Friday, May 22, 2015

sacred shit ... (finally, friday)

I kid not ... it had been one of those weeks (that was quickly turning into two weeks and showed no signs of losing steam

let's see ... I hurt my back, then I was sick with my first cold in years, then we discovered a leak in our dishwasher that turned out to have deposited water under the adjacent cabinets which wicked up the moisture and began to rot and mold(!) and sun apparently went on a walk-about leaving us with cold, rainy, damp days (and days ... and days ...)

The going was rough my friends, and the only option left to me that held any crumbs of hope ...

the horses ... or more precisely, the therapeutic work that is cleaning stalls a.k.a., shoveling shit. (actually, the poop isn't so odious, it it uncovering and drying out the noxious pee spots ... some of these horses excel in hiding dribbles and puddles under seemingly pristine bedding. But I am a master pee dowser!

This place has been my salvation. Just one morning (and many, many many buckets of sacred poop later) and I not only feel Spring returning to my weary soul, but signs abound that indeed, vitality and hope are in my cards and in my future.


I am a believer once again. Oh, there was a moment I had my car keys in my hand, wild-eyed and frantic to escape (and I still might, renovations on the kitchen have not yet begun)  but the heaping dose of sunshine and horse love are enough to keep me going. For the time being. Fortunately, I can always run to the barn when things get rough and know there are friendly faces waiting for me. And stalls to muck. Always, stalls to muck! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

plot developments ...

It was a long night. Just as evening descended, she found herself suddenly in the center of a hay fever storm. Pawing at burning eyes with one hand and applying endless stream of tissues to staunch nasal flooding, she lurched through the hours before bedtime. Then she snatched at the battered and probably out-dated box of grocery store brand allergy medicine, searching fogged memory to recall if it ever had been effective in the past.

"Your nose is really red," observed the astute Girl Child. Still, she soldiered on with bedtime reading interspersed with nose blowing and open-mouthed gulping of air. 

Lying her left side with hopes of freeing a clogged right nostril, she drifted to sleep only to wake up to a slow, steady trickle of cooled snot inching its way towards the pillow. The only thing worse than snot running down the face is rolling over and finding one's cheek resting in a freshly formed puddle.

There was a midnight panic to open the blister packaging surrounded ineffective pill which, when finally freed from its plastic cell, crumbled before she could get it into her mouth. Frantic but ever-hopeful, she swiped moistened finger across the bathroom counter and sucked the crumbs of medicine from her finger and stumbled back to bed and an anything-but-restful sleep.

Let's add hormones to this story ...

I seem to have a voice-over narration playing in my head, one which discusses me as a character in a developing novel. Overwhelmed by life, yet tenacious and determine, she is unable to tackle cleaning up her life so she documents it. 

Yes, I am contemplating a series: breakfast dishes/365.  

She then retreats to the shower where she huddles under the steamy spray waiting for a thaw to occur.

Today it was handfuls of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap repeatedly pour over my chest.  The label reads Magic Soap and magic seems to be the only option available to her right now.

The thing is, don't we all at some level perceive ourselves as characters in a story?  Donning roles, living out archetypes, feeling trapped by character descriptions? Am I playing the victim or heroine? Or underdog? Tragically flawed or comically inclined? Am I seeking meaning? Redemption? Or is this an Absurdist's play with all bets off? 

Yet if I am a character, then who is the author of this Donna Quixote story? It may be my saving grace - or my fatal flaw - but I do believe part of my business of this lifetime is to create meaning out of the raw materials handed to me. Which I suppose includes me as semi-raw material. Once in a workshop I was asked "Who are you?" To which I cheekily replied "Whoever I choose to be."  

And that is my work at the moment: deciding who I choose to be at this stage in my life. 

It's not easy.  A dear friend just wrote to me about how the tide seems to have turned in her life with clarity and flow appearing on her horizon.  That is not my current plot development.  I had a moment of dizzying darkness when that truth flashed upon me.  

I do not know where I am going, who I am becoming, or what I am called to do. Now is not a time for action or forward movement as much as I am wired and yearning for something to do.  Now is a time to sink deeper into the truth of living, which apparently means time for me to grapple with the truth that duality just doesn't cut it for me anymore. Life or death? Purpose or purposelessness? Meaning or Mystery?  I sense my place is to found in between or perhaps embracing it all. 

Every day I head outside to make my prayers, yet I admit I haven't a clue as to what I want to say. HA! I was about to write "suppose to"  ... and that is the issue.  Weeding out  "ought to"  and "suppose to" in order to find the driving truth within my life, my story.  So I pray to be able to discern the messages of my heart; to speak and act in harmony with love and flow with the spirit of the Universe, of Life. I pray to know my truth and to be brave enough to trust and follow it. I pray for ease within this darkness and I give thanks for the many bright lights that provide cheer and hope.  

Most of all, I pray to stay the course.  There is something I've been circling all my life and now is the time to go in deeper. I don't believe it is something to be understood but to be experienced, lived through. It feels like rite of passage, an initiation to be experienced and rather than me integrating it into myself, I am the one being woven into something larger, broader and more elemental. 

I don't know what to do because there is nothing to be done ...

sigh. and so the story continues to unfold ...

... and dishes continue to stack up as our dishwasher broke and the new one died after just two loads ...

Friday, May 8, 2015

strange days ...

Every morning I come to my laptop, fingers hovering over the keyboard waiting for the words ... which seem shy or stubborn depending upon the mood of the moment ... and the moments have been moody of late.

Today I type because, well, it feels like a gesture of moving dirt away from my mouth ... of clearing something out of me even if it is only mental dust balls and emotional grime. As I sit here, the Husband is mowing the lawn while a dozen or more barn swallows swarm around and around the yard, apparently gobbling up insects disturbed by the mower, but the scene is reminiscent of something out of HItchcock's movie The Birds. Given the ominous feel of Spring prairie skies, the effect is unsettling.

I recently told a friend that I think I am being rewired at a cellular level and all I can do is drift through my days as energy is being diverted to this deeper, internal task.  I suppose it would be fair and okay to say I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed by it all, a little ... well, yes, okay ... depressed. 

My 95 year old aunt died earlier this week.  While not unexpected, the news had the impact of the final straw. I mean, really?! I think it is fair to say Death, move on now and give me a break. I know, Scorpio Moon and deeper lessons on the meaning of life through understanding death, but enough already! 

It is not surprising that on top of all of the emotional blows I've somehow strained my back and am wincing and moaning through my days and nights.  Then there are the severe storm warnings (we got off lightly with only 4 inches of rain in one evening; areas south of us are underwater) and toss on some crazy hormones and good times are being had over here my friends.

But I keep on truckin'. I keep turning my face towards the light ... planting seeds, starting my herb garden, baking (crazy how I ease grief through baking), and grabbing my camera. Returning to pictures is my way back in to noticing, looking intently, and living life prayerfully. 

There seems to be only two choices: to close myself off or to open and receive, to say "thank you" not to the losses but for the gains, for all the memories lived and shared, for all the opportunities that were taken, enjoyed and celebrated. If there is anything I've learned from my aching back (which always leads me back to my yoga practice) it is the understanding that I can hold both sorrow and joy, discomfort and ease, depression and play. 

I went to the barn yesterday, unable to muck out stalls but I could sweep the main corridor which meant I got to mingle with all the "residents."  It could be the lack of restful sleep, but it seemed to me each horse greeted me with tenderness and care. At each stall I seemed to be greeted by a warm muzzle breathing into my back and each time I stopped in my work to close my eyes and savor the warmth and the force of so much aliveness and vitality.

The most difficult griefs,
ones in which
we slowly open
to a larger sea, a grander
sweep that washes
all our elements apart.
(excerpt from The Shell by David Whyte) 

And so I putter on ... fumbling my way through these strange days, attempting to stay open, to trust my heart and to trust when I need to widen my perspective and when I need to lean closer in. I remind myself there is no manual for this ... no right way to grieve, no easy way to transition (into what? I'm still not sure!) and in fact the discomfort and the break downs are indications that change is afoot.  And being alive means being in process, continually evolving, changing, becoming.  I choose to embrace that ... Every.Day.As.Best.I.Can.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What the trees told me ...

I went to the woods to be with my sisters

I went to the woods seeking my next step.

I went to the woods feeling lost, confused, uncertain, weary, emptied and afraid. 

I went to the woods to release my grief. To cleanse my soul. To hear my voice. Find my song.

I went to the woods to disappear for awhile. Be quiet. Listen. Receive.

I went to the woods and I was SEEN.  I was HEARD. I was WELCOMED.

photo by Nika Ridley

I went to the woods and I shed yet another layer, another scaly piece of snakeskin armor.  I shed and left in the dirt beliefs that are Just.Not.True.Anymore. 

Stories that were Never True were laid upon the altar and burned. Wounds honored for the truth they bear witness to: Strength. Belonging. Acceptance. Love.

I went to the woods to create new prayers. To gain new tools. To go deeper into my own truth.

I emptied and then I receive the love. Oh, soooo much love.  It cracked me wide open. It pulled my insides out and left me shiny new, tender, raw.


image by Tiffanie Gabourie Davis

I went to the woods and I was found. I un-covered what had never been lost, just misplaced, buried underneath piles of decomposing leaves, a poultice upon old wounds  long-ago scabbed over and now healed.  New skin ready for sunlight and fresh air.

I sat upon a mossy rock and rested against a tree whose trunk leaned away from the dark of the woods and stretched towards the life and light of the river.  I closed my eyes and I listened to the river's song. I breathed in the scent of wet wood and damp earth. I felt the swift flow of water crashing over rocks in my pulse, in my blood, in my being. 

I listened to the tree tell me its truth, its experience of belonging, of grounding, of reaching, of becoming.   


I received the tree's message about claiming my place. Strengthening my root system. Growing by taking in that which refreshes, inspires, and nourishes me. It shared with me t how I am a link between the past of my ancestors - the earth I come from, the clay soil of my body - and the future that I co-create, that I hold in my arms and in my heart, that I lift up and offer to the light. 

I went to the woods with trust in my heart and in my sisters and with a fledgling's trust of myself. Wobbly, not quite certain, but willing to make the leap. By doing so,  I was welcomed into magic and healing, wonderment and love.

Oh, the love ... a mother's love ... mama goose's love and dedication to her eggs, dedication to life ...

Dedication to her path reminding me to honor mine, to have patience and understanding that there can be no rushing soul work. It must be attended to with care and kindness, generosity and a constant dose of patience and no self judgement. Just love and understanding.

I went to the woods lost, alone, weary, and weak.  I came home fortified, refreshed, filled, and connected.

image by Nika Ridley

I came home flooded by the sense, the understanding, of So.Much.Love and a taste of the immensity of the power and magic of that love that surrounds me and is me.  I came home ready to be fully myself.  It takes a team to do this work. Thankfully, these doulas were on hand to guide me through the journey. Aho my sisters. So.Much.Love to you all.

our ReWilding doulas

Friday, April 24, 2015

happiness is ... (sunshine edition)

... the sunshine waking me up before my alarm ... the robins serenading me as I run ... more and more warm days (mixed with cold and rainy, just to keep things interesting) ... the produce section of the market becoming more inviting (only weeks until Farmer's market!) hence a supper of roasted golden and red beets served over greens and lemon zest goat cheese on ciabatta buns. Is there anything more delightful than the smell of fresh lemon?  Mood lifter indeed!

All kinds of craziness happening over here ... Spring fever has taken hold and I've discovered a new passion:

Tie Dye!  Prepping for shibori in Bali next October.  

I might just be opening a scarf stall when I get back (how many scarves can I bring home through customs?  Hmm ....)

Finding the best medicine is trying new things. Learned that from Martha Beck - it is good for the brain and good for the creative soul.  What should I try next?  

Anything sunshine yellow and turquoise I'd say ...

Monday, April 20, 2015

going slow ...

An interesting thing happens when when you slow down and commit to uni-tasking  ...  the day feels large, time stretches and snaps like an elastic band and a common response to the inquiry of "what did you do today?" is perplexed silence.

What did I do with this day?  Or more accurately: what did this day offer me? 

Lots.  Just nothing I can quantify or measure in the usual terms. How illuminating that my knee-jerk response is to want to offer some sort of measurement of productivity? As if wrestling with the contents of my world or my mind is a sign of deep engagement? Certainly the rabbits who are frolicking about my yard aren't concerning themselves with how many of my pansies they demolish in a day. (Okay, frolic may be too energetic a term for these suburban lagomorphs who resemble overfed house cats lolling in the sunshine.

There is a natural heaviness to this season of new beginnings.  Through Ayurveda I've come to appreciate that this period of earth mixed with water (rain) = mud. Just the other week I was volunteering at the stables on a misty, damp day.  We took the horses outside to their corrals for some fresh air while we cleaned inside.  Then the rain came. Hard. Fast. Cold and miserable.  We rushed out to bring the horses in but rushing was impossible. Each step in the now-sticky mud coated my boots in a thick and heavy layer so each step felt like I was walking upon slippery platform shoes. The horse I was told to retrieve was even more distressed by the unstable conditions, refusing to face downhill, he slide sideways towards the gate.  At one point, all I could do was circle him around and around because going forward was impossible.

Hmmm ...

I finally just stopped moving. And waited for help to come. Part of my work with horses is to yield completely and utterly to my lack of experience, learning to say I need help, learning to ask for guidance and learning to trust that I am, well, learning.  It is an overdue correction to how I was in childhood and, truth be told, an embarrassing amount of adulthood. Saying I didn't know or understand something seemed to me - as a child -  to be a sign of my inherent lack or incompetence and therefore something I guarded carefully. Understanding the absurdity of this still does not undo a lifetime of habit and fear. But I am chipping away at it.

Sounds a bit like Anne Lamott's famous prayer: Help. Thanks. Wow.  In my case, the wow came once I sat down in my car and took stock of my boots, drenched jacket and hair do inspired by a mix master blender frappe cycle. 

All of this is to say, going forward isn't always the best option and mud demands a delicate kind of surrender. I cannot clomp through mud, it just won't allow it. What is required is a mindful and careful stepping forward and an understanding that things will be messy for awhile.  Learning not to rush, but to linger ... and summoning persistence, stick-to-it-ness seems to be my mode for the season.

Even this wonky little bowl required undo amounts of patience and willingness to start again ... and again ... and again.  It's imperfections remind me that I am not striving for perfection, but instead seeking to learn, discover, grow, and ask for guidance.

Oh yes ... guidance ... seeing who my real teachers are ...

Happy mud days. May there be much comfort in these mud pies of mine.  I am inhabiting out-of-time-ness with these inspirations: 

Taking my time listening to David Whyte's What To Remember When Waking.  The perfect guide for the threshold stages I've been traversing.  
true discipline - reading one poem a day from his collection and not continuing on ... it is hard, just one but then time allows the images to soak in ...

Sharon Blackie ( This post got my mind whirling ... (thank you Mel)

Company in the dark (and the light!) places - The Sacred Pause and my sister in moondancing (more to say about her amazing work on repatterning energetic boundaries, if there is anything the doctor should prescribe, it is this!)

Speaking of the moon ... my moon mandala meditation practice is my contribution  to Spectrum 2015 which begins on May 1st.  26 amazing workshops that compliment and augment each other in magical and exciting ways. I am particularly excited by Hali's offering "Calling on the Grandmothers" and Jennette's offering of Make-To-Mend moon ritual object and moon exilir.  

Finally, this had me in tears ... and filled with gratitude and anticipation as I will be making this very journey next October with Em and Nicole. 

Suddenly, I realize I am soaking in a wonderfully cleansing mud bath of ideas and new perspectives! Feel the energy of sunshine slowly drying things out ...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring Cleaning (Art Sale!)

In my pre-Cowgirl days, regularly I would toss my bike into the back of my pick-up truck (yes, truly a lifetime and two cars ago) and head over to an amazing trail that afforded me 16, 25, and 40 mile riding options. Heading out, the trail seemed flat but slowly gains altitude until I hit a nice patch of hills that would take me up and down and up and down through wooded areas and rolling farmlands. I carried snacks to fortify me and to celebrate the turning around point, although the longer trek had an ice cream shop as its incentive for schlepping over more hills. But the real treat was the return ride with its gradual decline which meant long stretches of coasting, sitting upright and hands off handle bars to savor the view and the exhilaration of cool air washing over sweaty skin and tired muscles. 

It's been years - no, more than a decade! - since I rode that trail, yet it came to mind as I tried to explain to a friend how I am feeling right now after sloughing through a series of emotional hills since my mother died.  Some weeks things seemed smooth-ish although there still was the sense of effort, the need to keep peddling, keep moving. Then came a number of steep hills: all the firsts one goes through in the initial year of mourning. My first birthday without my mother; first Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday and now Easter. I actually have traversed much of the steepest terrain with Mother's Day as the last big hurdle. 

So right now, I feel like I am in the coasting section... the fast flying over stretches of time and geography ... moments of pure exuberance as I engage with renewed enthusiasm in favorite creative practices.  It helps that Spring is ushering in gentle and cleansing rains, greening the landscape around me while the birds add their raucous soundtrack to my days. I've been Spring cleaning while whistling a happy tune and as I pause to catch my breath, I see a number of old friends needing new homes.

I literally have paintings stacked against the walls in my home. (I once joked after watching a documentary on the painter Alice Neel whose New York apartment held corridors of canvases 2 to 3 pictures deep that this would be Cowgirl's inheritance) Many paintings have stood by my fireplace, warming my heart and hearth throughout the previous seasons.  It is time for them to find good homes.

Here then is my blog-exhibit: Spring Cleaning!

Each piece available for adoption purchase has a link to its own page (click on the title) with full information on size, materials, and price.  If you are interested in giving a painting a good home (ahem, purchasing a piece), just leave me a comment on the appropriate page or send me an email and I will make arrangements for payment and calculate shipping cost. 

Email: Lishofmann88(at)gmail(dot)com)  
Shipping to U.S. destinations will range in price from around $7 for small pieces to $10 for the larger ones.

Baby Ganesha

xoxo (Girl 1)

xoxo (Girl 2)

Buck's Magic

Hopeful (Fox and Bird)


Rooted (Rabbit)

Believe & Receive

Seeing all of these friends from the past year arranged in one space, I get a little weepy thinking about the journey they have taken me on.  I know it is time to release them, to share their magic with others.  They have been part of the uphill journey; now it is time to let them (and myself) enjoy a stretch of coasting, a period of celebration and release.