Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Raccoon Medicine ~ Part 2

Thanks to those of you whose have followed my heartbreaking story about our dying oak and how its removal displaced the raccoon family living in it. Between my knee acting up and Tim’s ongoing mobility issues, it’s hard for either of us to get down to the greenbelt below our house on a ravine to check things out firsthand. Our neighbor Ken, who has been harvesting the wood, has been giving us the ongoing raccoon report.

We left 4-5 feet of tree stump up to allow time for the raccoons to relocate. It took the tree service a couple of weeks to get back to remove the remainder. (We waited to call till the raccoons cleared out.) It was difficult to see the raccoon completely that had died, as it was deep in the stump in a place that could not be accessed before removing more of the wood around it.

Good news/bad news depending on how you look at it. It was not one of the adult raccoons that died, but rather one of the babies—and, blessedly, it was not by the saws. It appeared he or she died naturally.

I thought this was particularly poignant to learn right after I posted Incubation/Hatching, where I discussed how not all eggs hatch or make it into the world.

Once more, the raccoons provide an amazing punctuation to my learning. Now I’ll have to go sit with myself and figure out which of my eggs are not supposed to hatch—and quit sitting on them.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your healing words, because this incident “got to me” so deeply.


Photo Credit: THE RACCOON by Vladvitek Dreamstime.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010


© 2010 by Joyce Mason

This is the third in a series of posts that discuss the relationship between humans and the Bigger Plan. In Karmic Relationships: The Great Flow Charters in the Sky, I addressed my ideas about how reincarnation works and the complexity of getting multiple characters together to work out sometimes rather convoluted scenarios to balance the ledger on past-unfinished business. This is literal if you believe in reincarnation. But in our many lives within a life, thanks to fast-paced modern society, these principles can sometimes refer to meet-ups in different eras of the same lifetime.

Next, in Dis-appointment, I presented a concept of a divine calendar that doesn’t always match with ours and sometimes blessedly removes us from danger. It can be the equivalent of being Touched by an Angel, who diverts you from a romance or job that might end in an emotional car wreck. You might wonder if God Knows What She’s Doing at the time. You are often not happy with the detour.

Now I want to address another aspect of our relationship to the divine, when it comes to direction, time and timing. It involves incubation, the time needed for a project or relationship to “cook” before it’s ready to emerge from its egg as a Baby Whatever It’s Going to Be. As you can see by the look on the face of this chick, getting there isn’t always half the fun!

Set Goals, But Sit in Silence Listening for Changes in Direction

Here’s where East/West, yin/yang, and a complementary blending of the best of both worlds is ideal for optimal manifestations. I’m all for being goal oriented, including making commitments such as, “I will publish my book by October 1, 2010.” However, to take only a target date into consideration and the sheer dint of your will is true folly. There can be a myriad of reasons why something might need further incubation … and if you listen closely to the whispers of the divine all around you, you’ll know when further gestation is necessary.

For instance, the example in the paragraph above refers literally to my poetry book in the middle of production. I kept dragging my feet; I couldn’t figure out why. I decided one poem had to be pulled, even though it’s one of the most powerful, because I felt the language was too sexually explicit. When most of these poems were written in the 1970s, there was a lot looser cultural norm about language. I’m just not comfortable with it now, even though I’d read it to my best friends in private.

When I couldn’t light a fire under myself to finish this nearly done task—still—I waited around to find out what else I had to fix. That’s when I realized that there had to be a poem about Garry, my dear friend and hairdresser that I wrote about in Bartenders, Beauticians and Baristas. I did that. If that doesn’t clear the logjam, I’ll wait awhile longer and ask for help in my dreams and meditations.

Settled Mud

We often joke when we’re not clear about something, “It’s as clear as mud.” A wise man asks good questions. Ask yourself in any incubating project or situation the questions in the classic Chinese text, the Tao Te Ching, attributed to the sage author Lao Tzu:

Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until right action arises by itself? ~Tao Te Ching

Here’s where the Western mind dulls and our eyes glaze over. We are so unused to the concept of sitting with something until the time is right. (In the case of literal incubation, that would be sitting on.) In my placeholder post announcing the launch of Stitched Verse, my new poetry blog, I quoted a more modern literary version of this idea from Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land: “Waiting is fullness.”

Unfortunately, many things in life don’t have a predictable gestation cycle like the one leading to human birth, which seldom varies from nine months. Human gestation carries signs of progress, like an ever-enlarging belly. Then, one day, close to the nine-month mark, the water breaks and the hour is imminent. Especially in the more subtle areas of life like relationships or creative projects, there are no meat thermometers declaring them cooked or timers that go off and say, it’s done—ready to go. Send the baby out into the world.

Department of the Interior

Here’s where we have to rely on inner barometers, self-knowledge, and the ability to be both gentle and tough with ourselves. Are you dragging your feet because of some fear? If yes, find it and address it. While that’s often easier said than done, it’s totally do-able. If you can’t identify your stumbling block alone, that’s what friends—and sometimes counselors—are for.

If that’s not it, something may be alerting you to intuitive timing factors. My dearest friend often tells me I have an impeccable sense of timing. This is wrapped up closely with my sizable intuition and often runs counter to what I really want to do in my busy Western mind.

Another example: In 1996 after creating a pilgrimage of people from around the world to Greece for an astrological event, I was at the peak of my career as an astrologer. Everything was going my way. I was becoming well known for my astrological specialty, my part-time practice was thriving to the point that I could see its becoming full-time, if I chose …

… but God/dess would not have it. I was given clear inner direction to put astrology on the back burner at the peak of the wave.

Little did I know then that later in the year, I’d reconnect with my childhood sweetheart and begin a relationship that would lead to marriage—plus all the complexities of merging two very single people in one place, one of them from several states away. Even though I wasn’t the one to relocate, my life was topsy- turvy with making these transitions for several years. Once more, divine direction was right direction.

“Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They’re Hatched”

I have always gotten a bang out of this saying, which reminds us that not all seeds make it to fruition; no matter how much we want to assume it’s so. You might start with five eggs, but maybe only three will hatch.

So it is with our ideas, projects, relationships and all other creations. A natural weeding process occurs in nature. The strongest survive. The same goes for the metaphorical seedlings and eggs in our lives.

As humans on a spiritual journey, we are often left to Inquire Within on whether we should continue to incubate certain creations. I think the biggest hurdle is learning to trust that inner wisdom and sage direction that comes from inside us.

Once I started looking back (hot flashbacks), I could see the clear track record of better outcomes through following these signs. Whatever way you perceive the Ultimate Creativity, God/dess is a good egg. After all, s/he hatched every one of us. We made the cut. The rest is Up to us.


Photo Credit: Lonely chicken hatching © Ekaterinas Dreamstime.com

Saturday, August 21, 2010


© 2010 by Joyce Mason

Disappointment leaves us sad that something we looked forward to—maybe even longed for—did not occur. It can be a relationship, a fun get-together, or a goal we didn’t achieve, like getting a promotion. We expect people to act a certain way. They don’t. Disappointment.

Yet, in the Great Calendar in the Sky (it goes along with the Great Flow Charters in the Sky from the last post), the dis-appointment might be better for us. We just don’t know it yet. We had an “appointment” in our own minds with a set destiny. God/Goddess/All That Is had other ideas. The cosmic appointment calendar trumps our own. Sometimes we just don’t see the big picture, thinking our Day Runner, Franklin Planner, or the PDA in our minds knows best, like our mothers. Our own calendars are right about as often as mom is about “what’s good for us.”

I’ll share my most dramatic example. When I reunited with Keane, the great lost love of my life (the one who took me decades to get over), he tried to get a transfer to my city, which shocked me. I was startled that after our first long weekend together in 18 years, he’d actually make an effort to be near me on an ongoing basis. What shocked me even further was a dream I had while he was still in competition for the position. I heard this clear, psychic message, “There’s no way he won’t get it.”

Assuming the best and definitely wanting him to move to Sacramento, I was stunned when someone else got the offer. That’s when I realized that my wishful thinking punctuated the dream message according to my desired outcome.(There’s no way getting it won’t happen.) What my inner wisdom was really saying in the dream: “There’s no way. (Punctuation—period.) He won’t get it.”

Disappointing Godsends

In the three decades I spent recovering from Keane, I learned something about myself. My early relationships were agony/ecstasy, enmeshed with a mixture of high highs and low lows. Pleasure and pain were so closely bound together, I truly believed I had to endure twice or more pain for any love I got. Not exactly good programming for healthy relationships.

Had I stayed with Keane from our earliest encounters (ages 18-22) or even had the opportunity to be with him again at age 40 on an ongoing basis, the basic facts of our chemistry would not change. Our pull toward one another was always bigger than the both of us, but he was terrible for me. I would have bent over backwards trying to make it work for the fun and the intense chemistry—and my actual, unabashed love for him. But we’re simply too different. He had a side, at least back-when, that was very punishing—one my sensitive soul could have never endured in the long run (and I wonder how it ever did in the short run. I guess if it took so many years to come to stasis about him, it didn’t).

I have often thanked God that there was a bigger force that kept me from going Round 2 with Keane. But it took me years to “get there,” to see the divine direction, redirection, or right direction of it. With time I learned to trust the Big Appointment Calendar in the Sky … as you’ll see.

The House That Broke Our Hearts

When Tim and I first got together, my reunited childhood sweetheart hubby, we started looking for a house after we’d been living together, renting, for close to a year. We thought we’d found the house to end all houses—a block from my best friend in a small suburb that was more rural than suburban. From the back yard, it had a gorgeous view of Folsom Lake. We wanted to be near water—if not on it, at least where we could see it, which is more of what we could afford.

We signed the deal right after we saw it. It had a built-in sauna and many attractive features. However, when it came to moving the deal along, the seller hid out and would not respond to our realtor! Apparently, she wanted to back out of the contract but wouldn’t face the music. We had to hire an attorney to gain back our earnest money, and the lawyer’s fees cost us half of it. Tim was resentful and miserable for months. He had his heart set on that house.

Shortly after this debacle, our realtor’s assistant called us about a house she located just a block from her own in a nature setting near a creek. She felt this one was “it” for us. She was right! In the long-run, the house we bought was newer, closer to freeways for commuting while I still was working at my civil service job, and we suspect it is much more structurally sound than the one we lost. We love it here and can’t imagine ourselves in the other place, now that time and the divine appointment calendar has had her way with us.

This illustrates how we just can’t see the complete picture when a dis-appointment occurs. Our perfect house wasn’t ready for us yet. It wasn’t even on the market. So we had to be distracted by some other “house drama” (I’m a big fan of the drama “House!”) to keep us from making the mistake of buying anything else until it became available. I chuckle over this story still, and it has been 12 years.

Expectations and Disappointment

Instead of relying too much on my personal expectations, I’ve learned to live by what my first spiritual teacher called the divine escape clause, “This or something better.” Add the name of divinity to the request as you see Him/Her/It—Lord, God, Great Spirit, etc. Disappointment makes us miserable because we continue to think we’re the ultimate authority on what’s best for us, when life and All That Is have been disproving that to us every year of our lives.

I’ve learned, now, to simply understand that when something doesn’t work out, it’s because something better for me was meant to be. I just don’t see it yet. When you can see life through this lens, everything changes. It becomes more of an adventure and there’s less of that weepy, woeful disappointment—a feeling that makes me miserable.

Relationships: The One Appointment We Should Always Keep

This is the area where dis-appointment often equals heartbreak. I have another spin on this. Not just with Keane: I have had many relationships where, in retrospect, I feel blessed to have been “removed” or my appointment calendar edited against my will at the time.

From the perspective of a mature adult, it’s easy to look back and imagine the story arc of major loves lost and how things would have turned out, had we stayed together. That’s when I appreciate that God/dess spared me. But there’s one appointment people always should keep, whenever possible. That’s your appointment with completion.

At least three times in my life, I have had a relationship interrupted for different reasons—in one case, by the man himself (Keane), not wanting go to the next growth step when I had gone as far as I could go without a commitment. In another instance, the young man’s mother made him break up with me when we were truly too young for the feelings we’d gotten ourselves into. In yet another case, another woman stepped in right as we were getting to the cusp of declaring ourselves, before either of us had gotten up the nerve to risk admitting his or her feelings. (In that case, feelings not spoken and each of us being uncertain of how the other felt became the weak link and opening for someone else to enter).

These unfinished relationships feel like emotional miscarriages. I never stop mourning them at a certain level. I have been luckier than most, because in all cases, the interruption was talked about and/or resolved in some way later, even if we didn’t live the relationship to its natural completion at the time. (Example: One of the first things Keane said in our reunion phone call was, “There were loose ends.”)

Still, these relationships leave major losses to mourn. It’s not painful that they didn’t work out; it’s painful that they didn’t get to run their course for whatever we were to learn and experience together because our opportunity was cut off before our appointment time was up. It’s like that horrendous scene we often see, or heaven forbid, may have even personally experienced, where your 50 minutes is up with your shrink in the middle of some big emotional build-up to breakthrough. You’re cut off and left hanging.

There’s a corollary of this idea that applies to divorces and break-ups of committed relationships or any relationship where there was deep bonding. You didn’t fail; the relationship didn’t necessarily fail. Your appointment was with specific learning and experiences. Your time was simply up. This particular appointment didn’t block out your calendar for the rest of your life.

The Blessing and Curse of Deep Feelings

I am a deep feeler, and my husband calls it both my blessing and curse. He’s the middle man in the previous discussion. I keep teasing him that the only time he ever listened to his mother is when she told him to break up with me. Still, we ended up together 37 years later and are happily married. Sometimes even an interfering mother can’t muck things up completely.

If you, too, are a person with deep feelings, understand that mourning the losses of these dis-appointments is normal, healthy, and something you just have to take as part of love. Move through the feelings. Understand that same level of depth is also what brings you great joy.

An old boyfriend died recently, and when I found out, I had quite a weepy day or two consisting of a rush of happy and painful memories. (As I mentioned, all my youthful relationships were a mishmash of both.) After that, I felt great. I’ve even had some nice psychic conversations with him. Any story I’ll have with him again will have to be saved for another lifetime. I can only wonder if the Great Flow Charters in the Sky will bring us together to make up for the opportunities we missed when our appointment was cut short this time.

May you learn to see the blessings in all your dis-appointments. May you lobby for completion whenever possible, and at the very least—reconnect with that person when you’re older and wiser. Express your sorrow for what you missed together … and your joy for the fact that you can see a certain divine wisdom that led you down another path.


Photo Credit: A February calendar showing the 14th prominently © Kasiap Dreamstime.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

Karmic Relationships: The Great Flow Charters in the Sky

© 2010
by Joyce Mason

I first became involved in metaphysics in 1977. Little did I know, then, what a red-letter year it was! On November 1 of that year, the planetary body Chiron was discovered. Chiron would ultimately become my specialty as an astrologer, but not until we “met” eleven years later.

Another turning-point iconic event happened that changed the thinking of many people that year—the release of the first Star Wars movie. There’s nothing like cinema to convey cultural values and change them. Suddenly, we were saying, “May the Force be with you,” acknowledging that there was one joining power we could tap into. We were spouting Yoda-isms, words to live by from the tiny green wizened one.

“No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”    ~Yoda, Star Wars

My intro to these subjects, as I’ve mentioned many times before, came from psychic and meditation teacher Betty Bethards and Unity Church. However, my own cultural context influenced the way I saw what would soon become a melting pot of ideas from different religions and traditions. Take karma for example.

While karma has many meanings and spins, they roughly parallel the idea from the Judeo-Christian West, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” However, it adds the idea that you may be reaping your crop through continuous lifetimes.

What Are the Mechanics?

I was one of those overly curious kids who asked my father why so often, he wanted to invent a why swatter. When I received new information, sometimes before my physical and emotional maturity to handle it, I would always get hung-up on the mechanics. For instance, when I first heard about sex and how people “do it,” I had to get out two of my dolls, imagining the male to have an anatomically correct appendage, and experiment with how that might work logistically. I didn’t get it. Grown-ups must be acrobats! At least I get points for an inquiring mind.

The same thing happened to me with karma. Once I heard that you often go through many lifetimes with the same cast of characters, repeating similar scenes until you complete your “business,” I had to figure out a way to wrap my brain around something so complex. Here’s what I came up with. Maybe it’s a metaphor; maybe I’m channeling something. At any rate, it works for me as a touchstone for organizing my thoughts around karma and reincarnation.

The Great Flow Charters in the Sky

Remembering that I first imagined this idea in the days before social networking and many tools we take for granted nowadays, I envision that each person has a “team” of advisors, a karma committee if you will, helping him or her to map out his/her next incarnation for maximum learning. This is, essentially, what Betty taught us.

Considering my Catholic background and being raised by an Italian mama, I saw my committee as consisting of handsome young Italian-American men in blue pinstripe suits, sort of a white-collar version of the entourage of Tony Soprano. Only better looking. Only angels. They didn’t make their bones; they made their wings. Bad guys gone good, now rewarded with the important job of helping others even their own scores in their multiple lives.

They’re in a “peace room” of sorts, the heavenly version of a war room where strategies are plotted before the plotted arise and are planted on earth again, body and soul together, one more time. They have to figure out how this complex of people will meet up and have all the experiences they need with all the right people from their past karmic strings of events. What a job!

I envision several flip charts. On them, they are drawing complex flow charts. Each chart stands for an individual life. Imagine the number of charts in a room in order to dovetail all of a person’s primary encounters with the people who are their sources of “unfinished business.” I can barely conceive of the complexity of this. If I had been a come-lately to these ideas, I’d probably imagine some sort of computer program. But I’d lose something important with a more modern image.

Magic Marker Music

As the Queen of Synchronicity, I’m no stranger to karmic connections and karmic moments. When they happen, I can hear in my mind the squeak of the Magic Markers the Flow Charters use, their writing tools dancing furiously on those flip charts. I imagine the complex strategy it took for all the planets to align and the people nudged to get this moment to line up.

Example: Recently, a good friend of my ex-husband, “Pearlie,” was surfing the Net looking for information on the potent summer eclipses and current rock ‘n’ rollin’ in the sky. She came across my name in her Google search and wondered if I was the same Joyce Mason who was “Laramie’s” ex. She e-mailed me, and one thing led to another. We are both into astrology and poetry and had lots to talk about. I hadn’t spoken to Laramie since ’07 and gave her his contact info. Soon we were all e-mailing in a big chain of healing and helpfulness. In my conversations with Pearlie, she helped me revision my relationship with my ex, so wrought with past pain, I dismissed the good I got from him. “Talking” with Larry by e-mail, I could see he was the most healed ever, in a good relationship, and let go the last of any beating myself up for marrying him. I saw it was all good, even if it took decades to “get it.” What a gift!

The Mystique of Karma

Speaking of husbands, I recently had cause to discuss with another friend from faraway what a minefield it is to offer opinions on someone else’s marriage, no matter how close the friendship. What Anne said is both commonsense and so profound:

Ultimately, what's between us and our husbands is part of that mysterious alchemy that no other person can ever fully know (including us, some of the time!)

Wow! Dare I say, the same goes for karma—or maybe it goes for karma foremost, because what marriage would not be a karmic relationship? I suspect that people have been incarnating far too long on the earth plane for first-time encounters. That’s my humble opinion, anyway, while clearly understanding that time is a human-made concept.

The resonance of karma is what pulls people together, I believe. We recognize each other energetically. One of my favorite, far-out astrological writers, Barbara Hand Clow, believes that we retain our same Ascendant in our birth chart lifetime after lifetime. One thing the Ascendant or rising sign has to do with is how we look. In other words, she believes we retain looks similar enough from one incarnation to the next to be recognized by our karma mates. Even though that’s a radical idea, if feels right to me.

How Karmic?

Karma is a matter of degree, but I think that it’s simple to tell how hot it is by the intensity of the magnetism when you first meet someone. It could be a “romantic” relationship, a friendship, or any form of bonding. There’s a strong pull-in and a sense of rediscovery. It’s like when you haven’t seen an old friend for years, and you pick right up where you left off. Only you don’t consciously “know” this person yet in this lifetime, so you can’t figure it out by “normal” logic.

Details Please! Past Life Regression

I’ve had several past live regressions (PLR) in my day, a form of self-exploration that I would recommend that you try only with a trusted practitioner by way of a personal referral. I learned amazing things, including my role as an astrologer in Atlantis and how much trouble it got me into, which explains why I’ve been somewhat resistive to reclaiming that vocation in my current lifetime.

I know that my husband, Tim, was also my husband in an Atlantean lifetime. (It was a long civilization, and I think I had more than one time ‘round in that lost world). He took care of me when I was disabled, and now I am returning the favor in helping him navigate his health issues in our current life.

The karma between my birth and adoptive families was explained so well by one of my PLRs, I no longer wonder why it had to happen that my birth mom gave me up. It was inevitable, a role reversal with my adoptive mom in a prior incarnation.

Through love, through friendship, a heart lives more than one life. ~Anais Nin

What If You Don’t Believe in Reincarnation?

You don’t have to believe in reincarnation for this concept to work. In today’s world, life is so fast and jam-packed with experiences, we live numerous lifetimes in any given incarnation. I guess I’m the poster girl for meeting up with people from my past lives and passions within this life … and bringing the relationships to some sort of positive balance or conclusion. I find myself talking about that a lot lately, so it’s obviously something I feel compelled to share as a major cool insight pattern at this time.

Completing circles—that’s what it’s all about. Balancing the favors, love, good and bad feelings and coming to a higher understanding of the essence of each individual on your Great Flow Chart in the Sky.

I don’t know about the sound of one hand clapping, but I do love the sound of one marker squeaking.


Photo Credit: WHITEBOARD by Tuulijumala | Dreamstime.com

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bartenders, Beauticians and Baristas

© 2010
by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

We all know professional counselors by the fancy letters after their names—LCSW, MFCC, Ph.D, and sometimes MD—although nowadays “shrinks” tend to deal more with medication and leave the counseling to owners of the other initials.

But I’m not talking about Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Marriage Family and Child Counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists. I’m talking about those grassroots counselors we encounter in our everyday life, those folks in the title of this post—bartenders, beauticians, and baristas. Is there one among us who hasn’t told his tale of joy or woe or sought solace from one of these B-people? Even if it was only our custom-made Carmel Macchiato?

Now that I’ve really lived and for longer than I care to admit, I treasure in retrospect more than ever this trio of feel-better professionals in my life. They don’t all have degrees, but the degree they have positively influenced my life cannot be underestimated. I’ll bet the same is true for you. I’d like to tell you some stories about some of my most prized and profound encounters with each of them. Maybe I’ll spark some memories of your own.


My experience with bartenders is in a past life, as I have barely touched alcohol for decades, except for the occasional glass of wine with a special dinner at home or in a restaurant. Still, what a part “my friendly neighborhood bartender” played in my twenties. I lived in a small city where the local bar was where most social connections were made and perpetuated, and I was at an age where I wanted to “be connected” more than anything else.

I’ll call him Uncle Bucky. Buck was a middle-aged guy who could chat up a rock. Aside from the fact he was attracted to me and it wasn’t mutual, Bucky always had my best interests at heart. If he saw me sidling up to someone he thought was bad news, he would tell me gently—or bluntly, depending on his mood and my degree of gaga. He was married with daughters, and his paternal instincts were something he couldn’t turn off like the spigot on a draw of tap beer. What I loved about him: I could always talk to him about anything. I knew he cared and felt protective of me. And he created an atmosphere in his pub of close family, care, and concern. If anyone drank too much or was being obnoxious, it was handled. It was my own version of the TV show, Cheers. Everybody knew my name. It was home. At that particular time in my life when I was just a few steps in front of breaking away from my parents, Uncle Bucky’s provided a way station for the duration of my “psychological adolescence” in his hometown. He brought joy, comfort, and counsel to a lot of people. When I moved away, I missed Uncle Bucky. I never replaced him. I guess I outgrew my “bar stage” and turned the informal counselor role over to others.


Hairdressers hold a certain je ne sais quois for me, because I come from a family of them: mother, brother, sister, and sister-in-law. You could say my family could make your hair stand on end—or not—and it would be a completely accurate statement. I grew up with my mother’s beauty salon in our paneled, made-over basement. I don’t think I knew air without the smell of permanent wave solution or hair color. I’m sure the chemicals did something to my brain. People say I have a unique viewpoint. It’s probably just the fumes! They say the psychic oracle at Dephi was actually high on sulpher fumes from a nearby geyser. Same difference.

This family history is probably what makes me so loyal to a hairdresser. It’s more than a professional relationship for me; it’s personal. I’ve only had six hairdressers in 40 years, and it would be only three, if I hadn’t moved in two cases and if one of them hadn’t died.

Garry—More Than Hair-y. I want to talk about the one who died, Garry. This is in large part an homage to him, because he represents the depth to which a relationship that starts in the “hair chair” can evolve into one of great intimacy and family feeling. Garry has been gone for nearly 20 years, yet I still can’t think about him without crying. I have lost many family members—parents, siblings, nephew—and I don’t always tear up when I remember them. What is it about Garry that got to me in such a bedrock way? Why can’t I see this screen for drops of sorrow glopping on my keyboard?

In part, it’s who Garry was and still is in whatever dimension he now lives. He was from Kentucky and had one of those assets that can’t be bought or affected, an adorable Southern accent. Plus, we were so on beam with each other—both highly metaphysical, relationship and communications oriented. I don’t worry that he’d care that I’m sharing either photo or facts about him. He was a Gemini. He’d have loved it. He’d have been honored. He lived in the open and “out loud.” I remember someone once describing Leo Buscaglia as The Incredible Hug. Seeing Garry (left) and his partner Marty in this photo, you can probably see why I think he deserves the same title.

The bedrock piece is that Garry really “got” me. He grokked my essence. When I found my birth mom in 1986, he and Marty came to my getting-to-know-her party. I created a memory book and form where people could say how they knew me and their favorite things to tell my “new, yet original” mother about me. Garry wrote:

She is a total heart person. She comes only from creating peace on the planet. I love her. She is very warm and easy to be around.

Like I said, he really got me, and that gets to me.

When Garry was diagnosed with AIDS, he made lemons out of lemonade and always put spirit first before worry. My brother was also going through a potentially devastating illness, himself, which luckily turned out later to go into remission. He lived another 10 years into his early seventies and ultimately died from something else. Yet, when my bro was living on the edge, thinking he might not have long to live, it was Garry who reached out, had us over for dinner, and put us in the right frame of mind and in the right direction of helpful resources. You can’t buy that, either. Friends who share their shoes and tell you where the podiatrist and shoe repair are located.

Marty died about a year later and the memorial was at Garry and Marty’s home. Marty was an adorable, big overgrown kid who loved balloons. We sent dozens of them skyward in his honor. Their huge yard was covered with people and more love than blades of grass. I don’t think I’ve met two people more universally cherished.

To show who Garry really was, you’d have to appreciate that he was dying on the day his only daughter got married. He was too sick to attend her wedding—and he wanted her to go through with the ceremony. He wanted the show to go on, even though he couldn't walk her down the aisle and her brothers would have to do the honors. He was lovingly acknowledged by the clergyman in absentia. I cried a lot that day, too, but it was just a warm-up. He died the next morning.

At his memorial in the rose garden of one of the popular parks in town, I was still crying. You could have watered the flowers with my tears. Garry was my counselor, confidant, dear friend—and incidentally, my hairdresser. We connected on each other’s similar cosmic tractor beam in a way few people do. We treasured each other’s viewpoints and opinions on our lives. Maybe I sensed he’d die too young, and that made our time together so sweet. I remember once, he was worried about how he’d put away money for “his old age.” Turned out to be a non-issue. He didn’t have one.

I used to talk to Garry about writing a stirring play, based on our relationship. It would center on the Garry-based character doing the Joyce-based character’s hair one last time for her wake. It would be a flashback about all the life they’d lived together in the chair. He wasn’t supposed to die first. It wasn’t the play I had in mind, even though the ending was the same, roles reversed.

I just know that I’ll always love him and miss him. He must have done something really special and permanent to my hair—and heart—follicles.

“Tom,” the ‘Tweener. I actually had one truly temporary hairdresser, only for a year or two—but I went back to my ex, Tom. I was relieved to find Tom—I think Garry actually referred me to him when he was getting too sick to work. I left Tom the first time because of distance from home. The second time, that was still my official reason, but in truth, something changed between us. I was no longer comfortable in his chair. It was no longer the life-affirming, fun friendship we once had. He seemed impatient with me and no longer interested in my life. I have my theories about why it changed, but they don’t matter. I consider it similar to a marriage that didn’t go the distance. All totaled, we spent at least 12 years together, but when our relationship lost the personal touch, I knew it was time to let go. It was my signal to move on, because that’s my need. To work on my head, you have to be good for it—and my soul, too. Being in someone’s hair chair has to be a therapeutic experience, or it’s just not for me.

Liz, the Love. My current hairdresser, Liz, is a keeper! I was referred to her by one of my closest, most trusted friends. I like the way she cuts my hair, and I love how she understands me. As a single mom on a budget, she completely gets my current priorities in today’s economic climate. She not only understands that I need to color my own hair for now; she actually gives me tips on how to do it! We cut up during those haircuts and have the best time. It’s like a girlfriends’ PJ party without the jammies. Substitute hair smock.

Liz loves to see me coming. She’s so good looking and lively, she’s just fun to watch. I like a hairdresser who looks beautiful. She’s a walking, talking advertisement, which gives me confidence. Plus, at twenty years younger than me, it makes me tingle when she constantly tells me I don’t look anywhere near my age. Even if she were fibbing (not her style), the flattery is good for my soul. We connect. It’s two-way counseling. She’s way wiser than her years, and her zest for life is a booster shot of spirit every time I see her. We hug and speak endearments.

Given our age difference, I hope I can assume Liz will outlive me by a long shot. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I could handle another six-hanky tearjerker hairdresser loss.


Wake-up juice. For some of us, it’s mother’s milk—with a kick. When they know my personal preferences—my drink—I feel so nurtured! And sometimes it’s more than the barista; it’s the coffeehouse.

During my husband’s recent round of PT, I’d drop him off and walk over to the Peet’s across the street. What ambience! While my husband got physical therapy, I got caffeine therapy in a spa setting. Everyone was so friendly, and each staff person always remembered me. Service is prompt, courteous, and everyone in the entire place is upbeat—even the customers. The best part is the classical music. My cool insight? I spend too much time in silence and need to get out my huge classical music collection and start playing it again as background music when I work.

I have noticed that while there was the old expression soda jerk, which did not mean jerk in the normal pejorative sense, I’ve never met a barista that acted like a jerk whatsoever. They deserve that classy title. Baristas have something special. (My coffee!) Seriously, they make custom orders rapidly and almost always serve up drinks with a smile. It’s those little kindnesses in everyday life, especially during these crazy times, that remind me that I miss my mother …

… and Garry.


Photo credits: Bartender sits at bar © Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime.com and a photo from Garry and Marty’s Christmas card, circa late ‘80s/early ‘90s.

PS ~ I’d love to hear your personal experiences with the three B’s.