Finding God in the Music

Klimt (

I lost Jesus at 14 when the woman I loved most in this world was ripped from my heart. In typical teenage fashion, I needed someone to blame. Instead of the eighteen-wheeler.

The truth is that I didn’t trust God anymore. What kind of world kills your grandmother (and her three best friends) on the way to a fundraiser?

In the absence of His love and that of my grandmother’s and aunties, I found myself a man; But in the end I couldn’t trust him either. Neither did my own father remain steadfast in his love. Those years were swollen with pain, as I watched my family splinter, until there was little left upon which I could rest my faith.

After I gave up on God, two of my younger sisters took up with him–in that boorish, effusive way of the freshly born again.  Their new-found love, only made me feel lonelier.  Their certainty that Jesus belonged to them, left me wondering how he was ever my friend.

In my twenties, I came to Al-Anon, and there I began dating my “Higher Spirit,” who remained faceless, and who never quite hit the spot like the man in robes with penetrating eyes and long, sandy hair. It would be decades before I came to peace without a spirit lover, and until then I searched for him in many faiths.

When I finally found what I was looking for, it wasn’t in a chapel or a temple or even a women’s circle, it was… in the music.  On the night before my beloved grandfather’s funeral–the man who lost his wife to the tragedy that stole God, my born-again sister handed me some music that she was ready to discard.

While The New Jersey Mass Choir seemed right up her holy alley, I was beginning to understand that there was a hierarchy among Christians which placed Catholics below the born-again.  My sister saved my soul that night, though not in the way she had always wanted.

When the soloist delivered Jesus to me in her rich, sultry tones, it didn’t matter that my passion made no sense.

When the storms in my life are raging. When the weight of this world drives me to my knees… I found a Hiding Place…

I felt the love that had once been mine.

I reclaimed Spirit then, in every song and sound, no matter whence it sprang.

Allah, Yahweh, Jesu, Krishna, Shakti, Earth, Water, Sky, Home.

With music–and now movement–I make sacred the mystery of this journey we call life, without needing to know why.

Kelly Salasin, Vermont

Find out about Falling into the Music with YogaDance here.

ps. Special mention goes out to my two beloved, born-again sisters with whom I share an ever-expanding communion in the Mystery that transcends understanding.

Late Summer Collection

One of the things that I treasure about blogging is that it’s simple enough to do–even when the kids are home–as evidenced by these posting highlights harvested from each of my blogs this summer.  I hope you  find a title or two that intrigues you. As always, your voice is most welcome.  Read a post, share a comment/connection!


Summer’s Harvest

~This Vermont Life: The Dog Days of Summer and Until I Moved to Vermont, a tribute to the summer sun in the Green Mountains.

~The Motherless Muse: Days Like ThisThe Writing Cellar and Namesake.

~The Marriage Journey: posts from My Sister’s Wedding.

~The Empty(ing) Nest Diary: The Running Away Thing, Last Days of Summer Panic, and The Wisdom of Fatigue.

~ Two Owls Calling (and the Life Purpose Path):  Thought Anthropologist, Dis-Orient Me, Life’s Debris, The Stream of Love, The Path of Women, The Yoga of Teeth, The Party Gene and Weeding My Life.

Kelly Salasin, Fall 2010

Confessions of a Doctor’s Daughter

medical photoWhen I was a kid, even a broken bone didn’t  warrant my physician father’s attention. And bleeding gashes requiring stitches were simply attended to in the kitchen.  All other complaints (obviously not requiring surgery) were highly suspect– with reponses like “hypochondriac” or “psychosomatic” or “let’s cut it off.”

Thus, it wasn’t until my late thirties that I learned to attend to my own needs for rest or comfort when injured or feeling ill.  It was my husband who taught me.  Actually, he did it for me.  Poor guy.  He’s the compassionate, sensitive type who should have never married a cold doctor’s daughter.

Because I just roll my eyes when he’s in pain. Like yesterday.  When the stump of a tree that he was cutting down kicked him in the shin, and he came hobbling into the house. His face contorted in a dramatic show of distress and all I could do was sigh–just as dramatically.

What now?” I ask, perturbed.

(Casey cannot use the chainsaw without crisis. Usually, it ends up stuck in a tree or broken.  Once it “scratched” up his chest.   And now this.   He’s limping.  Just days before we leave for a weekend marriage retreat at a “yoga” center.)

You’ve got to be kidding me,”  I say– or at least I think this loud enough that my disapproval is audible.  “Have you elevated it?” “Iced it?”  “Are you taking Arnica?”

This is the extent of my consideration.  And it doesn’t really count because the whole time I’m oozing “inconvenienced.” We were in the middle of a kitchen pantry renovation which will now be left to me.  And there are 3 extra boys in the house who I’ll now have to supervise, alone.  There are also chores to attend to before we leave later this week and those are now mine as well.

(That is, “if” we leave.  He’s worried that it’s broken.)

Despite the fact that we have treated 99% of our  family medical needs through alternative care under the guidance of our Naturopath (including conception, labor and birth), my husband’s knee jerk reaction, to any health needs of his own, is to seek pharmaceuticals or go to the Emergency Room.

Doctor’s daughters don’t go to the Emergency Room. I try to talk him out of it.  “I doubt you have any kind of break,” I tell him.  Even though that’s exactly what my physician father told me– on two different occasions (at age 4 and 10)–and he was wrong.  He also missed a college case of Mono.

But I’m better than my surgeon father at assessing loved ones.  I’ve never made a wrong call.  Like the time I refused to drive my husband to the ER in the middle of the night when he was hallucinating from fever. I used cold compresses and homeopathics and his temperature dropped in no time without those bright lights and hours wasted in the waiting room of the nearest hospital, 20 minutes away–where they would have been inclined to do a spinal tap to rule out Meningitis.

I’ve refused the ER on at least two other occasions too, and he’s always survived.  This morning I distract him with a healing meditation that invites him to “let go” and “trust” that his body knows what to do.  Three hours later, he’s asking for the ER again.  “What about the meditation?” I say, annoyed with his flimsy faith.

He contorts his face in a demonstrative display of pain and worry,  “I just want to make sure I’m not doing it any harm,” he says, hoping I’ll understand.  But I’m just disgusted–with his childishness and my lack of compassion.   I suggest the chiropractor.

Late at night when he’s sleeping beside me, my doctor daughter’s shield comes down.   I realize that I’m not so heartless after all.   I’m afraid.  My husband’s vunerability threatens my world.  It means he’s mortal and I don’t want to think about that.   I imagine how scary it must have been for him to have a tree hit his leg and I think about what else could have happen.  (I know he has too.)

I want to roll over and place my hands on his shin and tell him I’m sorry for his pain.  But I don’t.  He needs his sleep.  Instead, I  dream of Mountain Lions stalking my family, and I wake to noisy boys again.

24 hours later, we compromise. I let him call my father to check in.   He catches my step mom during office hours.  She’s a nurse, and she tells him the same thing.  “It’s probably not broken.”

Next we try the chiropractor, but she doesn’t have any appointments.  Finally he gets in at the Naturopathic Physician’s office.  He’ll go to the ER if she suggests it.  I offer a half smile.  A truce.  More amused than annoyed with his attachment to attention.  And I stay home.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself and greater compassion, it’s this:   When I take care of myself–without the kind of judgment that was dished out in my childhood (like I’ve dished out to my husband)–then I have a lot more to give.  A few hours alone without a handful of boys should make all the difference.  Hopefully, they’ll come home with good news.  I’ll have a warm bath with Epsom salts ready and waiting–and a greater measure of kindness.

Kelly Salasin

(To read Part II of my husband’s hurt leg saga, click here.

To read more about my life growing up with physicians, click here.)


Kelly Salasin

Sacco (

Look at Kelly Ann’s eyes, aren’t they beautiful!” my father exclaimed after the nap I didn’t want to take.  “Show your mommy. Show your grandfather,” he continued, working the whole nap thing on my tender psyche.

I was confused and pleased and annoyed all at the same time, but 40 years later, I still look in the mirror to check my eyes after a nap.  Are they beautiful?

Funny how little ones resist naps while elders long for them.  After my father’s early brainwashing, I became an expert napper.  In my early twenties, I could sleep anywhere: on a ferry crossing the English Channel, in a train car seated next to strangers, on the lap of any man across the stick shift of my car.

When I was student teaching, I stole naps during recess on the milk-stained circle rug; and after I had a classroom of my own, I took covert naps under my desk on my period off while a colleague taught another group of kids in the same room.

Though the ease at which I sleep has since been robbed by Motherhood, I still enjoy napping.  Come early afternoon, I can drop on my bed and crash for 10– changing my whole life perspective in the process.

When the kids were little, I was a nap junkie.  I couldn’t wait till the next fix, but I never used the whole, “Aren’t her eyes pretty,” scam on them–but maybe that’s because I had two boys—and their eyes were always pretty.

To be fair to my father (which I rarely am), there is something precious about a young child after a nap.  It’s there in the eyes, but it’s more than that– it’s their whole soft, dewy being, as if they’ve been reborn.

My husband and I used to fight over who would be the one to dash to the crib when we’d hear the first sounds of a baby waking.  “It’s my turn.  You did it yesterday,”  we’d argue, shoving each other on our way up the stairs.

Sleep’s a funny thing, isn’t it? I mean people talk about it all the time—how much they need or how little they need, how much they get or didn’t get.  That artist SARK has whole books and calenders and probably even workshops on napping–and my husband’s sister did her graduate work in sleep studies.

As a surgeon, my father was equally preoccupied with his sleep, given how often he was deprived of it by middle of the night emergency calls.  Maybe that’s why he was so obsessed with our sleep.  “Kelly Ann, get to bed,”  was appropriate at age 9 and maybe even 15, but at 18, it was absurd.

I thus  blame my sleep obsession on my father.   Each night before I doze off, I check the clock to calculate how many hours I’ll get—and once I wake, I adjust that time for any middle of the night wakings: my husband’s trips to the bathroom, my teenage son’s heavy feet or my own mid-life hormonal fluctuations.

Ironically, my father now makes fun of me because I go to bed so early. He intentionally phones me really late at night and then leaves messages like, “Kelly Ann, don’t tell me you’re in bed alreadyIt’s only eleven o’clock.”  (To be honest, I’m actually in bed long before 11.)

Since he remarried, my father lives on the edge, living it up to the wee hours of the morning and bragging how he can get by with such little sleep.  He doesn’t eat breakfast now either, and he never notices my pretty eyes.  But I do, and a good night sleep or an afternoon nap are my best friends!


my hands
are little

so little

i twist them
in fear


you are coming

so big

You’re coming
to get


and I cannot hide

I just have to sit here
and wait

huddled in the corner of my bed
with my little hands



terrorize me

with the step of your foot

and the


of your belt

tell me, Daddy?
how is it

at 31

with hands no longer small

my heart beats
so fast

while I write this poem

The Precious Power of Tears

“The cure for pain is in the pain. Good and bad are mixed.

If you don’t have both, you don’t know yourself.” Rumi

kelly salasin

I feel drawn to write about the power of tears–though I am an unlikely candidate.  I can count the times I’ve cried in the past thirty years.   And yet perhaps it is my resistance to tears that makes it possible for me to clearly mark their impact.

At 5 years of age, my tears were met with threats,  “I’ll give you something to cry about!” At 7, they provoked a slap, “Calm yourself down, right now!” At 9, they were interrogated, “Why are you crying?” At 11, they were shamed, “You’re acting like a baby.”  At 13, I began to hide them; and at 14, I turned them off altogether.

It was in the weeks following the untimely death of my grandmother that I was told my grief was self-indulgent.  I didn’t cry again for years, not even in the late seventies, when tear-jerking films like Kramer vs. Kramer were the norm.  I prided myself on this steeliness and girded it through all manner of life’s passages including the death of pets and the moving-away loss of friends.

At 19 however, I could hold off no more. Trauma was piled upon trauma as my father’s absence met my mother’s affair, met my parents divorce, met the loss of our house, met my mother’s drinking, met my father’s indifference, met our family’s collapse.  Despair eroded the wall of my guarded heart and I cried three times in one year–and the tears became mine.

Those early cries were uncontrollable gushes of despair, but over time they came with greater ease, leaving behind treasures for my keep.

I’ve never forgotten the quiet stream of grief shared with my younger sister in the wreck of our family. I reached across the table for her hand, carving out a lifelong path of love that flowed between us.  Though things didn’t get easier for a long, long time, we drank from this well of mutual compassion and were sustained by it.

As the years passed, my tears grew in their strength and helped me wash away things like pride and regret and fear–offering a husband, a home and a child in return.  The gift of writing followed tears of anguish in the loss of my mother; and tears of frustration brought me to loving my father without cause.  Though my tears frequently accompanied pain, they were always full of giving which allowed me to relax into them again and again as they found their away around my resistance.

Just yesterday, I was relieved to find myself crying in the very moments following a deep emotional gash. I sobbed a watershed of tears—both old and new, and this time was gifted with the compassionate presence of my 14-year old son.  He sat down beside me on the front porch stairs and rubbed my shoulders as I wept.

This oldest son is as steely as his mother and I realized that my tears, however pain-filled, were a teacher for him too.  Gratitude replaced my anguish as he tenderly kissed me on the neck.

Seven years earlier we had another family lesson in compassion when he shattered a treasured mug that my late mother had given me.  Surprising the entire family, I ran from the kitchen to the couch with loud sobs.

Seeing me cry caused Lloyd to cry and he joined me on the couch in a chorus of cries as his two year old brother cried too without needing to know why. My husband came upon us last, and stood there before us, confused, not knowing what to “do;” and I began to laugh.

Why are you happy, Mom?” Lloyd asked through his sobs, “You’ll never be able to drink from Mom-mom’s mug again.”

But now I have this,” I told him with a squeeze.  “Now I have this memory of our tears together, and that is more precious than any gift.”

I can’t help but wonder if this memory came to him as he sat beside me on the stairs yesterday afternoon.  I have great hope that in his growing strength he’ll come to know the precious power of his “owned” tears.

The Little House & Me

Within the city of Brahman, which is the body, there is the heart, and within the heart there is a little house. The house has the shape of a lotus, and within it dwells that which is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized. Even so large as the universe outside is the universe within the lotus of the heart. Within it are heaven and earth, the sun, moon, the lightning and all the stars. Whatever is in the macrocosm is in this microcosm also.
~Chandogya Upanishad

Do you know the story of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton?  It’s a book published in the forties with a sweet little house on the cover and a big contented sun on the back. It’s been a lifetime favorite of mine.  What more could a long-ago child want?

The story begins like this:  “Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country.  She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built.”

Her-story continues as the Little House watches the seasons pass from her hill in the country and is soon surrounded by a village, and then a town, and finally—by a city–where she is so crowded-in by buildings that she can no longer see the sun or the moon.  The Little House becomes shabby and misses the apple trees and daisies that once grew around her.  No one wants her anymore.

I pulled this thin paperback off my child’s crowded shelves with the others that he had grown too old to enjoy.  But rather than pack The Little House with the rest, I placed her on my writing table, sensing that her story and mine were somehow aligned.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl, pretty and strong, living in the country—of childhood.  There were daisies and apple trees and plenty of spaces to grow and imagine and thrive.  But as the seasons passed, thoughts moved in and troubles and worries crowded out the moon and the sun –and soon, I grew shabby too.

So shabby perhaps that my own father decides to travel during the week that I have planned to visit my family at their seaside home.  I sit on the porch of my own Little House in the mountains and sob, wondering how I have become so unworthy.  It’s true, that at 45, I am an old daughter, with chipped paint and crooked shutters, but so is my father, older and shabbier still.

My son finds me on the porch, and sits beside me in my grief, placing his hand on my shoulder.  After I finish crying, I tell him that he might be ready to have a girlfriend after all.   Just the day before, I read from a book on teens that young men aren’t comfortable enough with the intimacy required to be in a relationship.  In less than 24 hours, he’s proven that wrong.

At 14, this same son, leans over my bent neck at the dinner table and kisses me before heading to the sink with dishes.  It’s an act of tenderness that ripples through my heart and sorrow.  He hasn’t kissed me of his own accord in years—and never on the neck like a man might do.  I am both touched and shakened by his sweet and mature response to grief.  I begin to feel less shabby.

It is the great-great-granddaugher of the man who built the pretty Little House who comes to retrieve her from the crowded city.  She puts the Little House on wheels and takes her over the big roads and the little roads until they are back in the country.

So must I find my worth–not among my father’s crowded life–but in the wide open expanse of love that surrounds me when I move away from troubled thoughts.

My story and that of The Little House share a similar path of healing and love:

As the Little House settled down on her new foundation, she smiled happily. The stars twinkled above her…A new moon was coming up… Once again she was lived in and taken care of.”

Kelly Salasin