The Beautiful Fragments that are Orlando

One week ago, 49 people were killed by one man with two guns. Dozens of others injured.

The world is watching, Orlando. We have witnessed time and again how beauty can come from the broken. But first, the brokenness must be seen. Held. Nurtured. And we see you. I see you. And I will not look away until the pieces begin to be put together again. My love letter to you:

“Shards of glass can cut and wound or magnify a vision. Mosaic celebrates brokenness and the beauty of being brought together.”
– Terry Tempest WilliamsFinding Beauty in a Broken World

I am not Orlando. I’ve never even been to Florida. Orlando is a world away, in my mind. A world of heat and color and Latin grooves. A world that I envision with palm trees, ocean breezes, open sky, tourists in white pants and bright tops, beautiful people, verandas, sidewalk cafes, brightly colored drinks with umbrellas, and gay bars filled to capacity.

I am not Orlando or the Pulse Nightclub or one of the numbers of people shot down at the end of an evening of celebration. I am not one of the invisible people who lost someone they love who may or may not have been out as gay or queer. I am not someone healing from multiple bullet wounds, praying to forget the sounds of the blasts or the wicked laugh from the shooter who was reloading his weapon. Again. And again.

I am not Orlando.

Orlando stands out in my mind as a place shattered in a million pieces, torn apart by bullets and hatred. Orlando struggles mightily at the bottom of my feet, suffocating from all the ways people are stepping on its uniqueness. Orlando sits in the pit of my stomach, screaming to get out where it can begin to turn back into a reality of a diverse group of people living their own unique lives; some broken, some thriving, some sobbing, some dancing, some hanging on for dear life, and some lost.

I am not Orlando.

Orlando may not even be Orlando, at least in the ways we as a society are trying to pigeonhole it. Because the Orlando we are calling Orlando is a subsection of Orlando- a beautiful, diverse, queer-identified community of people who were gathered together to dance to the Latin beat when one man armed with 2 guns began his rampage. In the name of hate. In the name of fear. In the name of nonsense.

I see you, Orlando.

I am not Orlando, but I stand here, open heart and open mind to what it must mean to be in the heat of your pain. I acknowledge it while knowing that I could never fully understand what it is like to be among your ranks. I hold this truth as someone who has identified as queer for 22 years, and as a person who has experienced being fragmented and judged and spat on because of that fact. I say this jagged truth as someone who can easily pass as straight and as someone who has chosen to do that far too often in my life. I admit this as a real person who has spent many nights dancing in the sanctuary of gay bars with people I love and with total strangers, feeling joy and pride and a sense of community that nourished me into the weeks ahead. I cringe when I admit that my formerly righteous activist self has fallen into a blissfully boring life with my partner of 22 years, and that waking up to the news of your tragedy made me remember the fact that this level of hatred and fear still exists in this world.

I am awake, Orlando.

I am your sister, and I will not look away. I am your ally, your posse, your comrade, your witness, and I will not stand idly by. I stand with you.

You are beautiful, Orlando.

And what I know is this; there is resilience and beauty in Orlando. Right now you are shattered, but you have already begun to pick up shards, recognizing that there are glints of possibility in the rubble. The most beautiful mosaics have been created with less.


an open letter to the helpers

 When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
-Fred Rogers

After learning about the devastating school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, I was at a loss for words. Like so many people, I was stunned and sad, trying to figure out what to do with my sense of helplessness. I went to Brené Brown’s Ordinary Courage blog and found the above quote, and then continued to see it posted on social media sites. It spoke to me.

I was raised with the wisdom of Mr. Rogers, but at the time, I had no idea how profound and wise his words were. I just found him comfortable and predictably steady. I liked that. Life can be so complicated, and someone as calm and wise as Mr. Rogers can provide exactly what a kid from a divorced family needs (or any kid, for that matter).

Mr. Rogers was a helper.

Disasters so often make people focus on what’s wrong in the world; guns, violence, poverty, hatred, ignorance, the lack of social services, etc. And these are all facts. There are lots of things wrong in the world. But there are also some amazing and beautiful and freaking incredible things right with the world, and that’s what Mr. Rogers’ mother was so keen on pointing out. There are always helpers somewhere. In any challenging situation, you can focus on the darkness and the pain, or you can focus on the people who are willing to sift through the pain to go directly to the source of healing. In other words, you can be a part of the solution, or….you can be a helper, neighbor.

I want to be a helper.

And I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who know how to be helpers: People who aren’t afraid to stand in the muck for a cause or be spat at for being or thinking differently. People who are capable of sitting with others who are struggling with despair without trying to make it better for their own comfort. People who get that sometimes helping is letting others suffer, but not having to go it alone. People who drop what they’re doing to bake a pie in your kitchen so you don’t have to cry alone, but who don’t force you to eat a damned thing. People who go to the homes of dying people and offer to read, give a massage, watch TV, sit in silence, pray. People who offer their gloves to a homeless person or give a gift card for coffee. People who work with chronically mentally ill people and are willing to see beyond a deficiency and toward wholeness. People who don’t judge other people because of their past or the way they look or the way they talk. People who teach other people. People who continue to learn about how to be a better person. People who open the doors for other people, not because of gender or age, but because of pure kindness. People who spread love and light and joy.

I have known so many helpers, and I have been honored to be mentored and loved by them. Helpers love. Helpers listen. Helpers witness. Helpers heal.

Thank you to all the helpers.

choose love

choose love


 I was sitting in a coffee shop with a fellow yogi sipping chai and discussing my latest interpersonal frustration. I was feeling discouraged and lost, and I was looking for some honest advice about what to do next. I knew my friend could be counted on to cut through the crap with her laser-like perception and ability to say the right thing. I looked at her over the cardamom scented steam, waiting for some words of wisdom.

“Choose love,” my friend said.

I sat there, feeling stunned by this basic suggestion truth. I knew she wasn’t trying to push my concerns aside or wave some positive thinking bullshit in my face. Rather, she was telling me that the loving path is the path the shows up, faces fear, states the facts (even when they’re hard), and exposes the soul when it’s the right thing to do. It’s the path that Brené Brown describes as the courageous path:

What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being rather than knowing requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen. It requires us to dare greatly, to be vulnerable.


To choose love is to choose the audacious and most daring path; the path that requires being willing to be seen and to swallow the needs of the ego (to be right or to be perfect, etc., etc.).  For me, choosing love demands that I stay present rather than closing off. When I’m stressed or sad or hurt, I tend to defend myself by acting like nothing happened- all along having the expectation that ignoring the problem will cease all conflict (often, however, this creates conflict, in myself and in others).

What I’ve noticed in my week of dedicating to choose love is that showing up and being loving might seem harder at the time, but it almost always makes things easier overall. It’s a basic principle in yogic philosophy, too- the idea of Satya, or commitment to truth. I notice all too often that I hold back telling someone my irritation/ disappointment for fear that I will hurt their feelings or that I would be judged for my own feelings. I don’t give others the benefit of the doubt that they can take care of themselves. I know I’ve said it before here, but it’s worth saying again (and I’m speaking as much to myself as I am to anyone who needs the reminder):

You do not always have to take care of other people. They are more often than not able to take care of themselves.

Agreed- there are always exceptions to the rule, but the basic principle is that human beings are resilient and capable. Most people grow best when challenged to show their radiant selves through hard work and dedication rather than over-nurturing. Think about it: those times in your life when you worked hard at something and had something to show for your effort are often the most pride inducing times. Yes, maybe you had guidance along the way, but you had to strike out on your own and often times had to face fear and failure before success happened (I’m thinking of my most recent love of handstands- never would have happened if I had my legs held up every time or if I didn’t topple over a few times). It takes a loving and supportive person to give us the space to grow.

Moving from Choosing Love to a Guerrilla Love Revolution

One of my yoga teachers, Molly Lannon Kenny, reminded me lately that love can be a revolutionary act- that we can actually step outside of our normal way of loving and being in the world to expand love in the community. She created a Facebook group dedicated to this mission, where people can post their acts of “guerrilla love”, and I took it as a personal assignment to spread as much love as I can through the month of December (and possibly- hopefully– beyond).

I began by chanting “Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu” out loud  on my bicycle all the way home (a mantra meaning, loosely: may all beings everywhere be happy and free of suffering and may my own words and deeds contribute to the happiness in the world). I loved it. It made my bike ride feel joyful and lighter than usual. It also helped me to feel connected more positively with everyone along the route- even the cars felt less intimidating and more a part of my community (that’s really saying something, because I often find myself praying for safety from them rather than wishing peace and happiness for them).

My next act of guerrilla love (also bicycle related) was to wish everyone along my route to work a good morning. I started by smiling at the people at bus stops, but I realized that most people don’t look up at people passing by. I felt a bit deranged, straining to smile at people looking down at their smart phones or staring at the street where the bus would be arriving soon. I also noticed how much of a cultural shift it was for me to try to make eye contact with people in a city where that doesn’t happen a whole lot. I decided instead to say “good morning” to the people I could, and it turned out to be stunningly enjoyable connecting to fellow bike riders, construction workers, and people waiting at crosswalks. A small act, but something I wouldn’t normally do without a nudge.

This weekend, my partner and I enjoyed time away at a cottage on a beach. Because it was just the two of us, my guerrilla love act was to pick up trash as we wandered along the shore. I held the idea of loving the planet and doing my small part to care for the sea birds and animals that live in that ecosystem. I assume nobody will notice the lack of bottle caps or plastic junk that littered the driftwood lined beach, but it felt good to me to know that the next person to walk the beach might not be distracted by trash and could instead focus on the beauty that is naturally there.

Loving is a choice: it’s about connecting, nurturing, and growing as human beings. I like the way Hafiz says it best (translation by Daniel Ladinsky):

So that your own heart
Will grow.

So that God will think,

I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and

Because this is a food
Our starving world

Because that is the purest

how a wild rescue dog taught me about love


faint echo of you
remains everywhere I go
I miss you, old girl

Last Monday at 10:20 am, we said goodbye forever to our sweet old girl Emma. It was a tender and painful day, especially since we had spent the past 15 years making sure Emma knew she was loved regardless of her quirky and neurotic cattle dog ways. And Emma gave us more in return than we could have ever expected.

Emma came to our world in the form of a skinny and skittish coyote-looking rescue dog who was frightened of everything. Emma whimpered and yelped far more than she ever barked and she fulfilled her herding duties by nipping at the heels and backsides of the children in our lives. She was a dog on a mission, and that quickly turned out to be chasing as many balls and sticks as possible and making sure that when we left the house, the garbage and cupboards were given a thorough examination, leaving piles of trash and torn up containers in her work zone. When we were with her, Emma made sure that she was either near us or watching us as much as possible, and up until her last breath, she offered a gentle and trusting presence to our lives.

With Emma’s death, I’ve lost one of my greatest teachers of unconditional love, trust, and the value of free-spirited play. Emma has taught me more about the significance of letting go and the importance of cultivating patience than any spiritual guide could have, and even in her absence, I can feel the pull of her teachings in our tiny little home. I recognize the spaces of time that I filled by kissing, loving, feeding, cleaning, and being with her and her pile of toys sits as a reminder that the floor is as good a place as any to work out unwanted frustrations or negative energy. Just grab a plush toy and shake it wildly and in just a few moments, all worry melts into nonsense and the world seems to be a better place.

So, today, in honor of our sweetest and most wildly unique Emma dog, we will take our time and soak in every moment. The bright blooms of spring and the vigorous flight of the birds in our yard seem to echo our bursting hearts. Every tender moment a reminder to love fully and to live in a way that matters.