Caution, Hope, Vulnerability


BILL MOYERS: Paradoxically, as you’re describing that blue sky, do you know what I was thinking about? The sky on the morning of September 11th. I– we were just, you know, we’re just a couple of miles from the site there. And there’s– my wife and I were coming to work, the sky was so beautiful. And at that very moment, the first of those planes was driving into the World Trade Center. So, I will always associate that blue sky that you just beautifully described with that moment. Now, what does that do– you know, you talk a lot about courting the imagination. What does that do to your imagination? When you’ve had that kind of experience?

BARRY LOPEZ: It’s a caution. That, you know, we have a way of talking about beauty as though beauty were only skin deep. But real beauty is so deep you have to move into darkness in order to understand what beauty is.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?

BARRY LOPEZ: And that’s what you– well, it’s just what you said. You’re talking to your wife in this blue sky goes gray. And a horror, a horror visits us. If you- try to separate these two things, you’re in trouble. What you must do is build a system of civilization that is as aware of darkness as it is of beauty. I would feel on thin ice if the world were nothing but beauty.

I need to remind myself by going to Auschwitz or by going to Afghanistan or by going to Northern Sumatra after the Boxing Day tsunami, and talking to people. And, you know, you used this word. And I use it all the time, too. Hope. How can we maintain our sense of hope when to go deep into the news is to encounter the kind of terror that can traumatize a person for the rest of their life? I think hope is a space holder that word. It’s not the false word, but it’s just- for me, it’s just holding a place for another word to turn up.

BILL MOYERS: Action. I mean, don’t you think? I mean, hope is actually- toxic. If you hold it long enough without some resolution.

BARRY LOPEZ: I would say yes. I would affirm that you have to have action. But I think the virtue that is, that we– you know, there are certain things that people say you shouldn’t talk about, because it makes people nervous.

The things that make us uncomfortable in public are a person who wishes to speak of what is beautiful. That makes everybody a little bit nervous, because many of us keep this jaded, cynical separateness with the world, because we’re cautious. We’re cautious. How many people do you know whose crying out is for intimacy? They want to be known. They want to be touched. But they can’t make that intimate connection without being vulnerable. You have to be vulnerable in order to achieve this exchange of intimacy. And you can’t be vulnerable unless you can trust the situation. And what we’re learning, many of us, is the world is not trustworthy enough for you to be vulnerable to it and gain that intimacy.

Another thing that makes people nervous is if you speak of faith, because immediately people think, Christian faith? Or Islamic faith? Or what kind of faith are you talking about? I’m not talking about any of those. I am talking about the belief in other people. The faith– when I have been in situations that are dangerous, physically dangerous, you know, in Antarctica or, you know, diving underneath ice down there, for example, which I did for awhile.

My faith is in my colleagues. And when I meet other writers, journalists, who’ve been doing this for a long time, trying to make us aware of what it is that we’re living in, I put my faith in those people. And so, the word that has come alive for me in recent months is to have faith in each other.

from Barry Lopez’s interview with Bill Moyer

Have you been reading Eden’s blog? Her recent trip to India?  If you want to see an amazing example of what a blog can evolve into — how people following one person’s compelling voice can lead to $300K for the helping the world’s poorest — you must visit.  When I came across this section in Moyer’s interview with Barry Lopez — the section on Hope made me think of Eden’s recent blog posts.

I don’t know how I came to find Eden — she used to blog under the name Topcat — and it was 2007, I think…and I just fell into her words — and it was this moment. She too was the child of an alcoholic father — when she wrote about her father’s death (and her step-father’s) the hair on the back of my neck, my arms — stood up.  She was a step-mother too — the same spread of years between she and Dave as between G and I — when I was pregnant with Z she sent me a package — I opened it up and it was the navy blue, Mexican blouse embroidered with flowers that she’d worn in a picture when she was pregnant with Rocco.  Her sister had given it to her, and then she to me.  I look at her blog and am reminded how much bigger we are than our individual stories — and how one of the reasons I have always written, and believed in the written word was that I believed it could save us.

I have a bit of soul searching to do about my own writing and process — this has been an upheaval for both me and for my family. I said to G “you know, when I started the blog, I think I needed to test the waters — with the material, the family material especially, to know if I was really brave enough to write that memoir” and it was material that needed to be written — it was the thing, as my teacher always said, that kept me  up at night — that I circled round and round and never left. “Well, now it’s just time to move on and write that novel, that tribal book” (G’s going to complain again that I misquoted him, but I swear that’s how he put it.  I say that laughingly — something will happen in the house and he’ll say something outrageous and I’ll crow “I’m going to blog about that” but I don’t, of course.) I do have a project I’ve been fascinated with and in love with but neglecting.

As the discovery of my original blog played out I understood, of course, the possible repercussions in the abstract — but wading through them as they are happening is another. I thought, in many ways, my blog evolved into being a love letter to our blended family, but no matter; what I was struck by in the aftermath was how I suddenly felt so incredibly vulnerable — it wasn’t the thought of members of my family or blended family reading it — it was the various constellations — the people who know me vaguely or not at all; the material felt too raw, too personal — and for the first time I realized the  veil I’d thrown over this — choosing to believe that whoever found themselves reading my words were mostly cheering for me, maybe occasionally rolling their eyes or seeing some pattern that was so clear to them but that I was missing, but never had I felt that I had said too much.

“I don’t think I have the guts to write that memoir” I said to G.


I’m sitting here in the early dark. It’s silent. G has been up at Deer camp with his buddies since Wednesday. “Go.” I said. “Get out of here. Recharge. Remove yourself from this business.”  I wonder if it’s perplexing to him — because men operate, it seems to me, so differently.  I’ve tried to put G in my shoes and just can’t imagine it.  It’s like watching G endlessly play with Z in her playroom.  She makes him pick up the tiny horses from W’s castle Playmobil set — the same horses I used to try to make graze in the meadows or be watered by handmaidens while W searched through the castle for a tiny trebuchet or used the buckets I was watering the horses with to pour boiling oil over the walls. G will turn to me after one of these play sessions and say “I’m exhausted. I’ve talked more about feelings to that little girl than I have in my entire life up to this point” — he says it smiling, shaking his head.

What I had, after all, was a public space, like this one. The changes I’ve made are small — I’ll approve comments, something I never did before.  I’ll think a bit more about what I want this space to become.

What I know is that as a child it was writing that saved me, as a fatherless little girl who needed to know that she wasn’t alone — other people’s words were there.  When I was flailing in my early years as a stepmother struggling with infertility — I think of Lou, who died of melanoma in 2010, shortly after her daughter Kayla, turned one.  Lou went through 8 rounds of IVF before conceiving Kayla — and I think of her so often — the things that she and Eden understood that I needed someone, at that moment, to understand.

It was never my intention to make anyone the villain — whether my husband, my exes, my mother, SW — I was always blundering towards what it meant to be in this business of loving.  I’ll still blunder toward it here — maybe in different ways, but I hope whatever it is you came to this blog for – that you still find it.

Any decisions I made in closing up shop with my old blog, taking my internet sabbatical (closing down IG & FB) — were my own. And, just as a side note, after being off of FB for almost a week I’ve cleaned my floor for the first time in a year and a half.

Should you want to email me my contact info hasn’t changed. I still use the blog’s old one:

4 responses

  1. Faith equals hope in action. That’s what my fellow Buddhists are always talking about. Sometimes I forget that. You’re doing human revolution, friend, don’t falter now, it’s the crucial moment. Step forward. Remember, that’s how you ended up with Z.

  2. So many deep waters to navigate and traverse here. First and foremost I wanted to remind you of how much your words have meant to so many. So many readers were frantically trying to find you because you are such a towering talent, someone who uses words to soothe, heal, enlighten and educate. It may not seem it now, but you have a rare chance to break free of your previous space and create something entirely new. I often want to do that, but feel tethered. Your readers will follow you here, to your new space, which already looks a lot like Pam to me. Deathstar’s advice of “Move forward.” resonates for me.

  3. I don’t think you made anyone a villain in your old blog–I always admired that you tried so hard to see everything from other people’s perspective. I am sure it is very uncomfortable for people to discover that they have been written about, but I hope they can recognize that it came from a place of love and a desire to understand. (Deborah)

  4. I agree so much with what others have said, that what your writing conveys is a deep caring and gentleness towards others, while also wanting to speak the hard truths that are your life. More in e-mail. xo

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