Awakening Saint Carolyn poem

from BAREFOOT & UPSIDE DOWN, poems by carolyn kieber grady:

Awakening Saint Carolyn

Born during a Buffalo snowstorm in ‘54

They still call me their Christmas Carol

On a Jersey estuary I caught crabs in coffee cans and learned how to bail

We wore plaid pleated skirts white blouses blue jackets

and drank wine beneath the front steps of school

The landscape of my childhood still fills me with dreams

When the charismatics sang I am the Resurrection and the Life

I floated somewhere near heaven

Six of us crammed into a rowboat during the flood of Polly’s Pond

and the Shrewsbury River—it was the only way home

On half-days of school I’d organize hitchhiking races and concoct personas

I built playhouses complete with gardens of iris and daisies

While I fed p atients lunch in Bayview Nursing Home the TV droned Watergate

Sometimes I listen to birdsong when I should be reading

During the Cuban Missile crisis I was timed walking home

I skipped school to go to art galleries and hang in Central Park—

Washington Square guitars still strum in my head

I don’t know anyone who died in Viet Nam though rock n’ roll and napalm still twist in my mind

I worried my breasts would burn while nude sunbath ing—when my wallet was stolen— I ran the tolls all the way h ome

Once I almost mistook Dylan Thomas for God

I fell in love with a wise quiet man who taught me patience and who mends my heart

India grew r a mpant as a bittersweet vine in my life while teaching in Mumbai—I can’t shake it off—

During chu rch processions I sang as if I could save the world

I am learning to be unafraid of my visions

I swiped Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason out of my father’s library

and read through the night

For too long I wore his hands around my neck like a necklace

It was the Summer of Love— my eighth grade class trip canceled due to riots

I am phobic of lightning but am usually unafraid of people

We fell in love over peanut butter sandwiches and picking apples

Please don’t ask me to drive— I failed my test seven times

I never went to Woodstock though I learned all of the songs

I skipped school to go to the New York Public Library to research

uses of metaphor in Moby Dick to surprise our English teacher— who had escaped the

draft by teaching in Mater Dei—he called me a wiseacre

They called me “mother” when I held their hands in prayer group after school

I spoke in tongues

I went to every school dance though I grew tired of Springsteen’s band

Being flipped around in the stormy Atlantic I lost my sense of “up” —and never really learned how to surf

I try to answer the cardinals in their own tongue

I practice being upside down and breathing

Three times I ran away from home and was arrested once

As a Child of God undercover in the Pine Barrens my job was to hide the stove—they called me Sherebaya—I cooked what was begged or foraged

There was a riot in the Bergen County Correctional Center—

I wasn’t really sure what to do

I had repeated nightmares of the world ending:

often I saw the drawbridge opening with me dangling off the edge

Sunning on a beach in Maine when the police came —

an APB pictured me “wanted”

Three felonies charged—it was impossible to remain innocent

The man on the moon seemed so very far away

On the morning of my wedding I ran three miles— I don’t run anymore

Dysplasia usually turns cancerous in ten years—so far I’ve had do many surgeries and wonder how much is left for them to cut

In the folk group my favorite song was Glory To God

Like the Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet, I hear voices— this is his form

My patron saint is the healer, Charles Borromeo—there is no Saint Carolyn

Suffering from overexposure on Algonquin Peak, being chased by a rhino in

Nepal, and being held at gunpoint were the scariest times of my life

Sometimes the boundaries fade and I am certain we are the same—

one being with many bodies

I still spend most of my life dreaming

though I am trying to awaken

this very moment.


divine dissatisfaction

Texas Rainbow (Mark Knight photo)

How much happiness can a human heart can hold? I feel as if I may break into pieces if any more love comes my way. . . . if one more good thing happens. . . yesterday was my birthday. . . I was able to celebrate with all three kids, one son’s girlfriend, and my hubbie–partner of 30+ years. Received messages and blessings from many old and new friends & far-flung family members…geesh, I get teary-eyed recounting it all. Boundaries dissolve as energy quickens.

I’ve certainly been in the opposite position, asking the universe how much grief and sadness a person was capable of feeling. This happy mode is kinda new to me, but I’m getting used to it — sort of.

Here is a piece that was given to the retreatants at the porches writing retreat in October – a la Hip Tranquil Chick, Kimberly Wilson. Check out her blog; this is excerpted from October 27, 2008:

there is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and (will) be lost. the world will not have it. it is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with your other expressions. it is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. you do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. you have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. keep the channel open. no artist is pleased. there is no satisfaction whatever at any time. there is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. – martha graham to agnes demille

Any strong emotion fundamentally ungrounds and uncenters me, but I am practicing watching the feeling rather than engaging. . . And learning to accept the dissatisfaction inherent in living a human life, the blessed unrest as Martha Graham calls it. Holidays really stir up my restlessness — good and bad — sometimes both at the same time. In response, I fill with ambivalent emotions, both loving and hating this tilting off-center.

Setu Bandha (Bridge pose) on platform bed (mpg photo)This is a time when I really need my practice but when my practice is thrown out off kilter because all semblance of schedule is disrupted. Simply remembering that my feet —or whatever — is connected to the earth really helps. Breathing helps. Sitting or savasana helps, even if I do it for only ten minutes.

These can be very rich times to practice because it’s endless …..the depths of *stuff* I’ve been oblivious and/or numb to. I dedicate my life to increasing this awareness.

Is this what is meant by awakening: The pieces of insight or vision that grow larger and deeper with practice? Aspirations and intentions are best stated in the present tense: I AM enlightenment…..I AM lovingkindness compassion….I AM flexible and strong…..

Waking Up

What happens when you first open your eyes in the morning?

What are your first thoughts, and feelings?

How do you transition from sleep and dreaming to “reality” ?

The few moments when coming into conscious wakefulness are precious and there are several practices that can maximize our wakefulness, enabling us to establish a more mindful existence.


  1. Practice half-smiling even before you open your eyes.
  2. Allow the light and any noise you hear to remind you of your true nature.
  3. Observing which nostril is dominant. Observing nostril dominance can remind you of your state of awareness at any time of the day or night.
  4. Simply BE. Be aware of your awareness. Don’t think about it; feel it; be awareness pure and simple. Yoga nidra teaches us that this awareness is always available, always aware–even during sleep–if we are consciously awake during sleep.

Living in a state of awareness is a practice. It’s a key to walking through the door of numbness into conscious awareness. Beginning our day “awakened” would benefit the rest of our life. The voices, creative and otherwise will still be there, but we’ll see them existing in this pure awareness of all beings. We’ll begin to know who “we” are.