Saturday, December 3, 2011

Amazing Opportunity: Found Object Poetry

I assembled these poems using subject lines from spam email. These are circa 2007; I just came across them again. I remember that for awhile I was excited to get spam so I could add to my cache of lines. All !? are original, other punctuation is added. They are otherwise unedited.

Why be an average guy?

Amazing Frankfurt Symbol!
Amazing opportunity!

Why be an average guy
When when when
The front brake fluid reservoir can be flushed?
The Germans know how to do it

I’m looking for you.
Why don’t you buy some medications?
All medications to cure yourself
Terrific gains possible

On your next visit
Sex can help

Everybody knows that
I’m not a Nigerian Prince
Even I know that

Some Observation

Tooth & unit, some observation.
Simply put,
No more loosing with this

At least in the 1990’s you know who your friends and enemies were
Do you have a New Age book?

Who would want this when
Books are hard to kill
Books are hard to understand

Don’t miss this unique chance-
I’m a passionate lover again.
For venereal, this resemble:
As weak is to bullseye
So this Facebook thing will fail.

Check out the wonders of pound melting,
Check out this cookbook:
Enlargement of your pepper.

He said he’d have to think about it for awhile.
I didn’t believe it the first time, either.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Witch of Endo, pt. 4: Surrender

No. I say to my doctor. In fact: Fuck, no. You can’t have my cervix. Let’s just schedule another laparoscopic clean-up. Go in, find the Endo, zap the Endo, and I’ll be home by noon. And it has to be early in November because I have travel plans.   

My OB/Gyn  has known me since I was 18, when I had my first surgery for an ovarian cyst. He does not take the swearing personally. Over the years, he has cut me open, soldered me up, held my hand. He’s the one who told me I was unlikely to have children. I have chronic pelvic pain and this is the guy who has to poke at me and ask me to describe the pain. I can be very descriptive. (The ultrasound tech his office once told me that he’d heard worse language from women on the ultrasound table than he had in his many years in the Navy.) Besides all this, my doctor respects my choices on how I live with and manage this disease. But when Urban comes up to the scheduling office so we can cram a surgery onto our calendars, Doc says to him: She made me a liar. I said the next time this happened, we were taking the cervix out. I said that the time BEFORE the last time. And the time before that! She’s not listening to me. You try talking to her.

You always did call me your problem child I say sweetly to the Doc, who I really am very fond of. He throws up his hands and walks off.

Ok, Toni, I turn to the surgery-scheduling lady, what’ve you got open?

We schedule the surgery for the second week of November. I’ll start getting back to work a week after the procedure. I’ll take it easy for a few weeks but it’s ok. I’ll have plenty of time to recover before heading to India for the holidays, so it won’t screw that up. I can live with this. I’m used to maneuvering around it.

On the way back from the appointment, I sit grimly in the car, gritting my teeth against the pain, absolutely certain I am doing the right thing. I will not have my cervix removed. My doctor thinks I’m insane. He believes that the Endometriosis has eaten into the tissue of the cervix and that these superficial solutions – going in with a laser and cauterizing the Endo on the surface of organs-- have outlived their usefulness. Whey they took out my uterus, it was riddled and veined with Endo (technically, once it eats into organs, it’s called Adenomyosis). I don’t care. I didn’t give a damn about my uterus: it was nothing but trouble and I wasn’t planning on using it anyway. Giving up my last ovary was angsty but not a hard decision to make, just a hard one to accept. But I will not have my cervix removed. Anyway, it’s a major surgery. I would have to be in the hospital for a couple of days, and it’s a longer recovery. I don’t have the time. I have a life, goddamn it. 

My last surgery was in January. I brood over this and watch the familiar scenery slide by on 394. I want to turn on the radio but I’m afraid I would snap the knob right off.

Instead, I review the facts with Urban, and ask him: What do you think?

It’s mostly rhetorical; I know I can count on Urban’s reassurance. But he is quiet for a long time. Then he says that he thinks the reason Gede told me to do the series of ritual baths (which I’m in the middle of) was to help me reach a more open emotional state so I could hear what I needed to hear, and accept it. (Huh? you’re wondering, Who said what? Ritual baths, wtf? Sorry, darlin…that’s a post for another day). He keeps his eyes on the road, but reaches for my hand.

I want to yank my hand away. This is not what I needed to hear! But I feel a truth in my body, in the beat of my blood, the vibrations in my pain seem to resonate a yes. He’s right. I shut my eyes and don’t say much. Urban drops me off at my sister’s, where it takes me all afternoon to talk myself into what I already know. My cervix has to go. I can’t keep putting it off. At this point, I’m just being stubborn.

The idea of this surgery terrifies me. I don’t know why. I’ve had so many other bits cut out, one at a time: appendix, gallbladder, left ovary, uterus, right ovary. I’ve had more surgeries for Endo than I can count.

But this. This.

45 mins -- 001


It’s a pretty major surgery, since they are cutting out an organ. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus; sometimes it’s removed with a hysterectomy. Also, it’s connected to the top of the vagina (the cervix-bone connected to the vagina-bone!), where there are lots and lots of nerves; my doc says it may be more painful than the hysterectomy. So, yeah. Not fun.

And what if… oh, crap, what if? Some women have “decreased sexual function” (i.e. are unable to have an orgasm) after having their cervix removed. Of course, constant pelvic pain also decreases sexual function (duh) so my chances of having an orgasm right now are roughly 0 anyway. When I brought up this sucktastic, potentially life-altering side-effect with Urban, he said…well, sorry, what he said is private but let’s just say I’m not so worried anymore.

That leaves the worst, the real: what if this doesn’t help at all?

For all these years, this has been the last step, the one thing we could do if nothing else worked. Well, nothing else did work. We’ve tried it all: conventional, alternative, metaphysical. I’m better than I was before but it’s still pretty bad. What if I have this surgery but I don’t get better? One of the things Gede said is that I have to believe I can recover. Deep inside, I don’t know if I really do believe that. I’ve lived with this pain so long. It seems…inevitable. When I try to imagine or envision a life that is pain-free, I come up blank. I have vague images of being able to drive again, and ride my horse more often…but it seems suspect. Have I been holding off on this surgery because I’m afraid it won’t work?

Here I am, coolly assessing one of my organs and deciding whether to kick it out of the club of Saum. Trying to figure out what I’m really feeling. I talk to my sister all day. I talk to Urban all night. I go out to the barn and lean against Styx for so long that she dozes off. Then I call my doctor and tell him to schedule the whatever-the-medical-term-for-cervix-removal-is. I expect him to gloat a little. He doesn’t.

I hate breaking myself into pieces. I want to think of myself as whole, entire, not made up of disposable parts that can be excised and thrown away.

I don’t get any better at this. I WANT MY CERVIX. I’m not exactly sure why. But I do. It’s me. I’ve imbued it with meaning.It’s the part of me where the inside meets the outside. It’s one of my thresholds.  In sex, when so many other boundaries blur, this is where you becomes me. This is what holds me in. I feel like if I keep giving parts of myself up, it will all come spilling out: guts and organs, everything raw and essential. What will be left of me? This fear feels simultaneously terrifying and ridiculous.

I also feel failure. Aren’t I supposed to heal myself? Or something?

Maybe not. Maybe I’m meant to be unhealed and raw. Open wounds are passageways. Burden is a door. I feel like I’ve been braced in this threshold for so long. What am I holding on to?

I remember something the Doc said: Saumya, this is not something you did.

One of my other doctors (I have, like, a whole panel of them) once said: This disease has put so many limits on you, but you do so much. I’d like to see what you’d be capable of if you were healthy.

You know what? So would I. So would I.
Fuck yes. Let’s find out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Even Knowing How It Will End, We Choose This Love

The story of my dogs is a long one. It goes back, and back, and back. They are integral to my life, not as chapters but as currents that rush through everything. I have a much longer piece about my dogs –-sort of— that I’ve been working on over the years. Maybe this will become a part of it.

Last night, a little dog that was not my dog, died. Tiger (he was named by a six year old, ok?) belonged to my sister and her family, especially my nieces.

Tiger was old. I am on my third generation of big dogs; he lived with us for about a year when Urban & I had our first dog. If you’re one of the people who knew Kalia, well, you know. If you’re not, I pity you. She was a wise and charismatic animal, regal and kind. Clever. A Doberman Pincher.

Tiger was a MinPin – A Miniature Pincher. He looked just like Kalia but he weighed about six pounds. Like most little dogs, he didn’t know or care that he was a little dog. When he spoke (in my head), it was with the voice of Robert DeNiro. He picked fights with Kalia, but only when she was laying down. He would then retreat under an ottoman and peer out while she barked and raged at him. He wasn’t stupid.

The two of them would curl up and sleep together. Sometimes when Kalia kicked in her sleep, she would send him flying. He would shake himself, look around, and go sleep on her other side.

After Tiger went home to what we called his birth family, we missed him. Of course we still saw him on visits to my sister’s, and our frequent phone calls were interrupted by his alarmed yap-squeaks, and her exasperated “Tiger!” As the years went on, he barked less, but with more focus. We had to put Kalia down, but kept two of her pups: Asha and Dagaz. Tiger mellowed out, but would pee in my nieces’ rooms if he was displeased with them. When the doorbell rang, his bark was high and sharp, carrying. Dagaz died, and, unable to bear Asha’s grief-stricken howling, we got Barnabas, a Shepherd mix. Tiger developed some health issues, and spent more time in his cushy basket. We had to put Asha down, and Shidiri the Great Dane came to live with us. Over at my sister’s, Tiger had a few seizures. He stopped noticing when people came to the door. He napped in the sun, dreaming whatever sweet dogs dream.

Yesterday I was over for a visit. Grey and fragile, Tiger carefully tottered over and pressed against my ankles. He was shivering. He wouldn’t move. I reached down and rested my hand on his back, and I knew. He was asking for help. He was tired. He was ready. “Ok, buddy,” I said softly, “ok.” He stopped shivering.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but resolved to call my sister the next day and, and as gently as possible, raise the subject of putting Tiger to sleep. We talked about other things instead, and I went on my way. Tiger was out on the deck when I left. It was nice and sunny. He didn’t notice me leave.

A few hours later, my sister found Tiger in the woods behind her home. He appeared unharmed but was disoriented and obviously fading. They took him to the vet and kindly made the decision to have him put to sleep. We met them there, and I sat next to my niece while she held the dog she had known her whole life. They gave him an injection. He died, quietly and in comfort.

It is hard knowing, when they come home with us, tiny and fat and full of possibility, that one day we will have to watch them die. The pain of loss seems to compound. I came home and cried for Tiger, for my sister and her family, for myself, for all the dogs I’ve said goodbye to.

I’d like to think that dogs go to Elysium, the afterlife that the Greeks imagined for heroes. The Elysian Fields contain whatever you need for happiness: vast fields, lots of rabbits, humans who really know how to throw a stick. Soft blankets, a gentle hand. Whatever sweet dogs dream.

October 14, 2011
Dark River Farm

front pasture mist
photo by Stomy Persaud


I lost one of my own dogs a few years ago. Dagaz was Kalia’s son. Tiger would have been his uncle, if dogs thought of things in such a way. Here’s the letter I wrote to my friends and family at the time:

Dagaz was literally born into our hands. Asha followed a few hours later. Kalia (his mom) had a special relationship with him; she used to pick him up and carry him around by his butt. After awhile she would tenderly deposit him in the bathroom trash can. I think this explains why he always loved stuff in trash cans.

When he was growing up, he cost us a small fortune in vet bills; he ALWAYS had stitches for one thing or another. He and Asha and the rest of the Doberman 6-pack had fun up at our friends’ cabin where we all gather for sunshine and bonfires. We got to know each dog by the shape of their head when they came up to be petted in the dark; most of the time when I dropped my hand down it was Day’s oddly square noggin beside me. The dogs would bound through the woods, go for rides in the boat, and play hard with each other. Every morning I would wake up and think, Oh, no, it’s storming, and then be confused by clear skies…six Dobermans running is the sound of thunder. It’s hard to believe that  Asha is the only one left of all those sweet, sleek beauties. I love my Dobermans, but I sure wish they lived  longer.

Every animal is its own being, just like us, and my relationships with them are complex, aggravating and fulfilling. You can’t lie to animals. They teach me more about myself than I want to know sometimes. I have always had a close affinity to my dogs, but Dagaz saw me through the worst emotional and physical pain of my life. He learned to “stand steady” so I could lean on him when I had trouble getting up. When I was well, he followed me as I wandered around getting to know our land, or  sat with me on my late nights with books. No matter where I was, no matter the time of day of night, I could drop my hand down and find him there beside me. His presence was silent and constant. The room feels empty now, at 3 am with only me in it.

I’m glad I played with Asha & Day today, took the time to watch them run down the hill and up the hill and jump on each other and grin at me. They are so much a part of this land. They were thrilled to have me spend a couple of minutes with them on my way out to the barn. I thought it might rain so I opened the door to the porch (our version of a doghouse) for them. Dagaz jumped up on the couch and looked happy. I headed out to the barn. When Urban came home he let the dogs into the house. I opened the front door a few minutes later, and found my dog collapsed at the foot of the stairs. He was gone.

I don’t know if animals understand or care about the concept of names, but my animals are named with care. “Dagaz” is Norse. It means daytime, the fullness of light, midday, midsummer, the high point of the cycle. They say every dog has its day; Day’s day was June 21, Summer Solstice. It’s not his birthday but it’s what his name means, what I think of as his essence. In the Elder Futhark rune system, the divinatory meaning of Dagaz is the spiritual path. The symbol looks like an angular infinity symbol, or, to me, like Shiva’s drum. I name my animals for what I see in them: I saw vigor and sensitivity in Dagaz.  I also name them for what they show me of myself, and what my relationship with them brings me. More than anything, Dagaz helped me both to face my pain and turn my back on it when needed. He taught me patience and emotional honesty. He taught me about the land, where the good shady spots are on the hill, and that possums really do faint when frightened. He brought me constancy and light. It’s hard to imagine this place without him.

But it’s not just me that has lost him. Urban is also grieving and sad. Asha is confused and whining a lot. She keeps running around looking for her brother. We are a little worried about her, but she is eating and drinking just fine. We will probably stick close to home for awhile, as she is unaccustomed to being alone. She will ride in the truck with us tomorrow (oh, well, today) morning when we go to the vet to take Day’s remains to be cremated.

I don’t know what we will do with his ashes, probably scatter them on the hill where he liked to run. I have been thinking of putting down some wildflower seeds, maybe we will scatter those, too.  It would be nice to walk in knee-high flowers next midsummer, and remember him. I will drop my hand down and find him there beside me, his presence silent and constant.

June 11, 2008
Dark River Farm

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall Morning, Dark River Farm

I was up all night. This is not unusual.

I am curled up, reading The Sandman (again), and eating a lime popsicle. After awhile I become aware of a sound that’s been going on for awhile. A rumbling, engine noise, like a plane…what? Hovering over my house? Then I realize it’s the sound of combines and tractors, my farmer neighbors bringing in the harvest.

Around 3 am, the sounds fade.

As it starts to get light out, Barnabas (aka B-dog) nudges me and does a little dance. I throw on my cloak, which smells like woodsmoke and horse, and head out to the deck to take a look at the morning. 

The world is muted, earth-toned with dawn. Mist covers the pasture. The trees are changing into their autumn gear; now and then there is the soft crackle of a leaf drifting down to join its brethren on the ground. A breeze ruffles by and it sounds like Rice Krispies everywhere. One of the horses sticks her head over the fence and huffs in my general direction. Breakfast is on everyone’s mind.

B trots down the stairs, does his dog stuff and trots back up to me.

I lean on the rail and look out over my land. The pasture grass is getting shaggy and pale. A rabbit lopes across the field in static bursts: leap leap freeze, leap leap freeze. The pines are lean shadows. I can see into the barn through the huge sliding door. In a month it will be shut. In two months it will be frozen shut and we will have to use the small people-door that is ignored all summer. Sabbath’s head appears out of the tiny cat-portal set into the tack room door, then vanishes. The flap slaps shut, and Barnabas looks toward the noise. I don’t blame Sabbath. The tack room is heated. The outside is not.

Barnabas & I stand side by side. He presses against my leg, his tail rhythmically whaps-whaps-whaps me. I lean down and stroke his fuzzy head. He is looking out over the firepit towards the woods, and goes rigid at the distant noise of the wild turkey – I don’t know what to call it— flock? Posse? There are so many of them this year that it’s more like a Turkey Apocalypse. I remind B about the house policy of staying in the yard. He whines, and relaxes.

That’s when I see the fox and vixen. They are frozen, staring at me from the driveway in front of the barn. He is a bold, gleaming red with a bright white tip to his tail. She is a quiet brown that blends into the fallen leaves surrounding them. They do not move. We look at each other for a long moment, then B gives his squeaky bark and I turn. He’s still focused the other way, towards the possibility of turkey invasion. When I look back at the driveway, the foxes are gone.

The turkeys are closer now, I can hear them muttering and gargling back in the woods. It always makes me laugh. B-dog can’t take it anymore and dashes off, barking shrilly. I call him back when he reaches the fence-line. He returns, puffed up with indignation or satisfaction. I dig in my pocket for a treat, then we go inside. 

I turn and look out the porch door as I close it. The light is rising, bringing fire into autumn. There is nothing muted about the woods now: the trees blaze golden, red and bright. Everything has gone silent. Barnabas & I left smudgy inter-species footprints in the dew on the deck: compact paws and curved human commas blur together. I realize that although I’m wearing my long woolen cloak, I am barefoot and freezing.

I look out towards the driveway and pasture, hoping for another glimpse of the foxes. There’s nothing there but the trees.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Witch of Endo, Pt. 3: The Companionship of Pain

(Ok—look, I’m fine. I had a rough couple of nights and needed to get this out. It’s fairly melodramatic. But I am not alone. Please don’t worry about me.)

Sometimes the pain gets to the point that you cannot sleep. It wants your company and just will not let you be. It’s as if your whole body is on red alert: unresponsive to drugs, deep breathing, visualization exercises or any combination thereof. You toss and turn, or (if it’s really bad), grimly lay as still as possible. You get up, read for a bit (1am) drink soothing teas (2am), go back to bed (3am), check your Facebook (4am), cave in and take more drugs (7am). Go back to bed (9am). Try some more deep breathing. No dice. Your body is convinced there is some sort of immanent crisis and you cannot talk it out of its stubborn and pointless readiness to act. 

Nothing is going to happen. Ever. The pain is just going to go on and on. This is the crisis. At 11am you give up. You get up.

You feel terrible. You feel weak: no one ever died from Endometriosis. People are starving in The Horn of Africa, being shot and killed in the Mid-East. People have Cancer, MS, AIDS. Your pain is inane. It means nothing. It fills the world.

There are all kinds (not just one kind!) of pain. They are distinct characters, and you know them well: their shape and tone. their foibles and preferences. You’ve spent a lot of time with them. They are reliable company.

1. The Drum: This is pain that can creep up on you. It starts out quiet, distant. Sometimes it stays that way, and you only notice it when the wind is right. Sometimes it get closer. It’s still background music but it has a beat and you dance to it. Your body knows the rhythm and you tread carefully. Then you realize you are standing in front of the big speakers and the music is so loud it actually occupies space and shoves you around. People’s lips move but you hear nothing.

2. The Lava: This is pain that oozes tendrils of heat through your pelvis. Sometimes you can feel the point of eruption. It craws and burns and spreads. It is slow but relentless. Everything in its path catches fire.

3. The Seams: These are the places that the pain is dug in. It can feel like seams of a rare mineral running through bedrock, foreign veins burrowing into bones and organs. It is hooked into everything and you imagine if you could ever grasp it and pull it out, your whole bloody dripping pelvis would be dragged along with it. You think it might not be so bad to be rid of the damn thing.

4. The Lighting Storm: This is electric, and comes out of the clear blue nothing. You are going about your day when BOOM! Shots and shards of sensation vibrate through your abdomen. You are wide-eyed, stunned, shivering.

5. The Weasels: You seem to be inhabited by tiny, sharp-toothed rodents with ill intentions. They scarper and claw, around and around and around. They trigger a similar hamster wheel in your brain: around and around and around you go. You get going so fast it’s as if your mind develops a centrifugal force: your pain is the only still point, and everything else is flung out, away from you. Nothing gets through.

6. The Orgasm. I think this is what they call “breakthrough pain.” Other symptoms lead up to it, and at some point you realize that everything else has been foreplay and you are choicelessly headed for something bigger and there is no turning back. It is as encompassing and immediate as a climax. You clutch a pillow and scream. Afterwards, you are left trembling and vulnerable, clinging to whatever flotsam of self you are able to salvage. If you are lucky, the pain rolls off you and leaves you alone for a bit. If you’re not, it’s an all-nighter and that bastard is tireless. You hate every second that he rips into you but there’s no stopping it. You’re his, and you are helpless.

Like sex, you don’t really want the general public to witness this. Any of this. Sure, people know you have it, but that’s no reason to share the reality of the event. It’s too raw, to private. Too revealing. So you take a shower, get dressed, and fake your way through another day. You find a smile that fits. You tell yourself that this does not have to be a bad day. When people (who are not as stupid as you’d like them to be), inevitably ask how you’re feeling, you conjure up something vague, like, “I’m a little worn out.”  You say this as much to fool yourself as to reassure others.

You tell yourself that the work will at least distract you. It doesn’t. You are pissed off—at the pain, your own weakness, everything. Rage keeps you moving when nothing else does; you grit your teeth and think something along the lines of “You might have fucked me all night, but you are not going to fuck up my day.”  You tell yourself this is not the best habit to get into.

When you write about it, you can’t even bring yourself to be you.  You write for the second person, for someone else who is you. You do this because it makes it easier to admit to, but also because the bastard has half convinced you that you are utterly isolated and even when you are writing alone at 11am after two nights of no sleep and giving the pain faintly ridiculous characteristics to somehow break it down into a manageable reality, you mostly write for the second person because you want to believe there is one. You would wish this on no-one. But you don’t want to believe that you are the only one. You don’t want to be alone, with only the pain for company.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

When PEEPS Attack, or, My Visit To The ER

I am typing this one-handed. I tried typing two-handed, while avoiding using my injured left index finger, but ended up typing: So, rrerftg, then screaming: Ouch, FUCK!

So, as y’all know, I have been gone most of the summer, and barely seen Urban. This is the first weekend we have really had together at home, so we decided to stay in and relax. It was lovely last night, cool and breezy, and we wanted to enjoy the fine weather on our little farm.

We have this magnificent fire-pit:


We also had Halloween Marshmallow Peeps (Peeps are shapely marshmallows coated in sugar. When you roast them over a fire, the sugar caramelizes. It’s delicious):

The ghost did it

We didn’t think that putting the two together would land me in the Emergency Room at 1am. I mean, we’ve done stuff like this at our house without it resulting in the filling-out-of-forms:

flaming sword
This is a trained professional!


Saum breathes fire 1
This is just me

We settled in at the fire-pit for the evening. I really enjoy circling and poking at a fire, getting the logs just right for maximum temperature and aesthetic affect. After some satisfactory shifting and adjusting, I finally sat down next to Urban. The dogs lolled about, now and then furtively gnawing on a bit of stick from the woodpile. The only sounds were the bustling fire-noise, the breeze, crickets, and the occasional, faint mooooo from the cows over at Cow Pond. Farm sounds. I felt myself relaxing… the last three months of stressful school, travel and work slipping away into the Midwestern night. Urban & I talked and laughed as we happily began roasting Peeps.

I like my marshmallows done properly: they should be gooey on the inside and crisp on the outside. They must be cooked evenly. The innards should not be so underdone that they separate from the outer melty part and adhere in a sad, cold lump to the end of the stick (the shame!). The exterior should not be blackened or burnt, but carefully roasted to a rich, toasty golden-brown. Now and then I’d pull mine out of the fire and peer at it. I couldn’t see the little ghostly dude clearly, so I stuck my finger in it to see if it was done.

Sugar starts to caramelize around 320 degrees Fahrenheit. When marshmallows melt, they get sticky. The burning hot sugar-and-marshmallow-goop adhered to my finger.

I wiped it off. It felt like I wiped most of my actual finger off with it.

At first I was, like, oh wow, that one hurt. Urban, being the thinking one in our marriage, wanted me to go inside immediately and check out the damage in adequate lighting. I am the stubborn one. After some ceremonial fussing, delay and denial, I complied. It really did hurt. In we went, trailing Peeps, marshmallow sticks, blankies and dogs behind us. By then I was starting to feel sort of weird, like I might puke and/or pass out (not necessarily in that order). The tip and pad of my finger was dark red, blistered and swollen.  For such a tiny area, it seemed to be generating an excessive amount of sensation. I stuck it under cold water and took lots of deep breaths.

Urban wanted to take me to the ER. I was, like: Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not that bad; I’ll be fine in a minute. He gave me the look (you know the one) and pointed out –-rather unnecessarily, I thought— that when I sheared a sizeable hunk of bone off of my femur a few years ago, I said the same thing (I didn’t realize it was broken, ok? I thought it was just a bad sprain).

After a few minutes, even I had to admit that all was not well in Saum’s-index-finger-land. My protests began to sound whiny and half-hearted. Urban bundled me into the car, and off to the ER we went. I felt foolish, convinced the ER people would ignore and/or mock me. It wasn’t a very impressive-looking injury.

The ER folks at Maple Grove were wonderful. By the time we got there I was feeling shaky and ill. The pain was astonishing.

Tearing off a hunk of femur: 7. Dime-sized 2nd degree burn on tip of index finger: 9.

ER Doc: We can give you something for the pain right away, either as a shot or a pill.
Me: No needles. I have a thing about needles.
ER Doc: The pill will take awhile to work. The injection will help immediately.
Me: I’ll take the shot.

Our Lady of Morphine copy
Our Lady Of Morphine. 2002

They gave me a shot, bandaged up my finger, shared some sympathetic don’t-feel-dumb,-marshmallow-injuries-are-more-common-than-you-realize stories, and sent us on our way.

On our way out, we got to stop by the fascinating magical narcotics-dispensing machine. I was delighted.

This is really a thing!

So that was our adventure. I’m fine, or at least I will be in a few days. Urban is taking care of me (as usual). I’m happy it’s my left hand. And I’m happy that it’s raining today so I’m not missing out on riding or anything.

Oh, and by the way? Before Urban dragged me from the firepit back into the house, I finished roasting my Peep and ate the damn thing. It was perfect.

when peeps attack

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ahhh! Haikus!

Must write a haiku
For my “Journey and Quest” class.
It’s not going well.

This terse verse is huge--
I don’t know how to begin.
My words feel empty.

I read the Masters
Beauty, in words and meaning
Now I’m scared to try.

No cherry blossoms--
I should just write what I know.
What is before me.

Grey squirrels gather
Discarded crumbs from my lunch.
This park is dirty.

Walking in the sun
My friend and I laugh so loud
People turn and look.

Cambridge cooks in heat,
Packed with tourists and students.
I love this city.

Midterms stress me out.
I avoid writing papers
And play ‘Angry Birds.’

In the shade of trees
The grass is green, cool and deep.
Tired eyes find peace.

Fragrant jasmine tea:
Icy and sweet, from a straw.
Nice, on a hot day.

July moon steals sleep
I stroll beside the river.
Drunk boys stagger by.

I miss my small farm--
Horses leave rich summer grass
And run to greet me.

I remember, once
The dog came in from outside;
Coughed up a live frog.

I look at my phone
To find out that it’s raining--
I’m standing in it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

There Will Be A Slight Delay

I was washing my hair yesterday when suddenly, I thought of my NSOMNIASAUM blog. I couldn’t remember the last time this had happened (not the hair washing, silly!). So I looked at my blog, and…Holy Shit! I haven’t posted anything since April 1. Is this a joke? What happened? Where have I been? Why haven’t I been writing?

Well, to be fair, I have been writing loads of other stuff. I wrote articles for Points of Light Institute, State of Formation and Huffington Post. I wrote a long, boring document for the IRS explaining why Headwaters/Delta Interfaith ought to have tax-exempt status. I wrote 140 character tweets for various purposes and organizations. Mostly, I wrote to-do lists and then did the stuff on them, crossed the stuff off, and added more stuff. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But, still…April?

The other thing going on is that I feel like shit. I had surgery in January but by mid-April, my Endometriosis was acting up again. I don’t like writing about it. But I also don’t like NOT writing about it—you know, writing around it, pretending it’s not happening when it is happening. Plus, being in pain limits my energy so by the time my “real” work (whatever that means) is done, I’m pretty much done. Spending more time in front of the computer just to keep everyone up to date on how miserable I am…hmmm…that’s strangely unappealing. Go figure.

Also, as y’all know, I get pissed off, so I took an Anger Management class, and was SO excited to write about it…then (at the facilitator’s request), I sort of promised not to. It felt awkward to write about my life when I wasn’t able to discuss all the interesting internal crap that Anger Management stirred up, confronted, and redefined. But the class was a useful experience, and I met some marvelous, inspiring ladies. And OMG! Something profound happened, I didn’t blog about it, but…it was like it still actually happened! Who knew?

On top of all those lesser excuses, I’ve been incredibly busy being in love. Urban & I have been together for 17 years or something; now and then we’re ambushed by infatuation and can hardly tear ourselves away from each other. We stay up too late, have long deep conversations, make kissy faces, ignore our friends and exist in a goofy, magical bubble of our own. We stagger around feeling dazed, neglecting everything but each other. It’s awesome. And, right now, unexpected.  

When I’m in pain for a long time, it wears us both down. I’m shaky and exhausted for obvious reasons but it’s also a strain on him. Here are some things I can’t do when I’m in pain and/or doped up from being in pain: the dishes, feed/turn out/bring in the horses, cook dinner, drive myself anywhere, run errands, mow the lawn, weed the garden, vacuum, change the sheets, do laundry…and so on. When I’m not well, Urban picks up where I leave off, often after he’s worked a 10 hour day and not gotten enough sleep because I’m worse at night and he hates leaving me alone when I’m suffering.

Normally, by this point in my pain cycle, we are strained, crabby, and making an appointment to see our marriage counselor. But none of that is happening. Instead, Urban is being incredibly sweet and unbelievably strong: taking care of me, taking care of our animals and 10 acre property, keeping track of everything, and doing it all with grace and verve. He humbles me.

So despite the pain and the angst that inevitably accompanies it, we’re ridiculously happy. I’m sure some of that is because we are already missing each other: we’re going to be apart for 8 weeks while I’m visiting family & attending Summer Session out East. 

I’m both dreading and looking forward to the semester. I’ll admit that I’m worried about my ability to keep up with work and writing commitments and school while my body is screaming at me (SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN, SAUM! TAKE A NAP! STOP MOVING AROUND YOU BITCH, THAT HURTS!). But I love the luxury of being in a classroom rather than taking classes online, the challenge of Summer Session (16 week courses crammed into 7 weeks), and, face it, the libraries at Harvard are heavenly. Nerdvana! Besides the academic stuff, being in Cambridge is lots of fun, and I’m excited to (re)connect with some wonderful people I know in Boston, as well as make new friends. I resolve to socialize more and not to push myself so hard at school. I’ll let you know how that goes.

What I’m not resolving to do is blog here at NSOMNIASAUM. If I blog, I blog. If I don’t, I don’t. If you miss me, you can keep up with my rambling at State of Formation and Huff Post Religion. I’ll see you on Facebook and Twitter. You can call, too; anytime! You know me…I’ll probably be up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wait, who am I again?

I was sitting outside at CafĂ© Rose Nicaud on Frenchman Street, scribbling notes about my last meeting when I caught a glimpse of someone running toward me. I instinctively clutched my purse and looked up as a young woman dashed across the street, stumbled to a stop in front of me, and (loudly) blurted out “OH MY GOD! You’re that religion lady, right?” Since she was looking right at me, and I could indeed be identified as having something to do with religion, there didn’t seem to be any way to deny this.

People at neighboring tables were craning around to see what was going on, and a group of tourists paused to gawk.

“I thought it was you!” She said, “Tell me about religion!” 

I had absolutely no idea how to respond to that. I vaguely wondered if she had mistaken me for someone else, but she said she recognized me from my headshot at The Huffington Post, and seemed to know a little about my writing and Interfaith work. She was VERY excited to meet me and I was worried she was going to ask for my autograph or something. I was still trying to figure out how to respond to “Tell me about religion.”

I was pretty confused by her enthusiasm…I mean, I’m a religion blogger and whatever. Not really a celebrity-forming line of work. Luckily, she did most of the talking, and after a few minutes, she thanked me and left. (She had obviously been drinking, but was really sweet.) 

I was simultaneously weirded out at being recognized by a stranger; slightly embarrassed by the onlookers studiously looking elsewhere while clearly listening in; pleased that someone thought my work was so cool; and baffled by “Tell me about religion,” --which I as yet have no idea how to respond to.

It all happened very fast, so I was still befuddled when the guy at the table next to me leaned over and asked “So, who are you?”

I opened my mouth and this is what came out:
“I don’t know.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Being Smart: A True Story

I am working on a post that isn’t quite ready, so in the meantime, I am going to tell you story. 

It is a true story.

*   *   *

Once, a lady decided to go back to college and finish her undergraduate degree. It was not enough for her to go to a regular college, so she got into Harvard.

She was surprised.

Before that, she had attended a small Community College. When she graduated with her Associate of Arts Degree and a 4.0 GPA, someone remarked that it couldn’t have been very difficult as it was just Community College. Even though many, many other people said nice things and assured her that she was bright and intelligent, she always wondered.  

Now, she thought, it is not just Community College. It is Harvard. I will find out if I am smart or not.

It was a long journey to Harvard, and she had to fly into the worst airport in the world, Logan in Boston. Then she had to take a taxi to Harvard and find her dorm, get an ID, and figure out many things. She had to eat cafeteria food.

On her very first day on her way to her very first class, she was overwhelmed by the Harvard-ness of it all. The trees, the buildings, the harried-looking students! The Harvard Lampoon building!  Harvard Yard! The statue of that guy in a chair! The dining hall that makes Hogwarts look like an underfunded public school!


It was exciting, but she worried that she wasn’t smart enough.

On the very first day in her very first class, her (Linguistics) professor casually mentioned an ongoing debate (regarding Linguistics) that he had with his colleague Noam Chomsky, who taught over at MIT. Holy crap! The lady nearly swallowed her tongue. Not only was she being taught (and graded) by someone who KNEW Noam Chomsky, she being taught (and graded) by someone who DISAGREED WITH HIM TO HIS FACE. Noam Chomsky, the Father of modern Linguistics. It’s like having a disagreement about science with your buddy Einstein. TO HIS FACE. 

Her Harvard-high plummeted when it became clear, on the very first day in her very first class, that the professors were very intimidating and the work was extremely challenging. She was even more concerned that she wasn’t smart enough, but she was determined to try and find out.

As she left the building after class, a flyer caught her eye. Salman Rushdie (one of her heroes) was giving a lecture over at MIT later that week. As she stood there, gazing at the colorful array of flyers and notices, she found herself thinking…huh. Salman Rushdie, over at MIT. Noam Chomsky, over at MIT. Oh my God. All the cool people are over at MIT! What am I doing at this cut-rate, second-class school? If I was really smart, I would be at MIT.

She felt terrible. This whole place was clearly a sham: no wonder they let her in; she wasn’t smart at all. But maybe, just maybe, if she could get into MIT…perhaps for Grad School…

As she trudged back to the dorm, she suddenly realized how silly she was being. It took a few blocks.

So it was, that on her very first day after her very first class, the lady admitted that she really wasn’t very smart…just not in the way she originally suspected.

*   *   *

Yes, of course that’s me.

I tell the story now and laugh at myself, but it’s an uneasy laugh…because even though I recognize the foolishness and danger of that kind of thinking, sometimes I can’t help myself from doing it.

I’m always a little suspicious that I’m not doing enough. Or that I’m not quite smart enough, or whatever. It seems that the minute I accomplish something, I conclude it was not worth much, and immediately start seeking the next hurdle…hoping that once I achieve that, I will feel I have achieved something. It never works; there’s this thing about trying to find happiness on the outside rather than within bla bla bla you know how it goes.  

The good news is: I do learn. The inner critic is quieter. I try to appreciate my accomplishments-- even bask in them a little. I am getting smarter about the things that matter.

But ok, ok, I’ll admit it, although after sharing that personal fable and tidy moral lesson, it is a bit embarrassing: my GPA at Harvard is 4.0.

I mean, it’s a good school and all, but there’s only so much it can teach me. I’m still struggling with the really hard lessons.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


(You can also read a more coherent and informative explanation of Shivarathri by my friend and colleague Anju.)


It’s Shivarathri—the Hindu festival of Shiva, Lord of the Himalaya, bringer of change, definer of contradictions: he is both detached ascetic and passionate sensualist, a flesh-and-blood man and a nebulous idea. He has a thousand and one names, and no name at all. He walks amid ancient civilizations on the banks of the Ganges and runs fierce in uncharted wilderness. He is the Lord of Animals and keeper of human hearts.  He is death and healing. Shiva dances amid flames, his long hair whipping around him, his drum a blur of savage sound, yet he sits eternally silent in stillness. He is an arrogant warrior that howls with a demon horde and a gentle sage who speaks quiet wisdom in heaven. He is the space between moments.

Live cobras are his adornments but he sits upon the striped skin of a dead tiger. He is arcane and recognized, shadowed and bright. Notorious and respected, perfect and flawed. Imbued with light and too dazzling to look at, he is only revealed in darkness.

He is celibacy and fertility: an impulsive, temperamental lover and a faithful, patient husband, a nomad and householder. The Goddess pines for him, her love unrequited; he throws himself at her feet. His love for her almost destroyed him, the Destroyer. Beholden to none but answerable to all, beyond existence but rooted in the soil of our world. He is the remote sweep of the Himalaya and the lush immediacy of the jungle. He is a bastard and a saint, brutality and compassion. Lord of the dark night, a crescent moon rests above his brow. Shiva is reveler and revealer, unraveler. My life-long patron.

I am named for the moon. Saumya: as gentle and serene as the moon. If you know me, you’re laughing.

The Deodar (Himalayan Cedar), is sacred to Shiva. They are second only to Redwoods in height. This is a rare “Trishul” Deodar, which represents Shiva’s trident.

Shiva moves me and stills the world. I am always sleepless around Shivarathri. Some degree of insomnia is my natural state (there’s a reason my blog is called nsomniasaum!) but in this month when the snow is heavy on the ground and the moon is waning away to nothing, sleep seems to abandon me completely. I feel called to wander, to dwell, to think late and deep. While my work is a natural extension of my spiritual principles, right now I feel the call of the primal. I lose interest in my responsibilities; it’s a struggle to stay hitched to reality. Last year I had the sense to take a vacation around Shivarathri: the jungle in South America was the perfect complement to my urges and mood. This year I am faced with an overflowing inbox, numerous half-completed tasks and a growing, growling restlessness. Rather than follow my instincts, I have stubbornly (and half-assedly) been bumbling around and trying to get stuff done. I did just take about a month off of work to have and recover from surgery, so there are pressing worldly matters to attend to.

But slowly, surely…my motivated, practical and driven nature is subsumed by the mystic in me.  I want to withdraw, to walk forest paths and follow my thoughts, to hear the wind and the wildness. I feel myself simultaneous rising beyond and sinking into myself. There is no stopping it.


The paths to my forest may be snowed in, but I don’t need my body to wander. My thoughts are sometimes wildfire, other times as quiet as the sky. Again and again, an ancient chant tolls in my mind:

Om Namah Shivaiya: Praise to Lord Shiva. I am the namesake of the moon in your hair: the crescent, cupping darkness. We are the same.

This is my current truth: I am the object of my own longing. Everything I reach for is contained within me. I am responsibility and chaos, fetters and freedom, spirit and flesh. Ever changing and never changing. Shiva and Saumya. The river full at my feet, an empty moon above. Darkness lights my way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


To all my family & friends who have visited, called/messaged and especially tolerated my doped-up rambling, thank you.

This is a post about other posts. I’m recovering well from surgery, but I have to limit my time on the computer or it starts generating nausea-inducing special effects. Also, I’m re-reading David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and his writing humbles me to the point of paralysis. Further justification for my laziness: while this blogging thing is wonderful, too often posts appear and disappear like calendar pages flipping by in old-timey movie montage of time passing. I wish some would stick around longer.

I had my first blogging anniversary while I was recovering, and looking back at posts from last year, there are two that stand out for me:

You Know Where You Are? You’re In The Jungle, Baby : This helped me forget that it’s February in MN for a few (much needed) minutes.

The Vargus Debacle of 2010: On dolphins and other dangerous dashboard creatures. And how funny Urban is.

They were both written around and about the time we went to Belize, which makes me wonder if we should be thinking about a vacation. You know, for the sake of my writing.

Belize 097                    I can make sacrifices for my art

But true love is better than a vacation. Urban wrote a moving and romantic  post about my illness and his experience as a caregiver (he also threw in some helpful post-surgery care tips). Isn’t he sweet? Yeah, and more than that …

Urban tux 
He’s trouble  

By turns funny, sweet and troublesome (i.e. perfect), lately Urban has just been really supportive. Not only with the surgery stuff, either.

I have an article at the Huffington Post that I’m very proud of, and not only for the obvious reasons. It’s the first thing I’ve submitted to the HuffPo that wasn’t self-consciously written for the HuffPo. Like, I just wrote it because I was going to fucking implode with rage if I didn’t. Deciding to send it in to my editor came later, and after some deliberation over how much of myself I really want to share with the public.  

There a lot more to say about all of that, but that is a post for anther day. I’m tired and the screen is getting all wiggly.

Thanks for the love, y’all.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Witch of Endo pt.2 : It only hurts when I laugh

*I know a lot more people are reading this blog, so be warned: I swear. And I’m crabby. If that will bother you, go away. For inspiration and non-swearing, read my HuffPo stuff or look at pics of kittens.*

It’s time for the unique Haas holiday held in January: SAUM’S SURGERY-FEST! Practitioners of this tradition explain that its purpose is to drive out the malicious spirit “Endometriosis.” In ancient times, it was celebrated several times a year, but modern innovations such as controlled diet and Cranio-Sacral therapy have reduced this once quarterly observance to a mere annual event. The surgery in a hospital is only the beginning of this holiday; the bulk of the festival is observed at home and goes on for a week or two. It is characterized by curtailing professional responsibilities and social interactions, imbibing analgesic narcotic substances, and taking part in activities resonant of childhood: eating soft foods, reading comic books, watching animated cartoons and being cared for by a responsible adult (Urban). This way, the whole Haas family can celebrate together! 

Ok I’m done trying to be funny. Here’s the deal: the Endometriosis is back, I’m in pain all the time, and I’m having surgery next Thursday: one day shy of a year since my last surgery. My goal was to make it a year. I know, I know…almost. It should count. But still. ONE FUCKING DAY! Come ON.

I have no reproductive organs left so how come I still have a reproductive disease? 

Actually, that’s not true. I do have a cervix, although they want to take it out. I’ve drawn the line. Leave my cervix alone, you bastards. It’s mine and you can’t have it.

So, it’s nothing life-threatening or even organ-threatening. We are just doing another laparoscopic clean-up surgery: I think of it as being vacuumed out, but it’s much cooler because there are lasers involved! I’m like a superhero!

art 020All-Natural Cleaning Supplies

It’s no big deal: I’ve done it at least a dozen times. But you know what? It sucks. I have health insurance, an incredibly supportive husband who takes care of me, I won’t get fired for being sick (plus I don’t make any money anyway), and it still fucking sucks. Every time.

My body doesn’t give a damn what I do or don’t have time for. I resent this. You’d think after all these years I’d have gotten a little better at acceptance, a little more graceful. Nope. I bitch and swear and stomp around (well, I cant really stomp right now but I would if I could.) I listen to loud music and sulk. I stay up all night and worry. I draw: traditionally, this has helped. I try not to lose my shit. I breathe. But still…

I took this semester off to focus on work. I have a huge amount of paperwork to do to get my 501(c)3 (non-profit organization) off the ground, the Healing Center is opening this spring which means I have to start paying rent, which means fundraising—Headwaters/Delta has a grand total of $20 right now. I can’t afford to lose (at least) two weeks of work. But I’m going to and that’s that.

And don’t give me that “my sister had a laparoscopic procedure and went back to work the next day!” crap. Fuck your sister.

Hair Metal Wisdom 001Hair-Metal Wisdom

The worst part of this? I don’t like surgery, but I hate needles. I HATE hate them. My veins hate them too. When I was in the hospital in 2002 (or 2003? it blends together), they wanted to put the IV thingy IN MY JUGULAR because my other veins were so surly and uncooperative. I was like…nope. Sorry, before that happens I’m going home and I’m taking my un-punctured Jugular with me. Figure something else out or find someone else to operate on. They figured something else out. I still have the scar in the bend of my elbow.

Luckily I have surgery frequently enough that everybody in pre-op at Abbott knows me now. It’s wonderful to be greeted enthusiastically by my surgery team (“Spending much time in New Orleans these days?” “How’s school?” “How are the horses?”) but it’s sort of depressing, too. At least when I come in, they know to get Scottie: Magic IV-Starter Dude. Scottie begins with a massive shot of Novocain in my arm so he is free to dig around without me shrieking at him. So, that’s not too bad.

Ok, I’m tired now & I’ve had enough of trying to hammer this out in a way that might be comprehensible to other people. I don’t know if I’m trying to be expository or descriptive or what. If I could tell you one thing it would be: the absence of pain after sustained pain is not the lack of something. Being-without-pain is a full feeling. 

When I come to after surgery, even through the immediate pain of having my guts yanked around, I will feel a gorgeous sensation which signals that Endo is no longer eating me from the inside. I will be free. It will fucking rock.

For a year, at least.

45 mins -- 001The Witch of Endo