Tag Archives: Mom

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.

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Filed under gifts, lisa goettel, offerings, poetry

You and I

It has been a ride so far for me this new year, full of magic and change, frought with detours and hiccups.  Thank you Santa, Universe, Full Moon for the countless opportunities to practice acceptance and compassion.  Even when they look like a lump of coal.

me and mom

Me and Mom, on a warmer day

My year started tenderly- before the new year actually, as I arrived back in Iowa Christmas Day on the heels of my mom having major surgery. I found her home in bed, hurting and frustrated, with my dad taking up the nearly-as-crappy spot: he-who-watches-the-hurting-and-frustrated.  There were sweet and warm and normal moments, before the weather postponed my flight back to Cali for three days- on the same day I went down with fever and my mom went back to the hospital.   I spent my New Years in bed ringing in a pity party for one, kicking off my big annual existential crisis. But the weather eventually cleared just fine, in every sense, and got me home warm in my Big Sur nest soon enough.  Mom has had a rougher go, after four more trips in and out of the hospital with every imaginable complication.  The surgery was deemed a success, but it’s been hard to feel that way, since she hasn’t felt good since.

She was as low as I’ve heard her today when I talked to her.  I wanted to offer support and instead gave advice. I felt helpless so I gave advice to make myself feel better, and the advice I gave her was to quit thinking about what she should be giving for two seconds and focus on receiving the support she needs.  Irony’s always a close companion to advice.  Love you Mom.  Thank you mirror.

I have to say this giving and receiving business is tricky – the balance between both is so delicate and essential. The part of me that needs to be reminded is listening to the me that talks about this all the time when I teach.  One of my favorite things to bring awareness to in group singing is that it’s an intense practice of giving and receiving simultaneously.  You let your own voice fly while at the same time taking in a room full of sound.  I think we can only be as fulfilled in our experience and in our relationships as we have the capacity to do both of these in our lives. Giving is a full loop.  Everyone who has ever felt the bottom drop out after giving a meaningful gift to someone who didn’t appreciate it knows this. So does anyone who’s found relief writing a letter that’s never sent.  Receiving is a gift, and the biggest beneficiary of our giving is usually ourselves.

This Christmas I wanted to give presents to myself and family with a little more depth and consideration than I would with my wallet at the mall.  I was also feeling the poignancy that comes amidst challenge and suffering, that always seems to make the gifts feel more precious.   So I stayed up all Christmas night writing four poems. For my brother, sister-in-law, mom and dad, respectively.  I meditated on each of them before I wrote – felt what I perceived of their essence, and of our relationship.  Then came the business of distilling what I felt into words.  It took all night.  Writing has always been effortful for me by the way – there’s no tumbling out in some graceful array – it’s a searching and wrestling and wrangling till I feel the click.

After talking to Mom again today I’m remembering what I wrote for her, our family warrior. Of the four poems this one took the most wrangling.  How to distill the complexities of this bond between mother and daughter?  The greatest mirrors and teachers to each other, with all the love and crazy that comes with it.

You and I

With one stroke of the brush
She painted a wave of the ocean
And the page was no longer empty

The wave longed for company.
Paint me a whale!
Give me a boat or shore or sky!

And the artist said
You are enough.
We are complete.


We are the painter and the painted.

I cannot know how my maker sees this water-
I feel her brush and the space around me on the page.

I cannot know how my ocean longs-
I trust I have done enough.

We are wide angled portals
One and apart
Creator and created-

Like two stars in orbit, we are bound
and unimaginable.

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Filed under life, lisa goettel, poetry, writing