Leaving the office for an off-site work meeting last week, I suddenly felt overcome with emotion and started to cry. Searching for a thought and finding none, I let the tears fall and breathed through them as I walked. My coworker Ning happened upon me and was concerned. Rather than avoid and evade, I stopped and let myself be seen and heard. After muttering, “I’m okay. I’m tired. I’m just tired,” I looked at Ning and then cried again, not for long but long enough.

Ning is a new member of our work team. A lovely and talented young woman, she moved from China to Boston when she was 17 and recently moved from Santa Barbara to Portland. Her father is currently staying with her and her husband on a month-long vacation from China, and she plans to bring her mother—whose “green card” was recently approved—from China to Portland to live permanently with her and her husband. It has been an arduous process for them, and they are worried about any new restrictions Trump might impose to make the rest of the process even more difficult.

So, Ning knows about taking risks, managing big moves, finding and making one’s way in unfamiliar places, feeling displaced and getting lost, boxing up and then unpacking the stuff of one’s life, letting go and processing loss, creating a new home, embracing adventure and living boldly, and keeping faith about the unknown and scary. She has the emotional intelligence to understand and articulate both her own experiences and those of others.

As my tears subsided, I shared that while I’m feeling grateful and excited about my new condo and community, I’m feeling displaced and disoriented, missing Pasu, and navigating a lot of change. I repeated how tired I am. After giving me a warm hug, Ning stepped back, held both my hands, and said, “Right now your heart has nowhere to go.” She recognized the experiences and emotions of these times I’m in. Succinctly and beautifully, she acknowledged my grieving process and this big move. “Right now your heart has nowhere to go. Nothing feels like home yet. Nothing feels like yours yet. It will.”

What Ning said was like an E. E. Cummings yes poem, an exquisitely simple lyric that expresses profound truth about life and love. An E. E. Cummings yes poem is something that upon hearing it I immediately think or say “yes” to because I recognize its truth, its affirmation of being, and I feel grateful for each syllable.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places
yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds
E. E. Cummings

In my 20s and 30s, I grew accustomed to moves that felt like I was just plucking myself up and out from one place and plopping myself into another. The soil was loose, the ground soft, my roots shallow and contained. And I was strong and resilient. Then I bought my house when I was 42. Now, 18 years later, I am digging up deep roots. The soil is compacted, the ground firm, and the roots deep, intertwined and widespread. Digging up these roots is harder, demands more effort, and creates more disturbance. It tests my resilience. It’s no wonder I came down with a bad cold around Thanksgiving that lingered longer than normal.

The year 2017 has been tough. It began with disappointing 2016 election results, and then Pasu died in February. Both events had been unthinkable to me just a few months prior, and both were painful to process. At the same time, I was dealing with unsettling post-concussion issues and just wasn’t feeling like myself. Grief and recovery preoccupied me through summertime and into fall. So, I started this blog, INTO THE WOODS, to share my grief, record precious memories, and help myself heal. Concerned about my growing social isolation, I also re-joined the Portland Lesbian Choir because music and community are healing.

Midyear my workplace was upheaved when our seven-member team was down three people, then four, through November—all during a period of critical change, strategic planning, process reviews, and job classification studies. Three of us were left to manage an already heavy workload. I suddenly missed my father something fierce. Oliver Kuck died 17 years ago, but he had been my confidant on all matters related to work throughout my meandering career path. I still miss his wise counsel and channel it when necessary. In the thick of pressure, my coworkers and I rallied, and we found within ourselves a wellspring of compassion for and a renewed commitment to each other. Debbie, Matt, and I also articulated a vision for the new team we had an opportunity to create—a vision that was enthusiastically embraced by bureau management. Things started looking up at work, and I was honored with what felt like a lifetime achievement award from the Daily Journal of Commerce and my colleagues.

I didn’t have much energy left over for social interactions, though. What to do about that was not clear. Friends and coworkers suggested I find another pet to adopt. Adamantly, I said it was too soon and I had things to consider before getting another dog. Then, during a group camping trip, my friends Cindy, Sue, and Jan introduced me to Summerplace, and I decided to explore it. Cindy, who’s my real estate agent, said she’d send me condo listings.

As a Libra, I find decision-making challenging—weighing all the alternatives, striking a balance with the tradeoffs of a choice, over-thinking a thing into paralysis. But when I do make a major decision, it’s like a sky pilot* breaking through the permafrost in vivid blue blossoms. I see better, hear better, think more clearly, and move more freely. My productivity and efficiency are amazing. It’s the Libra scales in perfect balance. And here I am now, having a magical first Christmas in my new home in Glenwood Place Condominiums of Summerplace. My downsized life is unpacked and organized, and mostly cleaned and decorated. After I list and sell my house in January, I’ll buy a blue sofa.

sky pilot 2
Sky pilot

As 2017 ends, I’m in a better place than when it began, less lonely without Pasu and more excited and hopeful about my life. At the same time, I’m mindful that dear friends are dealing with their own emergencies and life-changing events, the national political scene is full of wretched news from an administration that grows more sickening and indecent every day, and the #metoo avalanche of sexual harassment allegations keeps growing. Through social media, we have windows into each other’s lives that broaden our knowing and deepen our caring for each other. I’m grateful that social media has helped me deepen connections with many genuinely terrific people this year. It’s a creative way to show up for each other, share news, let each other in, and make our worlds bigger.

Winter Solstice and the return of the Light cannot come too soon. We all can use more light. And we all gain by making our worlds bigger.

In these times, I am aware how blessed I am. Everywhere I turn, I see my abundant good fortune and I receive loving affirmation that I’m making good choices, professionally and personally. Carole, my twin sister, wrote me a congratulatory note that acknowledged my blessings and intentions with this move from my house to my condo. She added, “I am proud of you for all you are accomplishing, processing, releasing, and embracing.” Such sweet affirmation.

As I was measuring, cutting, and laying shelf liners in my condo’s kitchen cupboards one evening last week, I recalled my mother’s visit to Portland in the spring of 2001. Virginia Kuck measured, cut, and laid shelf liners in all the kitchen cupboards of my house. When I cleaned them a few weeks ago, I remembered all that love she poured into my home because, as she said, she wanted to help me “make things nice.” Mom made everything beautiful, and she made everything all right.

Several years ago, the astrologer Judith Hill said to me, “Your happy place is home, in creating and being home. It’s your center.” I told my friend Jean after Pasu died that he had been “home” to me, and without him I felt lost and homeless in my heart. Now I’m in the process of creating a new home, another place of love, another place for my heart to go. Pasu isn’t here to keep me company, and Mom isn’t here to help me clean, organize, and decorate, but remembering them helps to make everything all right.

In these times when human rights and decency are at risk, I am aware how worthy I am of a good life and full inclusion in society. I was uncertain about that for many years and dismissed the truth of it because of fear, insecurity, and the big voices of small minds. Now I listen to more important things, everything which is yes. I end this tough year and begin an exciting new year in peaceful communities—work, choir, friendships, family, Glenwood Place / Summerplace—all of which have a place for me, and I a place for them, a world of yes.

Composed between Winter Solstice and Christmas Day, December 21-25, 2017
*A sky pilot is a flower, a small phlox-like mountaintop perennial that grows at altitudes above 10,000 feet in the High Sierra. There, flowers rarely bloom before mid-July, and their whole growing season (spring, summer, fall) is crammed into just two months. The sky pilot blooms only between late July and early August, and its blue flowers growing in low clumps hold their bloom for scarcely more than a few days. Also, “sky pilot” is a slang term for chaplain or clergyman; i.e., someone who knows, or shows, the way to heaven. 
sky pilot 3

Sky pilots