DEBRA WÖHRMANN is poet, fiction writer, gardener, lapsed guitar-strummer and loves hiking, kayaking and time to cook, read, absorb life, and travel. For many years she taught college English. Now she offers occasional workshops, one-on-one coaching, and enjoys mentoring newly arrived refugees (though there aren't many now!) She has also worked as a massage and nutritional therapist, and lives with her husband and a joyful dog in Portland, Oregon.
I wear my mask often, but not here where the air feels fresh and waves in motion move with the moon.
I’m conscious to pass by other people with a wide berth, and they do the same, mostly.
I watch clouds zing through the sky.
And I see two children wearing masks as they sit building a sand city. Maybe they came from two different families, but I can’t help but feel a longing for them to run free on the beach—fearless and in wonder.
“What if we joined our sorrows? What if that is joy?”
Ross Gay, American poet
On the first Saturday of October, I met with team WALK ON, and we wandered together on Mt. Tabor, a wooded park in Portland, Oregon. A dormant volcano, this seemed a perfect place to offer our final efforts toward raising awareness and funds toward suicide prevention and support for survivors.
Although the official and annual OUT OF THE DARKNESS walk was cancelled (due to Covid-19) our team of six decided to gather. The morning was autumn-warm and sunny.
After walking for a while, we found a glowing spot on the mountain and sat for a simple ceremony. We each shared the WHY of our efforts toward this cause. As team captain (instigator!) I told my story and was deeply moved to hear my friends share their reason for taking part—and helping to raise a lot more money than I’d set as our goal.
My reason for getting involved was a stumbling. I had begun to research. I want to write a novel about a kid who loses a loved-one to suicide and struggles to feel safe and connected and eventually finds strength through connection. My research lead to AFSP—the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
When I was 8 years-old and not yet healed from a childhood illness, I came home from school one day to find my father’s dear friend lying dead atop his blue Chevrolet, in our garage. The man had come from Georgia to live with us. I now understand why: My father hoped to help John to want to live. For I don’t know how many months, he lived in that basement bedroom.
It was horrible, and it tore through my family’s life, forever silent. Even today–almost five decades later–my father won’t talk with me about what happened or the aftermath. No one talked about it then though at some point they sent me to a shrink who I refused to talk with about anything.
For three days we haven’t been able to walk outside. We open the door quickly to let the dog out for a pee. It smells like a campfire lit in a small room, all doors closed. I masked up several days ago to water some flowers and pick tomatoes. Today I’ll do the same. We’re lucky to have a well-sealed home and make-shift fans equipped with serious air filters, but the city hosts hundreds of homeless who live in tents, and many houses are filled will hazardous air by now.
Outside of our city, fires have decimated towns and homes, and forests burn–including an area north, along Trapper Creek in Washington where we had been camping with friends only one week ago. It has been our refuge for years.
As I write, 28 wildfires burn in Oregon alone. Until Monday, September 7th, the problem was manageable, but that’s when unusual winds from the east blew in–powering the flames. More than a million acres have burned in Oregon alone.
From so much loss all around us, I ache. And I am grateful to firefighters working all hours to keep flames from destroying our city and more. We hope for rain, but it’s not in our control.
I dream also of when we will realize together we’re guest on this planet–and stop blaming and get moving toward kinder, productive action.
In California today, our president’s message is scolding rather than compassion, You need to manage your forests better, he says. He also argues against science.
While employing men and women toward service to clean up the forests would have been a great way to put people to work on federal lands over the past months and years, support and action is what we need now–not looking backward.
Firefighters are exhausted—and we will need more people to join the efforts. A hurricane in Louisiana is now on its way, too. More troubled lands in our nation. We need collaboration, cooperation–and less talk toward re-election. Show us, don’t tell!
We also need respect for science and to teach the masses to think more critically.
Scientists are people of all sorts, but their business is to ask questions. A scientist makes a hypothesis—an educated guess about what is what—and then works to determine if his or her thinking can be supported.
It’s tough to figure out what to write and post. I know I need to listen, yet I also need to write and act—even when I’m not certain about what is the right thing to do or say.
Along with many, I’ve felt fear and a collective ache and grief since the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis. I’m sorry it’s taken until now for me to really wake up to the degree of ongoing injustice in the United States—for Black Americans. I regret my complacency.
I’m no political analyst nor historian, but my grandfather flew airplanes for the German army during WWII. My great-grandmother, a house-cleaner and not well-educated—had tried to warn her daughter. She knew Hitler was dangerous. But my grandmother, her daughter, was swept up in the years, Nazi-youth, and didn’t listen to her mother’s warning. Hitler lead the country into the worst of human behavior, and he did it by instilling hatred between groups of people.
I felt shame for decades, knowing this history in my blood. But I grew up with the stories: Desperate people followed a crazy man, listened to a leader who lead them into darkness. He cradled their fears. He promised more wealth and power to those who wanted more for themselves and their children at the expense of the “others”.
So many died, and I’m sorry for these losses. The best I can do now is to keep alive awareness and to speak out and take part in action.
Like so many people I know, a deep unease grew when the current president moved into the White House. Throughout his campaign he had spread hatred and demonstrated himself a bigot, misogynist, and clearly a man more interested in division than in unity or justice for all.
This includes supporting our body’s Immune System!
Welcome back to LIT ― Live(s) Inspiring Today! If you haven’t been here before, THANKS for sharing some moments now!
Our first Portland snow fell this morning, in mid-March; a friend was in town for a conference this past week and sent home after hundreds had arrived to Portland from as far away as Chile; people all over the world feel worried in new ways. YET, I feel a lovely surprise of “free time” to do what I often don’t do―such as blogging.
Given the challenges of now, let’s talk about the wondrous human body―and immunity. We want to stay healthy and strong. I might even bring poetry into this conversation!
Mostly, I what to remind you and me what we can do any moment of our lives to grow and remain resilient. Not that we control much, yet even when stuck at home, even as plans go berserk and we miss our usual workouts and events are canceled, even when our livelihood feels at stake―on our own time, in our own homes, phone calls and webinars–we can make small decisions that will help not only ourselves but neighbors we’ve never met.
Fantastic if none of these suggestions are new to you! Here goes:
1. Food First: We are what we eat, and when it comes to staying healthy, a colorful plate is an image to behold. While there is no one best diet for all of us, we each need a balance of all three macro-nutrients (fats, protein & carbohydrates).
We need good fat to utilize the protein we consume, and we need protein in our diet in order to digest fat. Carbs are everywhere, and getting enough of those is not a worry for most of us. Don’t forget the greens–lots of them!
Keep in mind that constant snacking is a drain on the body: If always busy breaking down and absorbing food, the body can’t complete its other essential functions―such as detoxification―imperative to a strong immune system and our vital organs working well. Continue reading “Let’s Stay Strong & Find Joy in the Moments!”
“We live in a vastly complex society which has been able to provide us with a multitude of material things, and this is good, but people are beginning to suspect we have paid a high spiritual price for our plenty.” Euell Gibbons
When I first met Colleen Bunker, LAC, with her needles and certification as a Nutritional Therapist, I was waking up at 2 or 3am many mornings and lying restless for hours. I suffered a chronic hip pain and hoped acupuncture might help me to hike the mountains and snooze through the night. Almost 50, enrolled in massage school, and learningg to use my brain, body and hands in new ways, I felt stressed.
Colleen had begun acupuncture school at age 45, after years of managing a whole-food co-op in Maine. Before that she had an acre market-garden, three green houses and grew food for the store and elsewhere.
While working at the co-op, her father fell terminally ill and moved into her home. She still had two teenage boys around, and a man on the board of the co-op noticed her distress: “You need to come see me,” he said, and those visits were her introduction to acupuncture.
She also met her now-husband, Joe, at the co-op, also a board member. They eventually moved to Vermont where he studied Meditation and Conflict Resolution. She continued to receive acupuncture treatments, and several years later they moved to Portland, Oregon where she enrolled at OCOM (Oregon School of Oriental Medicine). Continue reading “Colleen Bunker’s Journey: Nutrition, Needles, Ease & Flow”
Please forgive me for neglecting my blog–and choosing instead to focus on kinesiology!
Studying the muscles of the human body, memorizing where they originate and where they attach isn’t something I’d ever imagined myself doing. I am comparing this course of study to when I first began to read Shakespeare: It made no sense. As You Like It required translation. Before I could appreciate Orlando and Rosalind’s story, I bought a little red paperback–an American-English translation of this Shakespearean play.
As time went by, I took many more Shakespeare courses before earning my B.A. King Lear was my favorite–but the language of all the plays became natural to read and understand. My vision: Let it be so with kinesiology!
Sometimes the internet, the interstates, airplanes and the speed of life leave us to feel disconnected.
Yet, my sister tells me they now have a milkman–delivering fresh cow’s milk to their doorstep.
In our urban backyard, kale, chard, lettuce and beets continue to feed us, even in March. Maybe this summer we’ll pluck blueberries off the vine. The neighbors grow their own vegetable garden–and invite us to pick figs from their trees.
The internet, fast trains, and certainly being able to type these thoughts on a computer rather than using the typewriter I took to college make a lot of life work way better.
And, when a child is born premature or with complications– like Amy’s son, Oriana’s granddaughter–or a little boy is diagnosed with cancer when he is only four years old–chances of survival are amazingly improved from back when any of us reading these words first took a breath.
In 2012, Edan Owen was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
Carl Gustav Jung
Last year, at the beginning of 2014, I decided it was time to search out–or simply notice–people doing cool things in the world and write their stories. “Cool” is relative, of course. What’s “cool” to one person is “absurd” or “crazy”–or maybe even a pure waste of time to another. I’m pretty sure some of you will find the story of Kathleen Benz puzzling while others of you will be inspiring and wonder “What would that be like? To spend three years cloistered, without any responsibility other than to develop insight and compassion?”
Last year I also began writing articles for a local newsletter once in a while–highlighting people and activities of a local Buddhist organization. So, it only makes sense to merge these two “platforms” once in a while. Since I’m rather new to hanging out with the Tibetan Buddhists at KCC in Portland–and some of these folk have known each other for decades–writing stories has given me a chance to ask questions and get to know people in a way I wouldn’t otherwise.
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
Last year my friend Stacey Hill told me she’d begun a ritual of gathering herself up three words to guide her for the year. She challenged me to do the same, and I did. But, by 2015 I’d already forgotten our new “ritual”. Stacey, of course, was on top of it, and I found a good old-fashioned letter in my mailbox: She announced her three words–“C” words.
“What are yours?” she wrote.
Finally, weeks later, mine woke me in the night–“R” words this time.
In the morning, they were still in my mind, so I texted Stacey. (No time for the old-fashioned letter, I wanted to tell her NOW.)
Only minutes after I’d sent the text, my phone rang–or, rather, sang.
“I love your words!” said Stacey. Which made me happy, and I asked her about her own, and we talked about the mountains of snow that kept her home from school for yet another day–as she drove her car home.
“Hang on a minute, Deb. The plow truck’s in my way!” Her driving in post-blizzard Massachusetts had me feeling nervous–but that’s another story.