#21

we use koa wood to build our space for strength

and glass like smooth water tinted aquamarine for transparency

our garden rooted in place by the gifts we wish to give

our hearts created the foundation

the scaffolding rises higher than we can imagine

our dreams like an open window to the sky

our vision like a fireplace enveloping warmth

we search long and hard

and we waited

and waited

for the perfect place

it changes with us and understands how we shape our bodies

to fit the couch

and a bright ukulele strums as sunlight follows

welcoming those to this eclectic land

where a simple calm smile is paradise

and we walk among the spring tulips

the little rabbits and watch as the cat ducks find respite along the water

#13

awe

of aloha

how love

and spirit

how magic feels

life

like a mountain

like time

meeting love

and that feeling of freeness

breath

full of spirit

rising like mountain peaks

slowing time’s pace

to the expansiveness of dreams

newness

of vision

vast like the ocean

and how nature soothes

with a familiar call

#10

oh boy

you’re so beautiful with the funny things you say

your bright smile

and how you like to be cozy

how dynamic you are

how you see the best ways to move forward

how positive you are about possibility

the calling you have that drives you

the love in your heart that moves you

every day i watch you with awe

and thank you for inspiring me

#6

i don’t care who gets the ring

who wears it

who has the lamps and the cleaning supplies and

don’t you know there are hearts now everywhere?

like the kind that said hellooooo

and after a long yawn

and that the stuff is no longer here

i don’t care

split it a million ways and could all be moved to the garbage dump

swimming in the Pacific gyre

sea of memories of times when they just sat

or spoke to tell story

and my heart goes up up

up up

rate goes up up

up

increase the value of the living beings i once (still do?) knew

as each inch of carpet is dissected like delicacy

everything has it’s price

but it won’t bring them back

neither will the picture frame

the desk

The vacuum

neither will the claims and tears and arguments of what a human heart is capable of feeling

that she didn’t have a limit on how much she put out

as did he

as did she

as did all of them

and my blood boils when i think of how we devour the unimportance of

what’s left

dilated and honed in pupils my heart beats at rebellious pace

to high pitched scream

in order to be grounded once again

in the midst of this greedy confusion

i hate

talking

about

this stuff

Commitment

I took a trip to Minnesota recently that came with a lot of unexpected detours. I went to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday and as the second stop on the Jwanouskos Ramos Wedding Celebration Tour.

We had an amazing time seeing the beautiful lakes and forest areas. So green compared to California! However, the time was sadly overshadowed by my grandmother's decline in health.

She was a strong woman with a huge heart — one that unfortunately was born with a defect. Her breathing became more and more difficult during the time we arrived such that she was admitted to the hospital the day after we flew in.

She knew. We all knew what was next. Though I tried to avoid the conversations and the subtle shifts, she was dying. In my head, her death was something that would happen way far off. Not when I was there. As time went on, it was clear she wasn't leaving the hospital. So the best we could do is make her comfortable.

Maybe it's the wrong segue, but I depended on my practices during this time. I have her and my weary family members lomi lomi massage. As the pain medications wore off, I sang her Ka Lei Aloha I Na Kupuna – a Hawaiian chant and lullaby that Brent and I sang for the new expectant mothers preparing for birth. It is a song about being surrounded by the love of the ancestors and understanding that you too are part of that love. I talked to her about my tai chi practice and the book on Russian breathing systems I was reading. I read her my poetry. I talked to her about the business Brent and I hope to create. I talked to her about my step daughter — who she told me to give the beanie babies in her basement. And I practiced yoga in the early hours of the morning to the rhythm of her strong yet forced breathing. I even was able to bind in Marichasana D on my tight side. I think it was even the day or day before she transitioned on.

My Grandma taught me so much about pain, death, and family during this time. I tried my best as a visitor from California to be there and be grounded, be compassionate for my family. And it was hard to do that. It was hard to see them come apart at the scenes and feel like though you wanted to, you couldn't. As if something kept you from it.

I was named after my Grandma and she was one of the strongest ladies I knew, who got things done. She didn't fuss or make a big deal about it. She was a nurse and she was used to long hard hours and endless self sacrifice. At the same time, she was fun and laughed a lot while she called you on your shit. Up until the last days she was talking, she was cracking jokes and speaking her mind.

She transitioned on surrounded by her family and so much love. I knew by the end of the week I was in the exact spot I needed to be and I was giving what I was meant to give.

In the days that followed, I didn't know what to do or how to help. So I began my day with yoga and tai chi. I figured that maybe if I could keep steady, my family could keep steady.

My family on my mom's side is a range personalities and A LOT of feminine energy. For some reason, people look at me and they go, "well of course Barbara does this crazy artistic thing that we couldn't think of or do." And I just am so adamant that the answer to that is, "yes! You can do it. You are capable of more that how you see yourself!" I probably get to be a little airy fairy for people if I start talking about it, so I try to just hold my tongue and not say anything unless people ask me.

But then the strangest thing happened… People started asking me about meditation, tai chi, yoga, eating vegetarian, art, music, storytelling, social justice, keeping in shape, martial arts and breathing. What? Me?

"I just do what I do."

So I started connecting more with my cousins, aunts, and uncles and on Instagram and Facebook, I'd post snippets of my practice. Mostly because without regular access to my teachers, I wanted to see and understand for myself what I needed to work on.

I even watched a yoga practice session with my brother who lightly chided me for moving too fast. He said to take my time with it.

"Yeah, see, when I was practicing, I loved up dog, you should take your time with it more. You're missing out on that stretch."

My cousin would ask me advice about breathing in yoga and how to get started at home because she wasn't ready to start going to a class. Another two cousins and I bonded over plants and essential oils. She is growing the Oxheart tomatoes that come from my Italian great grandfather (my Grandma Barbara's dad), who loved these tomatoes for sauce and just everything. In fact, my Grandma still has two living older sisters (96 & 106) and she said that the secret to her longevity was to eat tomatoes and have a little brandy every so often.

Here I'd been so secret about these holistic and artistic practices, considering myself to be the family anomaly and just like most things, I was looking myopically. My family was so supportive of me. Not who I tried to be or wanted to become, just everything I was at that moment, they saw as valuable and worth emulating. For that I am eternally grateful.

Part of me wonders about the synchronicity of this experience and wonders what my Grandma may have been trying to say. While I haven't always called or been able to visit, I never doubted for a second that she loved me deeply and truly saw me for who I am.

A couple hours after she passed, I was sitting in the family lounge with my relatives enjoying the memory of her and what she gave us. I was going through my email trying to find something about her ancestry to give to my cousins and I came across a lot of forwards of prayers and wishes and beautiful pictures from her. Then, I came on a direct message from her to me. She saw an email I sent about my upcoming play production and was sending me some money and wishing me luck. Matter of fact, supportive, and loving. I read it and it was a confirmation of everything I already knew.

So, "my practice" has taken a turn because I can longer see it as just for me and a source for my comfort solely. I see my family, my friends watching me and taking something from the one thing I do think I'm okay at — continuing to show up. This has made all the difference to me and propels me forward in dark times so that I can see those faces saying to me that they saw what I did and tried it for themselves.

Thank you and thank you to my beautiful Grandma for showing me how to continue day after day through the hardship with only love to guide you.

❤️

strength of love

with the love that permeates the soul

then step forward

like a paintbrush in hand

a fluid line 

dipped into paint

soaks into a large canvas

creates the shape of a curve

that becomes a hill

the paint is green

and with the spirit 

creates a beautiful landscape

a bright sky

a river flowing freely

and the people stand together on the edges

tears of joy to the sky

for this gift

and sitting in peace

giving respect to the land

the sky

the water

and those around

who stand 

who hold strong

who have faith 

the people i love

the people i love do not have the same color or shade of skin tone

they are beautiful and bright on their own two feet

stepping forward through the world leading with the largest hearts

these are the people i love

they believe that you can look people in the eyes

they give warmth

they give comfort 

they inspire strength and growth

these are the people i love

they are who i bring with me

who i think of throughout my day

who i ask for guidance

and ones who’s backs i have

always

whatever happens

because love can be strength and power in its own right

flying

drifting through the clouds

you go fast

you see light 

and it flashes around past your eyes

your face

but the focus is so precise 

the focus rests to the destination 

and piercing through rainbow clouds

in the air you are in the drift

you fly over land

over water

free as a bird

so keep moving

keep smiling

close your eyes

the smile is a warrior’s smile

but it is never war, anger, fear or hatred that fuels this kind of protector 

it is deep full overwhelming 

like a bubbling spring

it is the kind of love that there is no good word for

yes, so high

so pure

real, you can touch it

you can see it

you can know it

and in the sky

you fly above 

high above the ground

gliding

gliding

gliding across the sky

heartbeat 

heartbeat

resonating strongly with the beat of the drum

heartbeat

fiercely resounding

echoing uncannily in quiet halls and libraries

heartbeat 

paired with the breath

traveling across continents 

unser ocean water

from the quietest purple thunder

lightning flashing

heartbeat 

steady and true

heartbeat 

resting and syncing all around

heartbeat 

that serves as the impulse

for the first steps into swaying motion

heartbeat 

the kind that leaves a glow

so raw

filled with connection

filled with warmth and love

heartbeat 

strongly resonating

strongly pulsing

linking together the furthest parts of the globe

linking together the furthest people

they find a moment within this

heartbeat 

beating strong

angels

there are some beings

they are higher spirits walking among us

they are angels and you don’t know it

they have no wings

but they glow

their essence shines brightly 

they make people laugh and smile

they put people at ease

we are sometimes angels

whether we know it or not

tonight i thank all the angels

who have touched my life

made me feel special 

and held the lamp up so that i could see

so i could find my way