Friday, July 31, 2009


A moment of happiness
You and I sitting on the verandah,
Apparently two, but one in soul, you and I…

…The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
how it is to be the thinnest crescent moon.

You and I, unselfed, will be together,
Indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
As we laugh together, you and I.

And what is even more amazing
Is that while here together, you and I
Are at this very moment in Iraq and Khorasan.
In one form upon this earth
And in another form in a timeless sweet land.

---Rumi, 13th c. Persian poet

Last night, the moon a chunk of tarnished silver, gauze-pink clouds, the osprey perched next to her nest, guarding, watching, hunting. The air smelled of rain. Thunder rolled in the south. For a moment, I was not afraid of death.

This morning I opened up the NY Times on-line and found this, "Living in Tents, and by the Rules, Under a Bridge".

You will only understand what I write next if you read the story. Community is everywhere. Loneliness is everywhere. The campfire that glows on the faces of those without a home is not the same as what shines in our safe houses. And still, at this very moment, we breathe the same air.

In the same edition of the NY Times that The Story appeared there was another story about bailed-out banks in NY giving out huge bonuses. I call on an army of parrots to come to us and crack the bones of the insatiable in their powerful beaks. It is good to remember that the moon is sometimes a scimitar.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I'm ready to begin working with one-on-one students again. I love working with those of you who have been meaning to write and haven't yet begun; with those of you who began and stalled out; with those of you who have been steadily writing and know it's time to go in with the scalpel and the embroidery needle. More than anything, I love working with writers who know that if they don't write, they are half alive.

You can contact me at Let me know how you might want to work. We'll shape a connection that will honor the writing you carry.


Two dear friends are both astrologers. They work far beyond what passes for sky-reading in the popular press. Their signals come back to us from those great distances with clarity and mystery.

Deborah O'Connor:

Cassandra Leoncini:

We are, you know, made from the same particles that make up the stars. We are moved, as they are, by forces far beyond our imagined will-power. That's the bad news---and the good.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I write from a little house in Bend, Or. I have everything I could need: prayer flags ripple in a cool breeze; a cord of wood is stacked along the fence, a gift from a friend of a friend; there are three pints of loganberries and marionberries in my refrigerator; all four cats are alive and well; and there is a door on my bed-room, which means that for the first time in twenty-six years I sleep without being waked by cats jockeying for position.

I just finished working on a book with a dear friend to the north. We both feel as though eighty pound packs have slipped from our shoulders--and the hike was up a steep trail at least a thousand miles long. We've emerged at the top even closer than we were when we began. That's the nature of the real work.

I'm in the middle of writing She Bets Her Life, a book on women and gambling addiction. Believe me, I am an expert---not just in casinos, but across the boards. My new novel, Going Through Ghosts will be published by University of Nevada Press in Spring 2010. It took me twenty years to write it, twenty years to learn enough to be able to write about love that is not obsession.

Down the road, m

Dudley's is an almost indecently comfortable bookstore here in Bend. There are two floors of used books, couches and chairs, meeting tables and now--a piano. There is always good conversation. The owner, Terri Cumbie, writes her own blog. Check it out. Dudley's is the real deal. It almost, but not quite, soothes the ache in my heart that has been with me every since Flagstaff's Aradia Bookstore was killed off by a rich landlord's greed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


“There was a rebel who kept transmitting,” Yates recalled in a whisper...He kept on transmitting for years after the program ended, even though no one answered.”
“There was no world afterward,” the hermit declared in a thin, haunting voice. “We had to make do.”
The words brought Yates out of his trance. “No world?”
“Down below were all those Chinese, destroying everything Tibetan. On the other side of the mountains were all those who had given up fighting, who were becoming new kinds of Tibetans,Tibetans as Indians, Tibetans as Nepalis. If we wanted to stay the way we were, we had to become invisible.” Dakpo rose and reverently dusted the top of the radio with a rag.
...”I thought about telling old Kundu that the Americans were gone, never to come back, that he should stop the transmissions.”
...”But he didn’t?” the American asked.
“Not for years.”
“What would he say?” Shan asked after a long silence, when he transmitted on the radio?”
“The first few years, he stayed on the run on the mountain, using a sleeping bag from the Americans, saying his mission now was intelligence...he would watch the highway, watch the Chinese army, then come up and report the movements...For a while he decided the Americans had changed the codes, or frequencies, and so he would turn the dials and repeat his number, announcing again and again that he was a sergeant in the Tibetan resistance army. In the end he would talk about the weather or read sutras*.”
“Sutras?” Shan asked.
“Eventually he realized it wasn’t the Americans he was trying to reach. He said it was something people didn’t always understand about radios, that even if the Americans stopped listening, the heavens always heard.”

---Eliot Pattison
The Lord of Death

The restaurant is a delight. There are sturdy pine tables and huge windows. The pizza comes with a scattering of fresh basil across the top. I sip my organic iced coffee and try not to dive into the pizza. My friend is late. I don’t care. It is enough to be in this sunny room while softly cool air drifts in through the open doors.
My friend hurries in. “Life,” she says, “detained me.”
We laugh. She is a poet, teacher, environmental activist and the mother of a twelve-year old,. She knows my story, knows that forty years earlier, I was so detained by life I didn’t think I had one.
We eat and talk about our work, magic, and our mutual senses that the brittle surface of our comfortable American world is crazing. “Windshield glass,” she says. “One second there was that little ding in the corner; the next second, you can’t see.”
But the basil is fresh and pungent, the coffee is the same, so we toast our good luck and move to different topics.

That night I read Eliot Pattison’s new novel, The Lord of Death. It is set in occupied Tibet.. I read about Chinese practices that have been refined far beyond waterboarding---electrodes clamped on nipples and testicles, injections of mind-twisting drugs, beatings administered until the detainee is almost dead. And, for those who are particularly recalcitrant, there is “cerebral pasteurization” in which holes are drilled in the Tibetan’s skull, electrical wire inserted into certain pocket of cells and the ON switch flipped.
All of this is occurring now.
I finish reading the book, go to the computer and find the website: There are photos at the bottom of the home page. I go to the photo album A Great Mountain Burned By Fire and click on a picture of Lhundup Tso, lying curled in fetal position on a stone courtyard. She was sixteen when she was killed when Chinese police opened fire on unarmed protestors in Ngaba. I think of the recent outcry over Neda, the young Iranian woman shot by Iranian “security” forces. There was no international outcry when Lhundup Tso was murdered. Not from a failure to give a shit, but because the photo didn’t go viral.
I click through other photos. One word occurs again and again. DETAINED. Jamyang Kyi, writer, singer and broadcaster - DETAINED. Norzin Wangmo, who spoke on the phone or internet about Tibet - DETAINED and imprisoned. Lobsang Kirti, 27, monk, who printed and distributed leaflets--DETAINED.
A dear friend wrote me recently. He was concerned about my work load. He wondered if I shouldn’t concentrate on the deadlines for the two books I am writing, and let these weekly Dispatches go for now.
I wrote him back. “Writing the Dispatches is my life-line to my real work.”
They are my sutras. Help them go viral. More than the heavens need to hear.

*sutra - an ancient teaching--not a sermon, but a conversation The Buddha told his listeners and students to question and to test his teachings like a jeweller would test yellow metal.