Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I remember...

It was a crisp fall day. As usual I was playing outside around the farm yard. Being fall, the family was prepping for winter. Firewood was being cut and split. That's how the caveman club came to be. Apparently, bugs bite trees which cause the tree to swell. This particular tree was bit on a small limb. It swelled and formed a large bulge. When we cut the tree...I say "we" lightly as the adults, the men, cut the trees. We kids played in the woods near the tractor and wagon. Anyway, this tree was cut down. When we came across the limb they cut it so it looked like a cave-mans club. It was quite perfect and well formed. It was tossed in the back of the wagon at the end of the day and we kids got to play with it from then on out.

For some reason it was sitting next to my grandparents garage door that day. I grabbed it and began swinging it around. I don't know if I'd played with it up to that point. I don't quite remember. I just remember that my cousin claimed that it was his. He was up from Massachusetts. Anyway, he grabbed it and he chased me. He carried that club over his head and chased me. I've no doubt that I was laughing and squealing and running away from him. I finally got tired, came to a screeching halt as I put my hand on a wagon tire and screamed "safety!"

He slammed that club down onto the tire...and I moved my hand just in time and whipped around to the end of the wagon. Sure that he'd have to listen to me, I dug my heels into the ground, this time putting my hand onto the cold metal surface of the wagon itself. I screamed "SAFETY!" even louder. My young stubbornness settling in-I didn't move.

The club smashed my index finger.

That club led my cousin to hide in a car for hours.
It led to surgery...to a needle. a wire woven into my bone.
a long hospital stay...

I remember.

Friday, November 12, 2010

a passing.

My Grandmother, Pauline Mary Barnet Bolton, passed away.

I haven't spoken with her for probably (2) years. Perhaps a year and a half. I don't know. I struggled with the guilt and sadness I felt. mine. So, I didn't call. Afraid that she'd not remember who I was or that I had even called anyway. Afraid that the conversation would keep coming back to "do you still live in California?" With me replying "yes. yes, I do. Though I'd like to move home." That was after she broke her hip and moved into a senior care home.

Her memory was fading before that. long before that. The reality is...I just didn't know how to sit with my own discomfort in order to reach out and connect with her. I didn't know how to point out that she was watching the same television channel all day, and that the programs kept repeating, all day. I don't know if she was watching anyway.

When her memory began to slip and she moved out of her house into her own apartment- I didn't know how to be in relationship to her. Previously our relationship revolved around the conversations we had while doing things. When I was young- I'd trail behind while she harvested the garden. We'd shell peas, wash carrots. I'd ride along on visits to her brothers, or sister in-law Vera. Later, I'd accompany her to Dr.'s appointments. She'd bring me along with her while she tended the gravestones of our ancestors. Hunching over our tasks, she'd talk. We'd clean the markers of our family- and she'd talk to me about who they were. She'd tell me about our family. and sometimes- often, we were quiet. She was quiet and it was okay because we were together, working.

Later, when I was older, I'd drive over from college and help with chores and yard work. Then she'd cook dinner for the two of us. We'd talk and be in each others company. I think, mostly, I asked her questions.

So, when her memory began to change -and when there were no chores to be done - my conversations with her felt strange. Where, once, there was activity now was space. empty space.

Rather than explore this new relationship with my aging Grandmother - I simply left. I called her once or twice and then never again. Rather than reach out, sadness filled in. then guilt. Still I didn't reach out.

I wonder. How do we honor those who have taught us so much? How do I offer my Grandmother the respect that she deserves? Now that she has passed, how could I have done it differently?

We live in a different time. Families spread out. We are dependant on technology. I sometimes wonder how different it would have been had I lived closer...I should have lived closer. And then I think... Life is different now. My entire family doesn't live on the same hill I grew up on. I had the good fortune of growing up surrounded by family. I lived next door to my Grandparents on wide open farm land. My Grandmother taught me a lot in that time- more than I could possibly explain in this short piece. I know many people are not so lucky. But they should be. We all should be so lucky as to have elders as teachers. life teachers.

As I age and consider becoming a parent myself, I realize that I must find another way. I must blaze forward and courageously cultivate and maintain the beautiful relationships I have with my elders. And I must teach others- parents, and children to do the same. For if I do not, I fear the knowledge and wisdom will be lost to my own children, and others.

Friday, September 24, 2010

an empty seat

I sit here at this desk
and I wonder what it is that I am doing.
I sit here bored.
I sit here killing time.

I sit here insecure.
and I stay.
all the while I think up schemes.
of removal.
of success.
of busting through the gates and doing it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Journey into Ancestral Story

My upcoming workshop on Ancestral Story
Join me!

Tuesdays: 7:15pm-9pm
September 21-November 16th
Cost: $125-$200 (sliding scale)
Class will be held in Berkeley, at Ashby and San Pablo, near Berkeley Bowl West

This 8 week course is an introduction into the living world of stories. Entering through our
ancestral stories we will:
 see how our stories inform our lives, and those who come after us.
 deepen our understanding of self and community.
 develop strategies for working with all story- ancestral, cultural, societal, and communal.

The course will be a combination of small group work, writing, research, discussion and lecture;
we’ll draft a family tree, create a family genogram, and do legacy work, among other things. Most work will occur during class hours, with the opportunity/possibility for individual exploration outside of class hours.

To sign up, or for more information, email Sarah at sbolton.coaching@gmail.com

Sarah's Extended Bio

Sarah Bolton, MA is passionate about healing through re-connection and believes that as we come into right relationships with self, family, community and nature we experience healing. Sarah has facilitated this healing by working with both group and individual potential for over 9 years through ancestral story coaching and fire-walking workshops. Sarah is a guest lecturer and teaching assistant at John F. Kennedy University and The California Institute for Integral Studies. She is a certified massage therapist and holds a Masters degree in Consciousness Studies from John F. Kennedy University.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The sadness enveloped me
just as the cold brisk water
when I dove.

Welling up from my heart
momentarily holding
tight and constricted
in my throat.

Rolling salty and full down my cheeks
Water contouring to my body.
Shocking my every cell awake.

My breath caught deep in my chest,
I gasp at the surface.
Full of sensation.

Cold ankles. Water. Rippling between my legs. Nipples hard. Skin reaching. Searching.
Heart breaking open.

Lake water drips from the tips of my hair. I pull myself out.

Exposed to the chilly morning air.
Sun barely touching the sky.

Fish jump. Deer watch. Know me.

How do I express this gratitude?
For allowing me to come to home in this place. To lower my shroud of disconnection. to feel.

I offer my tears.
my sobs.
My shaking body.
and know that I am enough.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

old glass bottle

My father was rebuilding the old civil war road. It crossed through my town, over my hill, my farm. By the time I came around it had all grown over. It began with small weeds-what most people consider a nuisance. But to the land...it brings it back. That old road, which had been cleared and built by soldiers and volunteers, filled itself in with weeds-then brush and undergrowth, then trees. And my Dad was clearing them again. I'm not exactly sure why. So we could access more of the family land. maybe.

Whatever the reason, I loved it. I loved trekking into the hills with him. He'd spend the day sweating. I'd spend it exploring and grinning ear to ear the whole time. Every inch of my exposed skin dusty and dirty.

We most often took the old farm-all down. It had an old wooden platform hooked to the back- where you'd connect the wagons. All the tools were on it. Sometimes I'd sit there- watching the world fad into the distance as we made our way deeper into the woods.

Most often, I'd ride up with Dad. That's where he'd tell the stories from. Yelling over the loud engine. Occasionally ducking out of the way of branches as they whipped back toward us after getting caught on the exhaust pipes. He'd point out old cellar holes and tell me who had lived there. Or he'd help me puzzle piece the layout- barn here, house there, pump house, water well.
I think he'd stop the tractor and begin working next to those once-lived-in-homes just for me. He knew I loved to touch and feel the stones, remembering a story in a different way. He knew that sometimes I'd find a spoon or a bottle packed with dirt, in the dirt and it'd be like I found a buried treasure.