song[s] of my self: epigenetic lamentations

During the summer of 2017 – a time of significant change in my life – including the rupture of my marriage, an upcoming milestone birthday, and a relocation to a quiet rural place with dark skies and an abundance of fauna and flora — I literally heard myself: I had unconsciously begun a meditative practice of singing or humming verses and melodies of sorrow, wonder, gratitude — or of the mundane. They were autonomic and presumably original, lamentations.

Serendipitously, I retroactively encountered a May 2017 piece published in Yes! magazine about the revival and history of “lament singing” in Finland. To find that I was actually participating in a Finnish tradition that I had never experienced or heard of — but that was somehow still in me — in some cellular, trans-generational or ancestral place — felt like a bridge to my lineage — to all my unknown women-kin.

The lyrics and tunes occurred spontaneously over several months, and I often automatically repeated the same one over and over while working, cleaning, cooking, gardening, walking or driving. I sung or hummed them mostly while alone, but sometimes they would emerge aloud in public places — I didn’t realize that I was in song or know how long I had been doing it.

People who laugh, cry, sing and talk to themselves aloud in the street are not “crazy — we are comforting, raging, celebrating, mocking and mourning ourselves, our lives, our experiences and the world.

The lamentations seem similar to freestyle rap or improvised jazz — where if the flow is interrupted or one becomes too self-aware or self-conscious, the rhyme, run, beat, cadence or magic can be lost.

I’ve long wished that I had recorded myself singing or humming these songs when they were so reliable and prolific for me — I treasure those impromptu lyrics and melodies that buoyed me during that hard time — even though I can’t remember them.

My songs, which sung themselves out — over hours, days or weeks are now mostly gone — but occasionally one of them will revisit me — like a surprise visit from a long-lost, dear friend. Recently, I had the epiphany that maybe these lamentations intentionally – as in metaphysically – resist being recorded or remembered — that maybe they’re meant to be ephemeral and recalled epigenetically only as the authentic and urgent need to soothe, praise, thank, confess or cope arises.

“In Finland, the ancient musical tradition known as lament singing is seeing a revival. In the past, the custom was observed at funerals, weddings, and during times of war. But today, practitioners have a modern application for it: musical therapy. By providing an opportunity to process emotions through song, lament singing can confer mental health benefits to modern practitioners.” – Tristan Ahtone

“How an Ancient Singing Tradition Helps People Cope With Trauma in the Modern World”
Yes! Magazine

Song of Myself, excerpt from verse 6,
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,

And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,

And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young men? and old

And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,

And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it

And ceas'd the moment life appear'd

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,

And to die is different from what any one supposed

and luckier.

Sentience & the exclusive velveteening of pets and familiar animals

My dog, Woody, wakes up and wants breakfast – not just breakfast, but a very expensive kibble prepared with gravy and a quarter cup of warmed pumpkin (his dinner is more elaborate – it’s offered like a buffet plate or poke bowl). He eats, goes outside to do his business and investigate a little, comes back inside, and stops and sits on the rug to think, “Where is my baby?”

He goes around the house on a search for it, and comes back with a flying squirrel toy, ready to play. He bumps the laptop off my thighs several times to engage me, and we play. Later, he lets me know he’d like to go outside; we head to the basement, but he doesn’t want to wear his coat – he knows dogs don’t wear coats, and he hides behind the full clotheslines; we come to an agreement, and he permits me to put the coat on him.

We walk, but I don’t want to go to the park, so we walk through the neighborhoods; but when Woody gets to an arterial street which borders the park, he stops, looks, then looks at me, and pulls, to suggest that we should turn south right there and go to the park – because he’s actually in the mood for the park.

Woody Guthrie & the Twin Sycamores of Portage Park, Chicago 2016

When we finally arrive home after our very long walk, i dry his paws and legs one by one and also his undercarriage; he kisses my face in an annoyed gratitude; then, he lets me know he wants to be close – he has two comfy dog beds and my son’s vacant bed, but he wants to be near – and climbs into a deep club chair made for one – onto my lap – he weighs 65 lbs.

Continue reading “Sentience & the exclusive velveteening of pets and familiar animals”

Feed the wildlife! (a radical imperative)

I set out natural stone salt-licks year-round for deer in two spots on the perimeter of the land I occupy [I’ve witnessed birds, and I suspect other wildlife enjoy/require them too].

I buy bags of apples on sale and try to set out 5 lbs a couple evenings per week for the deer during winter; I cut up a few for possums and rabbits nightly.

Deer in the full Wolf Moon’s light right beneath the triptych windows,
January 28, 2021
A deer foraging not on apples I set out, but on “weeds” – wildflowers, herbs and grasses
just beneath the triptych picture windows of my living room as I went to open the drapes to the Full Moon’s light – a second dawn, just before I retired to bed at 1:00 AM in the morning.

I feel like the salt lick, the small sweet apples and fruit scraps are my insignificant attempt at respect, alms, honoring and reparations for all we have destroyed and to the survivors who endure and remain in the middle of a cold winter. This is agro country, and not a speck of corn or fruit is left behind for wild animals in the barren cornfields and orchards that were once forests filled with acorns, walnuts, pine nuts, pawpaws and twigs – and prairies filled with grasses, herbs and wildflowers.

Continue reading “Feed the wildlife! (a radical imperative)”


my hair holds memory,
i know this because

i cut my own hair today

her, at ten.

as i held the ends

in my hands

i said


did you touch the Merced with me and my boy?

i said,

do you remember my father?

and my other precious loss?

i said,

do you remember the first dog?

i said,

were you here when

i still loved

and was loved?

i said,

you were there when my mother was so near death’s door

i said,

and when i found and lost,

and lost and found, my Self again?


i still have possessions from all those times

and places

but no skin,

my skin long shed, my bone resorbed

and renewed over and over

but my long hair is still me from many years ago

that is why hair is so precious,

i thought,

this is the genesis

of what i have always

mistook as phobia

but no,

i know today


physical memory is held particularly, and only, in my hair

more than Samsonian

or vanity

or femininity

my long hair


my body
my health
my energy
my sensation
my emotion
my years
my identity
my essence

thank you

for growing

for remembering

for showing

for staying

for flowing

for tangling

for blowing

for graying

for glowing

for floating

for knowing

with me

all these years


no more cuts
without ceremony

i promise
i will never agree to lose you