Category Archives: gifts

The Leaf and the Tree

Mama Tree and Papa Bear

Mama Tree and Papa Bear

As I prepare to lift off for a new experience in the tropical wonderland of Bali, I am celebrating and appreciating both my parents who decided to take the leap too.  They accepted my invite to participate in the retreat I’ll be co-leading there – Soulful Relating Through Song and Dance.  It’s truly a leap for them at every level, and their courage is inspiring.  I’m really looking forward to this time with them and with everyone in the group – reflecting on the ways we connect to our self, our soul and spirit… to others and the outside world as a whole.

Gratitude is one of the most direct routes I know of to that sweet spot of connection, and it’s the key ingredient in my annual holiday poem hunting for family members.  Honestly, the tradition has given way to a (ahem) more fluid and unpredictable timeline – the poems come when the muse stikes and I make enough space in my crazy life.  This year, one made it out on time- my splash around the big pool of Thank You to Mom.

The Leaf and the Tree

I knew of a great tree,
standing within a great forest.
Great, not for anything but being as it was
a natural climber that sought the sun.

She was one of a million sisters, brothers there
making life among life
Raised by the sky that brought food and storm.

She grew strong, like the others—
shapely, positioned on a high slope on a clearing,
more strongly sown than some perhaps, for the exposure and angle of her roots.

She spoke in slow stretches of bark, making leaves as fruit.

She became my tree.
I would come and go, connected to her in grateful, silent ways
though my days and purpose were different, moving—

I spent hours against her trunk yet I could not tell you her true story.
I spoke another, noisier language,
seeing from behind my own reachings.

I wondered how it was for her,
if I had come to serve her, or she me,
if she saw herself reflected in my shiny, watchful face.

She saw me surely,
tended me generously, being tree as she was,
sheltered me as she knew well to do,
with no instruction but her forest and seed.

I saw her from my own eyes, alone among that forest
not knowing if she knew
that my very presence was testament to how she lived
her roots unfurled, giving thanks to her sky.



Filed under gifts, lisa goettel, offerings, poetry

a hundred springs

Update: I learned today of a friend’s sudden passing.  I feel shock and sadness and a heavy heart – noticing how loss hits hard and fast, then freezes, then seeps in very slowly, subtly shifting the landscape.  We’re traveling a short journey here, and I am renewing the intention to hold the people in my life (you) with gratitude and to share how I am nourished. Thank you for reading this, for witnessing my journey and for connecting here. 

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

~Meister Eckhart

Pops, aka Denny Goettel

That’s my Pops.

The past couple years I’ve offered poems to my family members as Christmas gifts. It’s a gift for me too, taking the meditation, holding them in my mind and heart and asking for the words. I feel closer to both them and myself.

When I held the image of my dad this time, I saw a vision of an Indian man too, with six feathers in his hair. I imagined him and my father are not so far apart in the grand scheme of Iowan millenia.

Here’s what I found in the dig.

a hundred springs
and the blessings will
still swim from under rocks
in the ice-fingered stream bed,
as the resurrection of that april frog
made known,
the rocks themselves can sing.

a thousand springs
and the taste of peace
still paints the cheeks
of the man with six feathers
building fire inside the sacred hearth
of family fed;

his family beats a drum
in the bark of a tree
now alight,
sending signals of
children no longer cold.

enough springs
and what came before will
insist there is no space or time—
leaves of rust and saffron
up on the farm
blown here,
still telling us the scent
of home under these early wet flakes—
insisting to the man with six feathers
they know the harmonies of now.

the first spring or the last,
and his elder hope
for simple people
remains as pure as the shout
of the robin
just there:

for these blessings to
be known by his children,
and theirs,

in the resonant sky
of our season
holding spring.


Filed under gifts, lisa goettel, poetry, writing

Moving and Shaking

I’ve spent the bulk of this week feeling abundantly irritable but quietly happy and oddly brave- a weird combo I’m learning to associate with change. Life is feeling alternately fragile and full, earthy and elusive. A week of mindbodyspirit-opening yoga in Mexico, new heart-flowerings, global movements, powerful dreaming, themes of birth and dying coming from everywhere.

Last night I dreamed of nursing babies – feeling life flowing through me so vividly, and still in the dream I felt like I didn’t have enough, that my limitations were disappointing and hurting my children. Today I watched footage of destruction I could not fully take in on the other side of the earth. Tomorrow I hold space for a service in celebration of my grandmother who passed away last week after a full and rich life. I am feeling the movings and shakings of my own tectonic plates.

I know I’m beginning to explore a new, vital, compelling, raw and shifting place in my life- one that does not yet feel ripe for naming. So instead of word-wrangling here, I am trying to drop in, tune in and feel through.

I decided to write tonight only because I picked up a neglected journal and started flipping through pages, and am always surprised when I find the wisdom I seek. From time to time I write love notes to myself. Some poems, some intentions, some reassurances quick and to the point. Here are a few from my flipping, if you’d like to try them on and wear them around too. I’d love to hear one of yours, if you’re in the mood to share.


less good ideas
more trust and surrender
guided by the power of intention
there is no wasted time
all is well


The price of aliveness is the will to live.

I choose again to live. To feel the breath of my humanness and bring my formed and formless gifts in this world. I create my reality and choose to see a world of beauty.


loss is grace.
the way you take the thread and tie it to your plot-
that is the weight you feel.
the tape replays and reviews-

fuck that.
I want to be inhabited by grace
touching fingertips with the revolution
rolling down the hill sideways
picking up speed on the way to unway
trusting gravity and grass.

there are 10 billion things on the other side of I don’t want to.
surf the wave.


There is nothing to know
There is no tomorrow
Your pen writes on the page
until the page turns
is not a verb
There is nothing to do
Drop into yourself
the way you long to be known.


Filed under Big G., gifts, invitations, life, lisa goettel, offerings, poetry

the man and the crab

A man was walking across a desert-
as he walked, he did not wonder how he found himself there
or where he was going
or how long it would take to arrive.
He did not notice his thirst
or peril,
moving foot by foot,
following a blind power to keep moving.

After some time had passed, a crab came to follow him in the sand.
The crab said to the man,
I will follow you.
I do not know where I am going,
and I seek water and shelter from this heat.

The man turned to the crab, fiercely shouting,
Go! I am blind with hunger.
I follow no path.
I know no water.
I will eat you if you follow.

Still the crab persisted.
But I must! There is no one else to lead.

I am only a small crab in a huge desert.
Eat me if you will, but until then I will follow in your shadow.

The man shouted again, and kicked sand.
Still the crab did not go.
The man grew silent, weakened from his outburst.
He turned and continued walking, the crab following behind.

After many, many miles, the man stopped and turned.
The crab froze, preparing to be eaten.
Then the crab said,
Thank you. You have been a kind and good leader.

The man said,
I do not understand why you follow me blindly.
I have been neither kind nor good and I have no strength to care for you.
I will not eat you, but I must cross this desert alone.

The crab heard him, then gazed ahead and scurried past the man,
saying nothing.

The man watched the crab move ahead, alone in the blazing sun.
He watched until it was out of sight, then fell to his knees in tears.
He did not know why he cried, but knew that without the crab he would not continue on.

After a moment, he stood again and yelled out,
Wait! I am coming! Please wait!
He ran ahead, his eyes desperate and looking.
He said,
You have already been my food.
Your companionship on this journey sustains me.

He ran faster, shouting
Forgive me!

And in that moment he saw the sea.


Filed under gifts, lisa goettel, writing