Sunday, June 26, 2016

This Is How We Are Blessed

Selfless and passionate
birds cry,  melodic.

Rivers and lakes
streams and oceans,
the great majestic seas
roil like thunder,
yet rest our weary souls

This is how we are blessed.

The trunks of trees bear limbs
reaching down and out
from heavens sweaty brow,
holding our hands
made of elm and birch,
of oak and fir,
thunderous heads of hair,
crowns of chakras, all colors,
falling, falling as leaves,
blanketing grass, emerald and awake,
blinding our senses silly –

And this, this is how we are blessed.

Listen -
the human heart beats
like tribal drums,
circled by ancestral fires,
pounding treble and bass,
prodding the spirit onward,
towards destiny,
towards fate,
towards the next step -

In this mad world,
this great globe,
this utterly insane
human existence,
is beauty.


This, this is how we are blessed.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mother Nature, Father Sky

Mother Nature, Father Sky

Check out this wild lightning! I stood out here staring up wondrous and in awe at the sky. Now this, this is Mother Nature, Father Sky.

Also linked HERE

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day - Youngest Of Four, One Folded Flag

My Father was a World War II Marine.  He is not my biological father, but he is my Dad. He raised me and he raised me well.  He taught me about pride, how to stand up for myself, he taught me when to sit back and be silent.  He told me that I was still wet behind the ears and I still am.  He called himself a jarhead and taught me about Semper Fi.

When you think about crime, and active duty and war and all the crazy things that can happen to you, you never think that someone who is in the military is going to be taken by cancer.

When I was 15 years old, cancer took my Father home.  Being 15, that is a messed up time for anyone, you are confused about everything and no one tells you anything.

My memory is acute. I recall when I was a baby and around 2 years old, yet the day of my Father's funeral, I have no memory.  It is funny how the mind works because it protects you from things that may otherwise be disturbing.

I recall clear as day my family in the limousine driving to the cemetery.  It was a beautiful, sunny November and just like a knife cutting bread, WAP!  No memory, nothing, gone. 

I had to ask my Mother did they do a gun salute, did they perform TAPS, did they fold the military flag on his coffin, did they hand over the flag all neatly folded in a triangle?  She had to tell me all of that. I have no remembrance.

The years of illness before my Father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) and the chemotherapy treatments to follow, was devastating. My Father, an over 6 foot healthy, muscled Marine turned into a shell of his former physical self.  Once he was admitted, I was not allowed in the hospital because I was too young.  At the time, you had to be 16 years or older to get into ICU, the Intensive Care Unit, where he was being kept comfortable.

I never saw my Father before he died.

Several years ago, I flew to Washington, DC to see Bob Dylan and also ended up going to Arlington.  It was a pilgrimage.  Have you ever been compelled to do something and have no idea why you wrote a letter, got in your car and went to someone's house or made a phone call or sent an email?  It is your instinct telling you that you need to do this right now.

I said to my friend that I was visiting, we need to go to Arlington.  

If you have never been to Arlington, you must go.  My entire chest caved in.  We had to stop so many times inside Arlington because I literally could not breathe.  Arlington is a mirror of life itself.  There is all of this death, and alongside of that, all of this life. There are birds and gardens, fountains and trees.  Everything is alive and some of the grave markers are beautiful.  Arlington is life and death existing together.

I saw Iwo Jima.  I thought it would be a small sculpture.  Iwo Jima is at least three stories high and bigger than a school.  When I walked upon this sculpture, I felt so tiny to life, to the entire universe.  I was circling and circling this bronze, immense, mammoth sculpture and looked up at it and thought, That's my Father, that is my Father.

It is a long walk from Arlington to Iwo Jima. The entire walk back, I do not even know what I was doing, letting go of all of those years, yet not aware of it.  I was with my friend Ed and he just allowed me to go on and on ranting and crying and screaming.  He was silent, supportive, he understood. 

When we went back to Arlington, I wandered off on a path to some place I was not supposed to be and looked up and saw a large granite sign on the wall.  It was the oath that the sentinel takes for the Tomb of the Unknowns.

I was standing there trying to take photographs and abruptly to my surprise and shock, out of the door right next to me, steps a Marine.  He was but a boy and oh, my goodness, he stopped and saluted me.  It blew my mind.  I felt like I should be saluting him.  He turned on a perfect pivot click of heel and when he walked nothing moved but his feet.

We did not have a schedule.  We just went on a whim.  Neither of us knew anything detailed about Arlington.  We had never been there before.

So, I was sneaking behind the Marine wondering where is he going? knowing I had to follow him and I do. Then he turns around the corner and Oh, my goodness . . . the changing of the guard.

The Marine that saluted me was the next sentinel to stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. 

When we got back from Arlington, this is what I wrote:

My Father was a World War II Marine. His name is Edwin George Koester. He is not my biological father, but he is my Dad. He raised me and he raised me well. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

On Growth : An Avocado Tree From Seed


I absolutely adore growth. When I was 13, my first job was working with the Mercy nuns (Sisters of Mercy) at the convents cultivating their elegant and numerous gardens. 

When I had my first chunk of dirt in the city, I grew everything from carefully constructed herb rock gardens (that my chocolate lab lived in, loved and kept digging up), elegant rose beds of all variations, 7 foot sunflowers, all types of annuals and perennials, tons of vegetables and yes, I grew corn in the city (that grew beautifully and was delicious). 

Last year, I started all of my vegetables and herbs indoors during winter and had so many plants when Spring hit that I had to keep giving them away.

I will try (almost) anything. I have never attempted to grow fruit.

The simplest things in life make me happy like seeing avocado seeds burst with roots! 

This unique fruit is sometimes referred to as the "alligator pear" because it is shaped like a pear, is green and has "bumpy" skin like an alligator. The flesh inside the fruit is only eaten, discard the rest. Except for the seed. 

Avocados contain Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamins B5, B6 and Vitamin E. There are small amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), and B3 (Niacin). An avocado contains more Potassium than a banana.

It is a "high fat food" meaning heart healthy poly and monounsaturated fatty acids. Oleic acid, the fatty acid present in avocados, is the main component in olive oil. This fruit is loaded with fiber and while some nutrients are "fat soluble" (meaning they need to be combined with fat in order to be utilized), simply adding avocado to salads, dips, and spreads increases antioxidant and nutrient absorbance. 

I adore avocados. There are various ways they can be eaten

Simply peel the skin off and eat it like fruit, when the avocado is ripe, use that as a spread [instead of using mayonnaise or a similar unhealthy concoction] on sandwiches, make a dip out of it for raw vegetables, add chunks to a salad, to rice with lime, to salsa, replace fats in recipes with an avocado, and of course, to make guacamole. 

This recipe is my personal favorite: Bruschetta with Avocado and Basil

Easy, cheap, quick , healthy and delicious. 

Avocados ripen well and when purchasing, unless you are ready to use immediately, make sure they are firm to the grip. An avocado is ripe when it is only slightly soft to the touch. 

My love for avocados led me to grow my own tree. This is the easiest thing I have ever grown and it was 100% free. 

To start, use a seed leftover from an avocado: 
  • Wash it well, do not scrub it. 
  • Put three toothpicks on a downward angle into the center of and around the seed.
  • Get a small clear glass container, fill it with water.
  • Suspend the toothpicks across the rims of the container. 
  • Let the seed sit in the water halfway. 
  • Place that in a warm place out of direct sunlight, uncovered. 
  • Replenish water when necessary, do not allow evaporation. 
  • Wait about 2-6 weeks. 

I started with two seeds and one grew. I would start with a few just in case. If none of them grow, keep trying! It takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks to see the root appear.

What occurs first is the seed covering cracks, falls off, and the entire seed cracks and the root can be seen growing out of the bottom.  After that, the new green growth comes out of the top. Replenish water so it is fresh and gently clean both seed and container regularly with plain water, no soap, to get rid of accumulations from humidity.  

After you see the root, follow further instructions HERE

Due to the below freezing temperatures in winter, I keep a 4 foot tropical Croton tree (diverse, complex group of plants ranging from herbs, shrubs to trees) in my living room. The avocado tree will be right at home!

I wonder what else I can grow . . .

Happy growing, eating, and experimenting!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

This Is My High

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© Susan Marie 

For me, nothing truly compares to the serenity of nature. 

I have had an interesting ride thus far. I have done just about every drug in some form in the past except for putting anything in my veins.  At one point in my life, I bordered on alcoholism. I do not regret these times; they were the best and worst times of my life and made me who I am today. 

I am after all, only human. 

My point is I fully understand what it feels like to be high.

I am a strange creature and fully accept this. I am an introvert and extrovert rolled up into one human being. I can be completely sociable and outright solitary. Not everyone is going to understand where I am coming from and that is okay. If anyone takes a single positive thing from what I write, do, or say, then my purpose on this Earth is clear. 

Last year, while out in the woods, a dear friend of mine said to me, “Why are you taking that cell phone out? You need to enjoy all of this around us!” 

I replied, “No, you do not understand. I have to show people what we are seeing, feeling, experiencing. I have a NEED to tell others. I am fully immersed in this moment.”

He looked at me out of the corner of his eye with recognition, and said, “You are a documenter!”

Yes, I am. 

I do not plan my times in nature; rather, nature tells me when to go. Often, I am driving and just turn off the road and decide, Hey, right now; I need to go do this

Today, I went where people rarely travel where there is wildlife and woods, trails and trees, water and brush. I went before it became humid and everyone was out and about enjoying their weekend. I prefer to be alone or with someone close to my soul. I go "elsewhere" in nature. 

While walking along one trail, mesmerized within and with the trees, looking up at their lumbering arms reaching above, out and down to me; I wished to reach my own arms up to meet theirs in some sort of holy supplication. Some sort of forgiveness and gratefulness for the damage humankind has dealt. 

Trees are bridges to other worlds. Their exhalation is our breath and vice versa. Their arms reach up towards the sky, the Upper World, their roots below to the Underworld, and their physical bodies; trunks, exist on our plane, the Middle World. 

Just then, a person rode by on a bike and I did not hear them coming. It is not that I am not aware of my surroundings, quite the opposite, yet in these instances, I am accessing someplace else.

When they rode up, I stopped, stared, and gave them that Robert De Niro look wondering what they could possibly want from me. All they ended up saying was, Excuse me, sorry. Then they rode off. 

I smiled at them and just kept walking. 

When in nature, I step between and within two worlds. I fully see this physical world, where people are playing golf, are with their families on swing-sets, walking dogs, riding bikes, yet that world becomes wispy, like fog. A veil lifts that I wholeheartedly step into, quite easily and without effort. 

This is the realm of nature. Where the wind whips my hair all around me and her breath pushes towards me, and I am reborn, cleansed, grounded. 

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I take photos as I go, snapping views that to me are not typical. Peering through leaves at bridges, spotting a critter hopping along a branch, the way the sun dapples my hand immersed in water. I crouch in leaves and dirt and get down low to rocks and water. I close my eyes and feel the Earth beneath my feet. I place my hands and feet in the water to feel the energy of this universe. 

Nothing exists around me but this, these moments, that energy; although I am fully aware of my other surroundings, they are secondary to these moments. 

I take videos of what I see to come back and show others - hoping that someone experiences what I do and feels the energy of the moment. I record audio of what I hear, the birds, ducks, critters, and things I have yet to discover. I record the water speaking, babbling, bringing me a sense of belonging. My ultimate goal is that others explore the momentous, hallowed ground that surrounds us daily. 

I do belong in both worlds. Completely to one. 

Today I came upon a grove of trees of varied species, enormous, beauteous, wondrous.
Before I approach a tree, I place my palm gently upon the mid-trunk similar to consoling or greeting a person, gentle, with compassion, not abrupt or intrusive. I leave my palm there feeling if this tree welcomes me. I use my intuition. 

[If you have never done this before, please do. Who cares if people stare at you, they stare at me too. We are, after all, a strange species and that is okay.]

I listen with my heart, close my eyes and crouch down close to the tree where it meets the ground, like prayer, in reverence. I take a photo of the view from the ground and if that is the tree for me, I proceed. 
I found two trees that welcomed my presence.

The first, a big ole Ash and after placing my palm upon the bark, I rested my spine right up against the tree and closed my eyes. My upper body started shaking, feeling that immense energy. It was subtle, the shaking, one cannot see by looking but inside of my body, yes. More importantly, that shaking felt like fear. 

That emotion and feeling went all the way up and down my spine and settled in my mid-back, yet did not frighten me. Whether it was my fear, or belonged to the tree, I am not sure. I turned to face the tree and instead of attempting to gain energy, I gave. 

I placed both my arms around the trunk as far as I could reach and the love I felt was intense. 

 Image title 

This felt like one of those hugs you receive from someone that holds you so dear and you mean the world to them. This is what I was doing with and for the tree and it, back to me. Perhaps the tree was ill or plain tired. Maybe I was too. All I am sure of is that we both needed love. 
The second tree was a Sycamore, pictured above. The crux of the tree branches into two massive trees and the stark white branches screech to the heavens above. This tree fully gave to me.
I walked around the tree repeatedly seeking the best angle for a photo. I could not resist resting my palms on the bark. There are places on this tree molded for the human body, little indents that fit your shoulder, your hip, and your head. 

Around and around I go with this tree and I care less and less about everything "out there." 
Before the trees, there was this little path worn a bit by the edge of the main trail.  I went down there and found a cool breeze blowing by the banks of the creek. There was a massive concrete slab from industry long past. I sat upon that slab and peered down. 

What I saw was the reflection of the tree leaves and the sky in the water and I smiled. I laid my back flat against the cool concrete, stretched my legs out and felt my spine instantly relax into what would normally be something undesirable - concrete, hard, cold, and dirty. 

I never care if my clothes, shoes, or I get dirty because I enjoy that. My white socks now stained with mud, my shorts full of grass and leaves, the backs of my calves splotched with mud and clay from splashing through creeks. 

Lying on that slab though, the breeze blew my hair all around, the birds were singing, ducks flying overhead, a woodpecker far off, and even though others were walking on the main trail, not one person saw me there meditating on that concrete slab. I did not wish to be bothered and I was not.

On my way out, another person tried to talk to me. They said, "Hello!" and I smiled. 

They asked me what I was doing. I said, "Taking photos."
They replied, "Of what?  

I replied, bewildered, "Of nature . . . " 

I kept walking wondering if I am the only person who sees two worlds and not just one this day. 
Sometimes when I leave nature, I want to hold onto that energy, that bliss and know I cannot. I go to nature to heal, to ground, to have my own questions answered, to seek peace. Today was different. 

Walking out on the old dirt path, I felt grateful and lucky to be alive and awake. My limbs work, even if sometimes I experience pain and although everyone I came across today was not where I was, I was tired in a healthy fashion, in a healing way. I walked out of there knowing everything was simply okay. 

I did feel a bit sad watching others sitting in their vehicles talking on cell phones on such a beautiful day and crossing the street with grimaces on their faces while holding babies. Some people were yelling at their children in the park. I wished that just a small spark would light up for everyone and that they too, would begin to see what I did and do. 

I got to my Jeep, started her up, looked around me once and gave thanks to all that is. I allowed the breeze to wash over me once again, so sweet, so cleansing. 

My goodness, I thought, smiling, this is divinity. 

This is my high

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Eulogy" on Women For One

The wind
magnificent and shrieking,
like some wild woman,
unabashed and naked.

Her brow wet
with brine,
upturned to the most holy sky,
arms raised
in supplication
to a dying world,
all that is.

And she,
beneath Gods and Goddesses,
hair whipping wind,
eyes brazen,
brown and soft.

A touch of
madness and desire,
no human soul

Her howling
becomes one with the wind,
distress signals to the raiment,
the ancient raiment
that poets and sages
sat under and above
for millenniums.

Legs stretched
in front of her,
toes uncurled,
she lays back
allowing to be cleansed
by the pelting rain,
the dying winter,
the oncoming of spring,
a rebirth of births.

A eulogy to the past,
a welcome to the present,
an embrace to the future.

What it holds
is of no concern,
for she knows
where home is,
away from this society,
away from the busy-ness of life,
away from monotony
and dramatics,
away from this life
with triviality.

She is here
waiting for you,
to set you free
from chains
you have bound yourself with.

Whip your shoulders back,
allow them to fall.
Feel the weight

Grab her hand, willing,
pure and desirous.

Show her
how your soul
show her
how your eyes light up,
show her how you have released
from your very soul,
all the toxicity
of existence.

She is Earth, dirt,
rocks and stones,
limbs of trees,
mighty oaks and maples,
the birch and elm.

She is the silt of fault lines
holding this globe

She is the mighty maelstrom,
every season,
without apology.

She is you,

Come, come and relish this moment,
even if only once.

Dine as a human starved.

Sing of the grace bestowed upon you
for you are born to be supreme,
you are born with the ability to fly,
you are born with the gift to see
with six senses,

You are powerful in your wildness,
in your pure soul self.

She is here to tell you
to scream and cry,
until there is no speech,
to the skies,
to the clouds,
to the falling rain.

Let it wash upon you
like a sweet cool dream,
and come, come my dear soul.

Do not wait.
No hesitation.
Moments are fleeting.

She is here,
with you,
yet not eternal.

Hurry, hurry, dear!

She will share secrets with you,
teach you how to see
with eyes
that have no place
in the land of humankind.

Each blade of grass,
leaves of the trees of her mane,
like a thoroughbred racing, wondrous,
eyes staring, mad.

There is no finish line,
only now, here.

This moment.

Disrobe beneath this day.

Give thanks to the Great Creator,
to Mother Nature.

To the spirits that speak to you
in your dreams.

To the souls that have guided you
to this place,
this patch of Earth,
this precious time.

Bow your head in prayer,
dear soul.

For you are in the presence
of divinity.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Am I Dreaming Or Awake?

Published on Mogul

Gifts from Lake Erie. A Zen moment. Try it. 

"Pause now to ask yourself the following question: Am I dreaming or awake, right now? Be serious, really try to answer the question to the best of your ability and be ready to justify your answer.” - Naumaan Omair

I reply:

"Both. I myself am wide-awake, yet the society I must engage in is a dream. Everything I perceive is based upon my perspective. The furniture I sit upon is made of atoms I cannot see, as well as the floor and the walls, as well as the grass, trees, and dirt outside my door. My human mind perceives these things to be as they are due to memory, due to the conditioning of the mind. Therefore, I see this world as far as my human capacity allows, however, my spirit is soaring, like the smooth flight of the starlings that land upon my balcony.

Everything is energy. Everything is alive. My world is yet another world existing side by side with the busy-ness of society, with "out there" and while I am awake, when I leave this pure state of being to venture between worlds, I step into a dream, an unreality. One I must exist in while viewing both worlds simultaneously.

As Whitman stated: "A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is anymore than he."

My focus shifts to the lyrics of The Soft Parade:

"Can you give me sanctuary?
I must find a place to hide
A place for me to hide.

Can you find me soft asylum?
I can't make it anymore
The man is at the door.


 . . . and it hit me, again, like someone clocked me right in the jaw, that all of us, everywhere, no matter your profession, education, financial class, ethnicity, religion, political status, belief system, sexual gender, orientation, and race, that this theme of searching for something more than THIS, something more than existing as a human being, work, home, play, work, is integral to staying somewhat sane and grounded in an ever-changing climate. 

I am asked my opinion in diverse subjects. I have no idea why. I am you, as you are me, so in this great glass globe we all live in; such questions cause me to wonder.

Oddly enough, I often have answers, they may be my own answers gutted from life experience, as anything truly needs to be in order to tell some sort of truth, however, it, a definitive answer to anything, eludes me.  

I struggle and through my struggling, I have come to know myself. I know when to back off and when to shout, when to be grateful and when to say, I deserve better, when to push forward and when to lie sleeping. I absolutely feel all of my emotions and allow them to come, then pass. I rant and rave, kick and scream and smile and laugh just like everyone else. I have a right to, I am only human.

I learned these things due to other people showing me myself through their eyes and their actions towards me. I create boundaries, keep true to my ethics as humanly possible, say sorry, thank you, you are welcome and do my best to remain humble and grateful, no matter what occurs in my life.

However, I am here to tell you that there is no magic cure, no pixie dust angelic winged creatures to come and save us from ourselves, no one is there to lift us up when our face falls in the dirt.

We are built with intrinsic strength before we even came to this specific plane, regardless of what you may believe, which I respect, I do trust in the notion that there is definitely more than simply existing, working, playing and that if I pass my palm, lucid and glass-like, three feet beside me right now that I am indeed accessing another realm entirely. Can I see it? Thank goodness, no. Can I feel it? Often.

Anyone that asks for my personal opinion about anything and everything knows that I am going to speak directly and as truthfully as I have learned. Right now, I am not telling you these things to bring you down or cause you to lose hope, far from it, I am telling you these things because you are your own safety net.

That's right, I said it. YOU.

Not your spouse, your children, your lover, your friends, your pets, your work, your art, your practice, your play, not your family or parents. You must grab your own self out of the muck and mud of life. It is the only way you learn that you are powerful, that your choices matter, that you are gifted with the innate sense and intuition to know what is good and bad for you at any given moment of every second of every day. 

You choose.

Right now, I am utterly at peace and comfortable writing here to you listening to the starlings that have nested in the crawlspace above my ceiling. What I am writing, I truly have no idea for my fingers are just typing the letters on a keyboard and I am sitting here watching them type without really thinking at all about what I am saying and if it makes any rational sense. I do not care to offend nor care if I do offend and most importantly, I truly am not really typing this from here.

All I need to do is tap into what is already inside of me, that energy, and shove out all of the external sounds and people and BAM! there I am, in a mystical place of being, a place that is pure and I am protected and there is no danger, nothing to fear, just divinity.

Without understanding fully how this occurs, nor do I care to connect the dots, I have immense hope and faith, yes, faith, that this place I am accessing is here and now, with me, this moment, not after death nor before life, not in five years or tomorrow, not yesterday or when I was eight years old but right now, here, with you, alone in this place I come to write.

Is that magic? No. Is it God? I have no idea. Do I think I am a warrior Goddess? Definitely not. Am I crazy? Maybe . . .

I do know that I am a solitary human being that understands that we know nothing and in knowing nothing, we are open to everything and in these often-muddled states of being human, by accessing the purity of energy in various forms through nature, people, places and practices; is where I find peace.

It is in such places my heart is fully open and alive and my eyes light right up. This is where I face my shadow and light, where I become embodied and disembodied, where I stretch my imagination so far that fiction becomes reality and nothing is real, yet absolutely and without doubt, realistic. This is dreaming while awake, thoughts while sleepwalking, living within two worlds that are one, in a spirit shell of a person striving to simply be a good soul.

I am not attempting to be poetic, new agey, religious or even remotely spiritual.  I am, simply me, telling these things to myself and thought, hey, it might be a good idea to share these thoughts with you.

When you step out into this beauteous, demented, immensely wondrous, and utterly insane world, remember that you are not broken, there are no failures, only lessons, that doing your best is success and trying is how life teaches you about yourself.

Choose to pay attention. Choose to learn.

Become a student and a teacher of life.
You must trust that you, my dear soul, are more powerful than your own human mind may ever comprehend.

This is heaven, here and now. This is life.
This, my friends, is reality.

Taken by me at the Hard Rock Cafe, Niagara Falls, NY.