Archive for August, 2012

End times

August 31, 2012

Last night I rode my bike in the moonlight to check on my old parents. When I arrived around 9 p.m., the house was all lit up and they were eating enchiladas with rice and beans from Rob’s or Ruben’s. No doors or windows were open, and it felt like stepping into a sauna. My dad was engrossed in a lively conversation with my brother-in-law about end times, the signs of the times, the rapture, and the infinite wisdom of our heavenly father.

My mom had a dubious look on her face; she was leafing through the September issue of National Geographic on “What’s Up with the Weather”—all about record floods, endless drought, and “snowmageddon.” There was also a feature on Yemen entitled “The Days of Reckoning,” with horrific images of war. My mom stopped turning the pages . . . we saw a photo of a 12-year-old boy cradled by his mother. His eyes were not closed; he had no eyes, just sewn slits where once his beautiful, miraculous eyes had gazed out. He had lost his eyes to a sniper. I no longer ask my earthly father why our heavenly father allows this. Instead I found my mom’s walker and nudged her outside to look at the moon.

Early morning walk in the river bottom

August 31, 2012

To honor the spirit of Faccia and dogs everywhere, and my human spirit too, I rose early for a walk into the wild. Whistled for Nubio, our black dog neighbor….He soars over the rock wall at the entrance to his home and he and Honey gallop away like wild horses, little Chico giving his all to keep up with their longer legs. Chico knows the ropes. He stops in his tracks so I can leash him to keep him safe from coyotes….

The rising sun illuminates the landscape. The sky is still streaked with grey that soon turns to a palette of orange yellow red pink purple colors….at this moment the blues peeking through the clouds are clear like the first day of creation….I wish for one day on earth that except for emergency vehicles and time-sensitive transport, we humans could have a global emergency car-free day…. that we counted the cost we are paying for our oil-driven lifestyle to the global economy ….

Faccia’s gentle passing

August 29, 2012

Today was the passing of our sweet little Faccia, the dog my daughter Monica adopted fourteen years ago.

Before time caught up with Faccia, she ran like the wind—the happiest, springiest dog on earth—so light on her feet . . . a joy to behold.

About two years ago Faccia’s hearing faded; gradually she slowed down, slept more, and walked less and less, just like an elder person in the last years. Her dog tag said, “THIS DOG IS DEAF.”

These past several months I have been watching Monica tenderly carrying Faccia around the yard like a baby. Her house looked more and more like a nursing home for elderly dogs. Yoga mats, blankets and pillows all over the floors to help prevent Faccia from slipping and to give her a soft place to land when her legs gave out . . . special easy-to-digest food . . . new raised dog dishes to made eating easier . . . barricades and fences so Faccia wouldn’t wander off and get disoriented or run over (one night a car backed over her, but somehow she was not injured) . . . special places to pee and poop . . . washing her when she messed on herself, just like an old person . . . Faccia waking up at night, crying and needing help to go to the toilet—just like an old person.

I said to Monica, half joking and half serious, “The way you take care of Faccia shows me how you might someday be taking care of me.”

Monica held Faccia during the night. We spent the morning quietly gathered around Faccia’s gently snoring body. Dr. Curtis Lewis, our longtime vet who has helped ease the end for many of our elder dogs, came to the house at noon.
Even though we knew the moment was coming, and we were ready, a flood of tears came . . .

Dr. Lewis is so kind and gentle . . . a few times Faccia raised her head . . . we watched the change . . . the final exhale . . . her passing was easy.

All afternoon, Faccia’s dear little doggy body rested under the kitchen table as usual, but her breath was no more.

In the late afternoon, Monica’s husband, Trevor, dug Faccia’s grave. As darkness fell, with the bright moon shining down, we gently returned her body to Mother Earth, deep under an oak tree.

Somewhere, somehow, I hope her spirit runs free.

Now that I’m no longer living in the hovel

August 26, 2012
Now that I’m no longer living in the hovel below my younger sister’s three-story castle, my sense of humor about the disparity in my family is returning. Tonight was my parent’s 64th wedding anniversary. (I figure it was 64 because I was born exactly nine months after they got married.) As we gathered around the dinner table, while my dad prayed and thanked the Lord for all his blessings, my 92-year-old mom surveyed everyone present with a critical eye—the neighbor of ten years whom she didn’t recognize, the teen granddaughters in their flimsy outfits, made up like floozies, the fidgety great-grandchildren itching for the praying to be done, the middle-aged husbands and their wives beginning to show signs of wear and tear . . . After my solemn, skinny dad finished his sermon, my mom shook her head and emphatically declared, in Dutch, “Dit is en gekken huis!” which means, “This is an insane asylum!” Then she turned to me and said that if I wanted to go home that would be fine. Instead I stayed, stuffed myself silly, and then rolled downhill back home to the River Bottom.

1956. A Diets-Vermeer family photo taken in Den Haag, Holland, a few months before destiny brought us to Ojai, California, the land of sunshine and orange orchards

Yesterday, while cooling off in Rainbow Bridge

August 20, 2012

Yesterday, while cooling off in Rainbow Bridge, sipping some kind of chocolate-frozen banana-almond milk smoothie, a woman I hadn’t seen in awhile sat down near me and said the most curious thing. She was asking about my family, my yoga classes, and then she wondered if I’d written any more books. I tried to explain that I was branching out into memoir writing. “That’s what we do when we get old,” I added, by way of justification. When I mentioned that the first one, “a kind of dating memoir,” was published a few months ago, and that I was working on another one, she gave me the most incredulous look. She said, ” You say you never leave Ojai — you hardly ever go out—how can you have that much to write about? I wouldn’t think that much has happened to you that you could write a whole book about your life.”

I’m sure she didn’t quite mean it the way it came out but it did sound like she thought that someone whose life was as boring and uninteresting as mine could not possibly fill up a whole book. But I always thought that if we all dug deep enough each and every one of us would have a rolling riveting story to tell. . . .a story that would blast the image we have of each other right out of the water. . . .

Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir, How It All Looks a Year Later

August 15, 2012

You own everything that happened to you.
Tell your stories.

If people wanted you to write warmly about them

they should have behaved better.

—Anne Lamott

Last night I reread the last two Chapters of my memoir for fun—not to catch errors—and I found myself laughing and thinking, “It’s so good!” (I don’t have a publicist, so please forgive  this momentary lapse in modesty.)

I wrote on my Facebook page, “Laugh if you like, but the way out is through! Don’t suppress your personal stories. Bring them out into the light of day. Write in your journal . . . talk with friends who are a few miles ahead of you on the road of life, find a therapist you resonate with . . . whatever it takes ! Memoirs provide an opportunity for  writers to share aspects of themselves not possible in casual conversation and sometimes not even in a formal therapeutic setting. I’ve learned so much about the human condition from the memoirs I’ve read. Maybe you’ll learn something from mine.”
A few hours later, I spotted the above quote by Anne Lamott. I said to myself,  “Every time the idealistic-yoga-zealot-guilty-goodie-two-shoes-pentecostal-christian-daughter and the writer get in a fight in my head over whether I should say something or not, I’m gonna pull that quote out of my hat!”
Ever since I first published a draft of Fishing on Facebook on the Ojai Post and my blog,, about a year and a half ago, I’ve gotten a steady stream of public comments and  private messages. I’ve heard secrets (from both strangers and friends I’ve known for many years) that they might not have felt safe to confide to me had they not read my story.
  After the paperback edition was published (in April 2012), on several occasions when I’ve walked in the door to teach a yoga class, students have told me that Fishing on Facebook was the most honest memoir they’ve ever read.  (Having read stacks of soul-bearing memoirs, I wouldn’t go that far, but I appreciate that they say this.) None of my fears around “What will my students think?” have materialized. On the contrary, they now feel more free to speak the truth about their own lives and share their own stories. Our social masks are falling away.

Here’s one excerpt from a yoga teacher’s response to my book, lightly edited to preserve her privacy:
Hi Suza,
We met many years ago at your studio. I would love to talk with you about your book. I have had the unfortunate experience of being involved with a yoga narcissist/ sociopath. It has been a long journey of dealing with him, and also with the yoga community embracing narcissism and this guy—and the others like him—and calling it spirituality.
In my case, he is a kirtan singer, welcomed into studios across the country and at yoga conferences to create “spiritual experiences” while being the antithesis of that behind the scenes. Plainly, he is a fraud. But for me to say this publicly—even to warn others—has not been a possibility.
I have had to retreat from the yoga community and watch while people make the choice to suspend their critical thinking and be drawn into what they want to be true.
I feel the yoga community is desperately in need of some self-reflection, looking at the hard things—not simply alienating the con-artists who prey on those seeking true spiritual insight, but questioning ourselves as a whole. Also, some self-defense against narcissists who find easy cover in spiritual disguises. As you know, even strong, smart, savvy women (and men) can fall prey.
Up to now I have mostly retreated from it as I watched yogi after yogi opt for star-power over integrity. It has broken my heart. I have been considering ways to confront this in a larger way within the yoga world as a whole. But I think now that others are coming forward with their experiences it may be the time to do something. (For example, teaching using the yamas* and niyamas *—ethical precepts—for self-empowerment to avoid narcissists. How to change your perspective without giving up your boundaries. Etc.)
As two people who have been around the world of yoga a long time before it was part of popular culture, I think it would be great if we could connect. Would you be open to sharing and hearing more about my experiences and thoughts? Maybe together and with others we could nudge this yoga life back from the “spiritual” precipice to be a bit more grounded. At least, maybe spare a few people from having to go through what we did.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for putting yourself out there so bravely. I know how hard it is, and I appreciate that you have.



Finding my balance in nature

   A few days ago someone asked, “So how do you tell a sociopath from a real emotionally available man (or woman)?” My response is that at first it may not be easy to tell the difference. Even professionals in the mental health and legal fields can be duped. Anyone who thinks they can’t be fooled hasn’t met one of these charming, often highly intelligent characters, often involved in all kinds of good causes, environmental activism, politics, and spiritual and religious endeavors.

But as far as the dating/relationship world is concerned, had I done a background check on the antagonist in my book I would have seen from the get-go that he was lying about certain aspects of his life. So first thing is check the facts—do not assume anything. Alas, as my book illustrates and as many of us have experienced, when we “fall in love,” we tend to resist the notion that the person looking into our eyes and nuzzling our neck could possibly be lying!
Just now as I was feeding my four-legged menagerie I was thinking I hope people don’t think I’m all doom and gloom with all these writings about relationships that could be interpreted as negative. I can honestly say I’ve never felt more liberated and empowered in my life. I have my moments when I’m weary of having to deal with flat tires, clogged drains, a hovel that’s falling apart, no one to walk the dogs but me, etc., but those moments pass. If there is such a thing as past lives, this might be the first incarnation in which it’s even possible for me to survive on my own and be the master of my own fate. Perhaps singlehood is a golden opportunity that has yet to be fully explored.


From the Afterword:
So, what have I learned from all this?
I now have a deeper understanding of why women, for the most part, don’t speak out. Or if they do speak out, why they often wait for years, till something pushes them over the edge.
We do not want to risk not being believed. Or being viewed as vindictive. Or appearing gullible and naive.
Society gives the man a pass and asks her, “Why were you so easily duped?” [or the woman, as the case may be]

Our culture tends to blame the victim—”You should have known better!”—rather than holding the liar accountable. We yogis and spiritual types dream of becoming enlightened by chanting, doing our asanas, our breathing
practices, walking in nature, doing good deeds and imagining
love and light.
In years of yoga workshops, meditation retreats and relationship counseling the term “pathological liar” never came up. Yoga and other spiritual practices have the potential for expanding consciousness and giving some semblance
of inner peace, but we are fooling ourselves if we run away from the darker side of life.
All my adult life, the mantra, “look for the good,” has been drummed into me. The problem with looking for the good is that too often we do so at the expense of denying the bad.
Our great psychological challenge, both in human relationships and the wider world, is to see what actually is, without projection, without the veil of illusion, and thus see the mixed bag that all human beings are.
Psychologists point to the universal desire to hear, see, and speak no evil.  The problem with that desire is that we fail to recognize the true nature of people we encounter in daily life. Sociopaths have a mask which is used to fool others and to make themselves, on the surface, look like they are good people.

For Reviews and to Look Inside the Book:
Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir is available at Made in Ojai, The Rainbow Warehouse, Soul Centered,  the Ojai Library, Barnes & Noble,  other bookstores, and*Yama and Niyama are the ethical precepts such as non-violence, non-stealing, and truthfulness set forth in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga.  The practice of yoga begins with Yama and Niyama, and extends into asana and the other limbs of yoga.

A summer night in Ojai

August 13, 2012


Last night I found a pocket of coolness around the basin near Pratt Trail. Suddenly, out of the unrelenting muggy heat, a cold wind started blowing. So strong that my skirt flew around and the bottle of Tazo Tea I was drinking made a humming sound. Honey and Chico ran ahead and we made our way to our meditation spot with the powerful view of darkening mountains, ever changing mystical cloud formations, and dry wildness below. The landscape was stone still. We sat down on the warm ground and sank into silence. My rambunctious Aussie instantly switches into guard dog mode, quiet as a wolf, totally alert, surveying the landscape for any intruders so I can relax. Chico is secure on my lap. Together we sit and take a deep slow journey into silence.

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