm-watered green are inevitably sacrificed to the illusion of cyclic time, the invisible, discarded harvest. humanity sees its own small self reflected in the shift from a barrenness of cold to a barrenness of heat, swayed too by the cadence that defines climactic passion in its fall. but the impulse of familiarizing empathy, followed further still, reveals the thrill, the expanse of human insignificance, with the quartered year of the natural world holding yet an immeasurable vastness. generosity for its own sake makes manifest in fruit and tendril the freedom of nonattachment and the resurrecting exuberance of love.

the bliss of renouncing the self in the midst of flourishing impermanence, at once an abandonment and a profound welcoming. the body with its rising blood-heat and the warming progression of day: an opening outward, embracing the summer, its generous repetition of bloom and fade. a profusion of momentary being that bursts desperately, consummately toward Limitlessness -- "we too should be so unencumbered that we do not know that it is god who acts in us."

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Friday, February 26th, 2010
2:32 am - transience
a late winter of heavy snow. we catalogue the birds who remain, or who arrive by the rite of migration: doves, cardinals, wrens, finches, starlings, chickadees, sparrows. what can a woman offer birds? -- only sustenance perhaps, seed through the whitening season. a winter abundance hung with icicles from the eaves or strewn on the snowmelt-swollen ground.

the rarity of my movements is marked by a gathering flock, each shift met with the instinctive, fluttering tumult of alarm. clusters of close-feeding sparrows scatter in flight and give way to an absence, a silence that is also somehow winged. the thrumming stillness of february.


the tremendous nothing that follows disclosures of abuse. the collected nothings of illness, abandonment, poverty, hunger, insolvency, abased supplication, desperation. the calm, solitary toil of coming through. the graspingly disproportionate relief of danger and difficulty lessened but yet not absent. the sameness of weeks in which no omission is caused by fading consciousness and gaps in memory that stretch for days. loss alone reveals what cannot be lost. beyond both event and emotion is an unobstructed, secret joy.


my life extends no farther than a single room (the forgotten place, the place of forgetting). human touch and interaction come almost exclusively from the nurse who arrives each monday to draw blood and search for veins that will accept the nurturing intrusion of a catheter. deft, probing fingers over an arm cinched into pain and palpable vessels. the pace of my breath does not change even through the sting of needles, their searching measured in hours, the bruises that flower from their center. touch loses all but its sharpness.

the sick-bed as cloister or as oubliette. surely any place must be blessed that so holds the complete, captured intensity of human existence. the intimacy and focus of isolation; the humility of a life forgotten even by she who lives it; the enormity of a love that both defines and obliterates the one through whom it is expressed, the way a window made invisible by the brightness of midday becomes "that which allows the sunlight." the fullness of allowing; the coming through.

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Sunday, October 18th, 2009
12:12 am - my 28th birthday is today: yearly self-portraits

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Monday, September 28th, 2009
3:00 am - nativity
a new autumn birthed by the new moon, bathed by the thunderstorms of a final dying heat. the maternal season arrives with a low, bloody ache of the womb, the red field, the dan tien, radiant with fire and seat of meditative action. we receive the equinox as chronometry and eternal return. the intact expanse of ecstatic time, unmeasured and continuous, unobscured by "before" and "after." the swallowed time of illness, the eclipsed hours of pain, the lost hours of fever and convulsion. the exacting time of domestic cruelty, circumscribed by vigilance, captivity, survival. witness and intention are born equally of contemplation and avowal, equal mercies of solitude and companionship, equal jewels of compassion.

the bravery of openness. i have averted my eyes from poets and priests; i have feared prayer. we ascribed this, in eras of myth, to the monster-gods and ghastly deities, through whom unmanifest divine impulse becomes both creation and destruction. to open wide the heart is to welcome a joyful ruin, rupturing the self with dual consciousness of smallness and infinity -- the cup is perpetually overrun, defined at once by the limitations of form and the limitlessness of water. we bear the pain of so narrow a cast and the pain of engulfing generosity, understood only by the constraints of the vessel in which it cannot be contained. these are the annihilations and the courages of love: the drowning cup, the raindrop consumed by a selfsame ocean, the mirror ablaze with reflected sunlight such that it is itself the sun.


empty of self and filled with love. when we say, "the nights are lengthening," we mean, "we too will embrace all." there is no way to speak of formlessness, only nights with the endless depth of the sea. what we thought was loss was simply union. thus we are carried; thus we are held.

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Sunday, July 12th, 2009
2:30 pm - sunrise ruby, pearl moon
the weight of night gathers deep and still as water, and like water, nourishes the ripening season. by these simplicities are we sustained. the slow cycles of heat, the flourishing green, the merged generations of tree, fruit, and seed. orchard birds sing in darkness well before dawn; gratitude inspires the gift, antecedent rather than result. the wholeness of love dissolves individuation, giving and receiving, self and other: "there is nothing left of me. i'm like a ruby held up to the sunrise. is it still a stone, or a world made of redness? it has no resistance to sunlight."

we turn like sunned leaves toward the abundance of midsummer, gradual and generous. weeks move quietly, as in sleep. grace arrives in measure equal to the need.


what are wisdom, love, and compassion without a welcoming of sorrow? we must embrace the range and entirety of life, with reverence for the precious temporary. how blessed am i to live a story of the fullest depth and breadth of human experience, including suffering, including sadness. the lover desires all aspects of the beloved, cataloguing odd habits as treasures of intimacy, kissing scars. partnered thus with existence, devotedly gathering the diverse minutiae of passion, we unclothe mere temporality and reveal, in a gesture of ardent love, the nakedness of Joy.


the waning moon at midnight, a transitory vessel for perpetual light.
we are as luminous, as fleeting.

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Friday, March 6th, 2009
1:11 am - lent
unrelenting illness as an exercise in selflessness, a practice in love. the constancy of service; the small temporality of both body and ego. we enact joyful rituals of self-ministry, with infinite gestures of frailty, infinite gestures of healing. the blue flowers of bruises fade under poultices back to pallor. the angry, ruptured slits of wounds close quietly into scars. thus we discover the illusion of the separate self: the strange exogenous vein, with a red and astonishing intensity. (the intravenous infusion line flooded accidentally with a backflow of one's own blood becomes at once plastic and organic, alien yet connected intimately, literally with the heart.)

blood, the physiologic metal: sharp, conductive, crimson-oxidized, how it both pierces and yields. the salt of sweat and tears. these somatic elements, mined from within the earth. the harbors of the body at eaux mortes.

the sway of planets manifests in ever-rising, ever-falling tides, both visceral and hydrospheric. the dialogues of immersion, lustration. weight returns to limbs as the bath drains, this maiden of infirmity held once so wholly and affectionately by water, the caressing, the only lover. (atomism as proof of union; the analytic graces; the perpetual and manifold discovery of the vanishing thinness of barriers.) water touches us with our own hands. we look into our own eyes in the face of another. these are the ways of love: recognition, opening, assent.


a flowing back and returning to origin. the final storm of winter has blown in from the ocean; snowmelt swells the rivers traveling to sea. the storm consumes all in white and wind, and we, too, are eclipsed, made plain.

the moon is not visible on nights of heavy snow, nights on the wintry cusp of spring, nights of veiled streetlamps and the answering silence of frost.

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Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
1:21 am - leaf bodhisattvas
the evanescent snow of november, quiet as an afternoon shifting imperceptibly toward dusk. a veil of vanishing snowfall and shadow now hides, now reveals the half-clothed, intimate trees, scattered still with the colors of sunset, of waning, the forest a woman made more beautiful through modesty. how demure is late autumn. how ardently, with what passionate and rich-hued splendor, does the landscape hasten toward barrenness. both fervor and calm are contained within this vibrant simplicity, this reduction -- a plainness that is the unfettered exuberance of Joy, silent and profound. the november stillness of root and sap; the illusion of dormancy.

we follow the season in its litany of losses. it is a meditation on grace and absence: the hush of night and monasteries, the welcoming gesture of open hands and empty vessels, the undressing of a lover, the austerity of cold. a self-renewing bliss fills the unfilled spaces. endeavor without expectation. intention without attachment.

shortening days bring diminution in all things. the singular and fervent focus of Love seeks to reunite all with itself, to abandon the falseness of images, to unbecome. in these ways do forms reveal Formlessness: they are the light, the heat, the ash, and the smoke that exist through and evince the flame. amidst the autumn ashes, the brilliance of trees turned bare and soot-grey, we go searching for fire.

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Saturday, October 18th, 2008
2:11 pm - my 27th birthday is today: annual self-portraits

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Saturday, June 14th, 2008
5:39 am - five thirty-nine, ante meridiem
the fluttering of birds at daybreak, sun carried on a flurry of wings, perched on the balcony railing, on the balcony chairs; a pale and lambent light, a warbling song. cardinals, finches, and doves stir but do not unsettle the stillness of early morning, early summer. in these hours, the incipient heat is all gentleness, all soft and humid warmth: motionless, suspended, and without wind. morning pools in the broadness of june leaves, in the vegetable-blossoms, in the bushes and green suburban ornament where the birds sing and are silent.

fever and insomnia ask that i observe closely the sunrise. how tender are the requests of illness, how small. how little mastery i have other than to say joyfully, yes. each morning is intimate in this way, whispered, with the bareness of alabaster. each morning is borne weightlessly on the wings of birds. it is as if the same single day repeats, the same narrow rituals of the body, that i may learn to live each moment out of love, to perfect and sanctify by repetition the limited and mundane. i have devoted years at once deliberate and brief to this study, regarded the recurrent and advancing arc of the sun, a chronology so fluid that whole seasons seem to pass within the whitening of a single dawn.

the subdued tenor of days is a poor timekeeper. the procession of weeks is marked instead by a french calendar that lists the feastdays of catholic saints. each day is a celebration. in some months, we will celebrate saints fiacre and aristide; perhaps, also, we will lose our home. i will keep the feast of saint amandine as a three-year wife, the double solemnity of vow and veneration, but perhaps thenceforth alone. (the comforts of menology, that holy ordering of days. the edifying subservience of temporal to transcendent.) may all experience be used toward betterment. may we ever manifest equal readiness for acquiescence and action, in both guided by wisdom, in both uplifted by joy. let us honor the dawn and the lives of saints. let us see in imperfection, in difficulty, only frailty and a longing for the perfect divine.


the migration of a volant sun, reappearing at the horizon on wings of cloud. our constant and dynamic paths. in witnessing, there is no boundary between observer and observed. let me witness the daybreak and learn thus the love that marries the sun to the world.

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Saturday, February 23rd, 2008
4:00 am - total lunar eclipse
february snow, delicate as lace and as finely wrought, ornaments the dusk. those plain, blue hours of repose, of consolation. the silver-blue of snowfall. the sapphire-black of silhouetted trees. the moon rises and is eclipsed, darkened to umber by umbral shadow. these miracles reaffirm that the world is but a place of passage. love overflows into late february snow, into the hidden and revealed moon. by this evanescence is the everlasting made known.

(the final, fleeting weeks of winter; the promissory season. the landscape of rising sap and snow is made holy only by reverence. through the eyes of reverence alone do we behold the miracles that were always present.)

the prayer of saint francis de sales: yes, my god, and always yes. the consuming, narrow devotion of gratitude, of receiving. how this singularity of focus becomes a radiant and expansive joy. the moonlit snow carries within itself water and tides, global winds, the alignment of planets. i will become simple as the moonlit snow.

yes, and always yes. i pray by opening and by assent; may every thought, word, and action be begotten thus of love. how blessed is this hidden life, alone and in communion. the intimacy and ardor of contemplation, as of lover and beloved. this fullness of heart. contentment comes when the suffering that steals, that takes away, asks us to surrender freely the attachments that remain; we reduce until there is only Essence, only joy.


she asked saint pio of pietrelcina, "when did you first consecrate your life to god?"
he answered, "always, daughter, always."

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Sunday, November 25th, 2007
11:59 pm - istud quod facio, non facio nisi ut inveniam te
i have been visited by doves, enticed by augury. in thin november mornings, the mourning doves. which deity incarnates thus? by what name shall i address you? i know only the legend of pairs of crows, messengers of mahakala, who roost in rooftops far from mine. the exaltations of god and the envoys of god.

a palette of exuberance before the pale, restrained winter. the limbs and leaves of trees are shaken by wind; they billow and bend, are broken and made bare. the trunk does not move. surely in this is a sign for a reflective people.

the priest anoints the forehead with consecrated oil, saying, "through this holy anointing, may the lord, in his love and mercy, aid you with the grace of the holy spirit." he then anoints the hands, saying, "may the lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." a grace that is outside us and yet our own. that sudden alignment, that immediacy.
'the old pond --
a frog jumps in,
sound of water.'
how, in this way, we are impelled beyond the world of senses through the world of senses. we are anointed with prayer-oil and the sound of water. grace is received with open hands -- to those whose hands are closed, or clutching, we offer poetry and ritual as a vessel. the empty hands and the empty vessel likewise are filled.

the understanding of god as a reduction. the experience of god is the nothingness that separates us from god. the bare, ideographic arms of trees. november takes off her clothes.

as the ancients, i am taking the auspices, observing the flight patterns of a single grey dove. i give thanks to the god of compassion and the envoys of the god of compassion; i give thanks to the forms of compassion that reveal Formlessness. we sing the canticles of late autumn, music at once praise and benediction: prayer bells, chants, hymns, and the coo of the mourning dove.

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Thursday, October 18th, 2007
12:02 am - my 26th birthday is today: annual self-portraits

current mood: bathed & groomed, though ill!

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Sunday, September 2nd, 2007
1:11 am - hospital parables
how calm i have grown in the tranquility and reduction of illness. i am one of those blessed deepest by loss. when the clamor of the city is stilled, when the ticking of clocks and the low electric hum of a household are silenced, when a hush falls upon the constant, varied music of birds and insects, when we neither speak nor are spoken to, we hear, finally, the soft miracle of breath and pulse. the distracting cacophony of the everyday is muted by this loss; let us rejoice in the reprieve even if it is not of our choosing. we are the guests of this silence. let not our lamentations rise above the whisper of the heart. because i am ill, i am quieted, serene, my existence narrowed until it begins and ends in the word "love."


the lessons of dependence. it is difficult to sit, walk, cook, clean, carry. i am made helpless; i am given the blessings and agencies of the helpless. i wish for someone to bathe me, and in this moment my illusions of separateness disappear. suddenly there is only the wholeness and vividness of my trusting, the utterness of my connection, the consuming tenderness of compassion. all sorrow looks the same. all those who have borne grief live in me, and i in them. from the same roots do we reach ever upward.


detachment is not merely the absence of suffering, but also the purest devotion to joy. the seedling grows toward the sun, drawn to the warmth by its nature, born of fruit and holding within itself the fruited fullness of life. there is no other purpose but this, to reach for the heavens. the graceful green unfurling of stem and leaf, the microcosmic aqueducts of sap and water, the alchemy of photosynthesis, the incipient buds and exuberant flowers: all are not gained for their own sake, but are rather the unwitting manifestations of a singular striving toward sky. it is thus that the joyful receive and create the pleasures of their lives, without attachment, without myopic toil. in this way, too, do the joyful receive difficulties as the advocates of growth, which obscure all light but the sun. facing only sunward, we suffer not from shadow. we must hope less for a change of inevitable circumstance than for a change of self. each vein a tragedy in the delicately patterned, pale underside of a sunned leaf; each leaf a triumph.


i know now that even our breathing is a prayer. it is in this way that we chant the names of god.

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Sunday, July 15th, 2007
12:58 am - no god but god
the elements of midsummer: languid heat, a calm moon, the violent workings of the five visible planets. rainfall born of both mist and cataclysm that flows always toward reunion with the sea.

the course of grave illness is deliberate and exact. how minutely contained becomes a woman, how circumscribed. how solaced by monastic piety, begotten of seclusion and the expiation of failing health. the ascetic restraint of movement consecrates every gesture; the difficulty of speech hallows every word. to be, at times, only and entirely a vessel of breath becomes a meditation on the act of breathing. everything returns gradually to its simplest form.

i am ill. my husband and i have separated. the measure of virtue is known only during trial. a blessing be upon him; peace be with him.

the desire to pray is itself a prayer. i will learn to exist wholly within the space of a breath; that infinite smallness, that infinite fullness. i will learn to love through the point of release.

in this way, i will live still with joy, with gratitude.

all is grace.

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Friday, June 1st, 2007
11:54 pm - to love without attachment
an evening thunderstorm with its torrents and brevity. she calls her lover to the window. she remembers suddenly, then, the beautiful illusion of his body, in which she rejoices. the passing illusion of rain. the purpose of my love is to devour me, she says.

she delights in their frailties and singularities, the idiosyncratic proofs of their transience. the noticing of unintentional gestures, she thinks, is the greatest blessing of intimacy. how, when she talks, her hands become small and cupped, as if offering seeds to tiny birds. how his eyes are boyish even while his brow is furrowed. how, after love, she turns on her side to face him, beads of sweat tracing the heavy undersides of her breasts. how he holds the glass of water to her lips, and she drinks. the erotics of offer and consent.

we can no longer name what binds us. the decay of memory makes partnership at once stiflingly familiar and shockingly alien. our knowledge becomes vague and ritual, the way great joys and great sorrows require memorial and public ceremony. in some moments, we love each other only viscerally, without reason. how great joys and great sorrows share the same intolerable breathlessness and must fade; how they are, in the end, indistinguishable.

the story of love must be written on the body, to avoid the terror of forgetting. lovers like the myth-writers of the ancients, as desperate and driven by passion. the vulnerable imprint of a fingernail. the lazy bitemark of satiety, of exhaustion. symbolic signposts of a dissolved boundary.

the thunderstorm neither tempers nor releases the interminable low heat of dusk. we expose, consume each other. the small hot tip of her tongue tracing the corner of his eye where tears collect. his thumb pressing the fullness of her lips, her lips with the softness of fruit, ripened like fruit with latent sun, and, like fruit, delicately opened. she removes her wedding ring and bites it between her teeth. the sharp, electric taste of metal, the sting of its flavor. desire blooms in her body.

he holds the glass of water to her lips, and she drinks. the vessel shatters.
outside, the twilight thunder.



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