Archive for the 'Ivan’s Story' Category

Jan 17 2009

The Fire and the Ritual – A Visionary Experience of Healing

Published by under Ivan's Story

/ Photo by netlancer2006 /

A few weeks ago I wrote about a past life ‘memory’ from the American Civil War (Silent Guns). That post generated such strong interest that I thought I’d share another transformative experience I had at about the same time. But this is less easy to label. Is it a past life memory? A discussion with some part of my own psyche, or perhaps a spirit guide? Even I am not certain.

This was the early 1990s. At the time I was dating Michele, who would later become my wife. This particular night we got into an argument, first at a restaurant, and it spilled into the rest of the evening. We went back to her apartment, still arguing, when I started having difficulty breathing. I laid down on her living room floor, and Michele told me to breathe deeply from my belly.

I could hardly breathe. There was some sort of block in my chest. I struggled to inhale. My breath started to come in heavy sputters, half sobbed, half forced.

Then my breathing suddenly took on a life of its own. I wasn’t sure if I was pushing it or if it was pushing me. I wasn’t entirely in control of it. My breathing became deeper and more powerful, like a heavy bellows in my chest.

I grew hot. Heat built up in my feet. I started to take off my shoes, but I fumbled. I was having difficulty focusing on the laces. Michele removed my shoes for me.

The heat began to shoot up through my body in electric shivers. It was so strong that my body actually began to shake, and I couldn’t keep my legs still. I wasn’t aware of trying to move my legs, but they just started kicking out, as if they couldn’t be held to the ground. To someone else watching me, it would have looked like I was going into seizure. Continue Reading »

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Jan 16 2009

Ivan M. Granger – Twelve Ways to Lose Your Head on Maui

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Twelve Ways to Lose Your Head on Maui
by Ivan M. Granger

Piercing the clouds, fingers
of sunlight caress the valley floor.
The Iao Needle stands, its immense
      quiet crushing.

Staring blindly out the window,
no work getting done –
a stolen moment when silence
      has stolen me.

Reading, I shiver in the Upcountry chill.
Already old in the new year, the island
and I shiver
      and grow still.

Baldwin Avenue meandering to Paia
beneath an empty sky,
cane fields
      surge in the sun.

At the altar: Breath
aglow in my throat.
Golden treacle pools
      upon my heart.

The path to Twin Falls, dusty
between my toes. Ginger points
to the upper pool. Fallen guavas
      float downstream.

Hana Highway, pausing
at each bridge to let traffic pass.
Around the bend –
      endless ocean.

Fasting on Saturday –
empty stomach, empty head.
Time spreads
      into stillness.

Cinnamon-red and blue, a pheasant stares
through the window. Michele
calls me, whisper. I see them
      see each other.

In the cave among the eucalyptus
up Alae Road – a fine seat
for a city boy
      playing sadhu.

In bursts of wingbeats
a cardinal darts by. The red
bird finds himself lost
      among the red proteas.

The sun setting beyond
Ma’alaea Harbor. The golden ocean,
I see, drinks the tired eye in.
      I am gone.

/ Photo by JoshBerglund19 /

For some reason I woke up this morning thinking of the handful of years I spent in Hawaii.

My wife and I moved to the island of Maui having never even visited the islands before, and my first impressions didn’t match my visions of a tropical paradise at all. We arrived just after the cane harvest, and half of the upcountry was just exposed red earth. Driving through the ramshackle surfer town of Paia for the first time, with red dust swirling around wood slat storefronts, it felt like we had arrived in the Australian outback.

But you know, over time, I really came to love the aina, the land of Hawaii. I wasn’t a beach dweller; my wife and I lived high up along the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, among the misty forests of eucalyptus and wattle. Every human structure was kind of run down, but there was something… normal about that. Even the trophy mansions hidden behind iron gates felt somehow temporary, just passing through on a slow current.

As I began to give in to the rhythms of life on the island, a quiet and ease settled into my body in a way I’d never known before.

It was too expensive to live there for long. And my wife, Michele, became severely allergic to a mold on the island that hit one winter. It was time to move back to the mainland.

But I still have visions of looking down the slope of Haleakala, all the way down to Ma’alaea Harbor, while the heavy golden sun sinks in glory beneath the horizon…

Malama pono!

Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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7 responses so far

Jan 16 2009

Music & Video: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

I moved to Hawaii a few years after Israel Kamakawiwo’oli — IZ — died, and he was still greatly mourned. Bruddah IZ was a big man with a big heart, and a soaring falsetto voice that could bring tears unexpectedly to your eyes. He was in many ways the voice of the Hawaiian nation. His songs expressed his love for the aina, the beautiful land of Hawaii, and he gave voice to the sorrows of the Hawaiian people and their delightful playfulness.

When I think of my years living among the islands, I hear IZ’s songs playing among my memories of water, sky, and green…

Mahalo nui loa, Bruddah IZ!

Facing Future (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
Alone in IZ World (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
Wonderful World (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
E Ala E (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
IZ in Concert: The Man and His Music (CD)
by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

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Jan 11 2009

Book Recommendations: Getting Oriented

Published by under Books,Ivan's Story

Where did my interest in the world’s spiritual traditions come from? Which religious tradition was I raised in? I’m asked these questions all the time.

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret about myself…

I was raised by single mother, an ex-Catholic hippie turned social worker and secret New Ager who told me I should choose my own religion when I was old enough, but who also couldn’t hide her distaste for most organized religion.

By college age, I had a strong interior life and my own motley spiritual practice, but virtually no understanding of what most people call “religion.” While formally studying history and biology, I started sneaking into Bible as literature classes – that was when I read the Bible for the first time.

At eighteen, I became a voracious reader on religion and spirituality in my spare time, often jumping right to the source material without any context. I read the Quran. I read the Bhagavad Gita and Buddhist texts. I read books on shamanism. I was fascinated and lost amidst everything.

Those were dazzling, bumpy years of searching.

You know what would have saved me a lot of confusion? Discovering one of the following books. Each of these books is a good, highly readable introduction to the deeper spiritual dimensions of a particular religious tradition. Check them out…

Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages
by Ursula King

This is not a book of poetry, but highly recommended if you want a brief survey of important visionaries and trends within the sometimes hidden history of Christian mysticism. Francis of Assisi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Beguines, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Jacob Boehme, Symeon the New Theologian, and many others. The author of this book has done a nice job of balancing history with spirituality. This little book makes an excellent introduction to depths of the Christian tradition that are too often overlooked. Even if you were raised within the Christian tradition, my guess is that much of your own spiritual history was not handed down to you. Here is a good place to start to regain that connection.

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31 responses so far

Jan 09 2009

Milarepa – The Profound Definitive Meaning

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Profound Definitive Meaning
by Milarepa

English version by Marpa Translation Committee

For the mind that masters view the emptiness dawns
In the content seen not even an atom exists
A seer and seen refined until they’re gone
This way of realizing view, it works quite well

When meditation is clear light river flow
There is no need to confine it to sessions and breaks
Meditator and object refined until they’re gone
This heart bone of meditation, it beats quite well

When you’re sure that conducts work is luminous light
And you’re sure that interdependence is emptiness
A doer and deed refined until they’re gone
This way of working with conduct, it works quite well

When biased thinking has vanished into space
No phony facades, eight dharmas, nor hopes and fears,
A keeper and kept refined until they’re gone
This way of keeping samaya, it works quite well

When you’ve finally discovered your mind is dharmakaya
And you’re really doing yourself and others good
A winner and won refined until they’re gone
This way of winning results, it works quite well.

/ Photo by meg and rahul /

Seer and seen refined until they’re gone…

Look deeply enough, with your whole being, and the two merge. The object disappears into you. You disappear into it. Seer and seen are gone! What is left but a field living awareness?

…it works quite well.

Have a beautiful day, and remember to take a look around you. Who knows what adventure that glance might initiate?


I know, I know… There was no poem on Wednesday, and no explanation. Truthfully, I didn’t even turn my computer on that day. I had a New Years’ flu, one of those that hits you like an avalanche. Wrapped in blankets, hardly moving from the couch, I became much more familiar with the daytime television schedule than I care to admit. But I’m back now (mentally), mostly… Am I babbling now? Hmm, I wonder what’s on TV…

Milarepa, Milarepa poetry, Buddhist poetry Milarepa

Tibet (1052 – 1135) Timeline
Buddhist : Tibetan

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3 responses so far

Dec 29 2008

Ivan M. Granger – The Warbler Knows

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Warbler Knows
by Ivan M. Granger

The warbler knows
only dawn’s shaft
of light
on her breast.

Forgetting false future
suns, she sings

in no voice
but her own.

/ Photo by Taz-Voll /

Although snow is still on the ground here in Colorado, we’ve had a couple of days gentle sunshine, and it brought to mind tis poem I wrote a few years ago. I hope this short song summons a warm shaft of sunlight to you too…

Dawn is the flood of light that comes from the east which causes us to awaken. When we allow ourselves to become fully aware of this sacred state, we know nothing else, see nothing else; the spiritual dawn engulfs all, enlightening everything.

And we experience this state most strongly in the breast, a warming and radical opening and deep centering in the heart.

Utterly content in the eternal present, we forget the mind’s endless fantasies and fears about the future. All the future ever can be is an extension of the present, and it is here, now that we reside — always.

Recognizing this, we settle into silence, “no voice,” yet a song emerges from the stillness, nonetheless. The voice that sings is not the mind or the ego, but the presence quietly and eternally seated behind those fluctuating elements; it is the deeply familiar voice our true Self.

Ivan M. Granger, Ivan M. Granger poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Ivan M. Granger

US (1969 – )
Secular or Eclectic
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

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6 responses so far

Dec 03 2008

Love and compassion are effortless

Love and compassion are effortless.
The soul is exhausted by the effort
to stop this natural outpouring
of the living heart.

3 responses so far

Dec 03 2008

Rolf Jacobsen – Moon and Apple

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Moon and Apple
by Rolf Jacobsen

English version by Robert Bly

When the apple tree blooms,
the moon comes often like a blossom,
paler than any of them,
shining over the tree.

It is the ghost of the summer,
the white sister of the blossoms who returns
to drop in on us,
and radiate peace with her hands
so that you shouldn’t feel too bad when the hard times come.
For the Earth itself is a blossom, she says,
on the star tree,
pale with luminous
ocean leaves.

— from The Winged Energy of Delight, Translated by Robert Bly

/ Photo by Athena’s Pix /

It’s past the summer season of apple blossoms and even the autumn of ripe apples (or, for those of you south of the equator, it’s much too early), but something about this poem spoke to me today. The blossoms of the apple tree glowing beneath the shining moon. And a reminder to us all that even when things seem difficult, the Earth itself — and each one of us — “is a blossom… on the star tree.” If we are blossoms, that must mean we are quietly ripening with the seasons, and in the natural unfolding of things we will become sweet fruit in the cosmos.

Rolf Jacobsen, Rolf Jacobsen poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rolf Jacobsen

Norway (1907 – 1994) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Catholic

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4 responses so far

Nov 10 2008

Silent Guns – A Past Life Memory

Published by under Ivan's Story

I am often asked about my life and spiritual path. How did I develop such an intense interest in spirituality and sacred poetry at a relatively young age? I’ve always leaned in that direction, from as far back as early childhood, but there were certainly some key turning points that set me firmly on my path.

This is one of the more unusual events.

Many people go through a difficult time in their teenage and early adult years, but my moods were extreme, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I would swing from mild depression to panic attacks so extreme that I would skip school or, later, call in sick to work. I felt like death surrounded me.

As I entered my early twenties, I began to overcome the worst of my anxieties, but they were still there. I had just learned to grit my teeth and get through the day as best I could.

I first started dating my wife, Michele Anderson, about that time. Early on, Michele told me that she was psychic. I was intrigued, on the one hand, but on the other… I guess I didn’t know what to think. I had read and seen enough to believe such things were possible, just not in anyone I knew. Not normal, everyday people.

She hinted a few times that she saw me fighting in the American Civil War. I shrugged the comments off. When dating a psychic, one must expect the occasional odd statement. Actually, I’ve always had a mild interest in history, but it was really the period of the American Revolution that held my attention in history books, not the Civil War. The Civil War always seemed, well, depressing to me. I tended to avoid reading about the period.

Then an interesting series of events occurred. I was going through a rough week, and I went to get a massage — something that felt comforting. As I was on the table having my abdomen worked on, I suddenly burst out crying. When the massage therapist asked me what was wrong, I started talking about the Civil War!

(The following dialog excerpts are taken from the notes I wrote within hours of the experiences.)

Massage Therapist: What’s wrong?

Ivan M. Granger: So much death. I see rifles, a lot of them. With bayonets on them. I see lines and lines of rifles with bayonets sticking up like spiked fences. So many of them. It’s like a field of spikes. Kids are lying in dug out trenches with their pointed rifles sticking out. I’m standing above. I can see it all. Continue Reading »

7 responses so far

Oct 01 2008

Khwaja Abdullah Ansari – The Beauty of Oneness

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The Beauty of Oneness
by Khwaja Abdullah Ansari

English version by A.G. Farhadi

Any eye filled with the vision of this world
      cannot see the attributes of the Hereafter,
Any eye filled with the attributes of the Hereafter
      would be deprived of the Beauty of Oneness.

— from Munajat: The Intimate Invocations, by Sheikh Ansari / Translated by A. G. Farhadi

/ Photo by Mayr /

I’ve always been sensitive to key events in society. Something about that collective mental and emotional focus has always hit a sensitive nerve in me. I tend to feel major upheavals in my own personal energies.

For example, in 2001 I was living in Hawaii. When the attacks of September 11th hit in New York and Washington DC, it was morning for most of the US, but it was the middle of the night for me in Hawaii. I woke up at about 3:00AM, unable to sleep after having had nightmares about conflicts in the Middle East. I got up, paced around the house and, when I realized I couldn’t fall back asleep, I turned on the television. I flipped to a news station — just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

My system feels, at times, like a Richter scale for the planet. That sensitivity can be debilitating at times, but also a source of insight and a reminder of how interconnected we all are.

Naturally, I’ve had lots of reason to feel further global agitations since then, given the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the many horrors that have resulted. I can, of course, list several other major political and environmental disasters, and bubbling tensions. That internal needle of mine has gotten jumpy in recent years.

So I thought I should at least take a moment to say something about the current financial concerns in the world. I’ve certainly felt it. The financial crisis is not just a blip that will be forgotten in a couple of months. The problems are deep rooted and the current instability has been brewing for some time. That’s not the most reassuring thing to say, but that’s what I see.

I know how frightened, even traumatized many people are feeling right now. But it is so important to keep things in perspective. No matter how events play out, remember that the fundamentals of life are dependable and rock solid. The basic purpose of your life won’t change. Whether you have a lot of money or are struggling to pay bills, our real job day-to-day is still to be kind and compassionate and to deepen our awareness. When you see need, help if you can. That guideline doesn’t change.

In other words, the things that are truly important in life, our reasons for being here at all, they aren’t affected in the slightest. We can even say we are being given even greater opportunity to challenge ourselves and express our purpose in life.

One more opportunity to expand our vision beyond the merely tangible, and also beyond the lovely escape of a Hereafter, and finally recognize the Beauty of Oneness everywhere — and then to build society based upon that vision.


Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, Khwaja Abdullah Ansari poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Khwaja Abdullah Ansari

Afghanistan (1006 – 1088) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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9 responses so far

Sep 29 2008

My father’s passing

Published by under Ivan's Story

I want to take a moment to thank you all for the many heartfelt messages about my father’s recent passing. Your emails and posts to the Poetry Chaikhana blog have touched me deeply. Thank you so much!

One response so far

Sep 22 2008

Wendell Berry – Testament

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

by Wendell Berry

And now to the Abyss I pass
Of that Unfathomable Grass…

Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in air, don’t call it death —
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfect compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself: my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from birth,
And toward which all my sorrows were surely bound,
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots. And say I have left my native clay
At last, to be a traveler; that too will be so.
Traveler to where? Say you don’t know.

But do not let your ignorance
Of my spirit’s whereabouts dismay
You, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say

Anything too final. Whatever
Is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
Than flesh. Beyond reach of thought
Let imagination figure

Your hope. That will be generous
To me and to yourselves. Why settle
For some know-it-all’s despair
When the dead may dance to the fiddle

Hereafter, for all anybody knows?
And remember that the Heavenly soil
Need not be too rich to please
One who was happy in Port Royal.

I may be already heading back,
A new and better man, toward
That town. The thought’s unreasonable,
But so is life, thank the Lord!

So treat me, even dead,
As a man who has a place
To go, and something to do.
Don’t muck up my face

With wax and powder and rouge
As one would prettify
An unalterable fact
To give bitterness the lie.

Admit the native earth
My body is and will be,
Admit its freedom and
Its changeability.

Dress me in the clothes
I wore in the day’s round.
Lay me in a wooden box.
Put the box in the ground.

Beneath this stone a Berry is planted
In his home land, as he wanted.

He has come to the gathering of his kin,
Among whom some were worthy men,

Farmers mostly, who lived by hand,
But one was a cobbler from Ireland,

Another played the eternal fool
By riding on a circus mule

To be remembered in grateful laughter
Longer than the rest. After

Doing that they had to do
They are at ease here. Let all of you

Who yet for pain find force and voice
Look on their peace, and rejoice.

/ Photo by Nicholas_T /

I dedicate today’s poem to my father, Steven Charles Granger. He died late last week. I got word over the weekend that he passed away in his sleep in Varna, along the Black Sea of Bulgaria, where he had retired.

My father was a poet, an artist, and a teacher. Although he was born and raised in America, he lived much of his life as an expatriate, taking teaching jobs in universities all over the world, including in Iran before the revolution in the late 1970s and more recently in Saudi Arabia for several years.

My parents divorced when I was quite young, and with his travels, my father was in some ways a stranger to me — but many sons can say that of their fathers. We also had our personality clashes; there was even a period of a few years when we didn’t speak with each other, but that rift was finally healed several years ago.

So much shared history of distances and misunderstandings, with surprising connections, mutual recognition, and moments of pure delight. When I peer through all that and simply see the man, not even my father, but just the man, I can honestly say I see a good man. And I see a man who felt a deep love for his three children. I’m not sure everyone can say that, and so I was blessed to call him my father. Continue Reading »

19 responses so far

Aug 02 2008

My Introduction to Sacred Poetry

Published by under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Ivan M. Granger

I am often asked how I came to the world of sacred poetry. What set me on this path? Was there a particular poet who opened the doorway or a line that hooked me? What was my inspiration for starting the Poetry Chaikhana?

My father, Steven Granger, is a poet, so I heard poetry from a young age. Like many young people, I wrote a bit of poetry as I grew up, but I didn’t take it too seriously. Most of the poetry I was exposed to was, well, boring to me. I thought of poetry as belonging my father’s world. To me it was mostly an intellectual game of words.

In the year 2000, I moved with my wife Michele to Maui. A friend from the mainland sent me a series of talks by the poet David Whyte on cassette tapes. I went for long drives along Maui’s country roads, through the tall sugar cane fields, among the rows of spiky pineapple plants, listening to David Whyte’s molasses accent, as he told stories and recited poetry by poets I hadn’t heard of before: Antonio Machado, Anna Akhmatova.

Maui’s natural beauty and quiet rhythms of land and sea and sky inspired me to go deeper into my spiritual practices. I was meditating deeply, praying, fasting, going for long walks in the eucalyptus forests that grew along the slopes of Haleakala Volcano. It was idyllic, yet I was going through a personal crisis.

/ Photo by *amelia* /

I had just broken with a spiritual group I had been practicing with for nearly ten years. So, while I was engaged in intensive spiritual practice, it had lost its context. Should I still be following the same form of prayer, the same focus in meditation? I was flailing about.

Christmas came, and the sense of crisis deepened. The holidays just seemed to emphasize my disorientation. I was in my early 30s by that point and had no career to speak of. I was just doing work to get by. I was largely cut off from friends and family, cut off even from the American mainland. My one driving goal was spiritual growth. That was my only identity. And it was in disarray.

I came to a profound personal confrontation. For the first time I really saw myself. And that was a terrifying thing. I dropped all pretense and projection, all the fantasies of who I thought I was or who I might become. I just looked at myself plainly, as I was. What I saw wasn’t terribly impressive. I felt I was a mostly good-hearted person, but largely ineffectual. I had the ironic recognition that I was basically a likable flake. What truly surprised me, though, was the thought that followed, which was that it was okay.

New Years came and went, while I hovered in that limbo state.

The combination began to ferment in my mind – the poetry and the personal crisis. Continue Reading »

14 responses so far

Jun 13 2008

Ivan’s Health Journey: Thank You From My Heart

Published by under Ivan's Story

It’s been a long, hard couple of months with all of the health challenges I’ve been going through. While I can’t yet say that my health and energies have returned to “normal,” they are at a level where I can resume limited work and many daily activities.

Over the past few weeks I have received so many touching notes, often mentioning your prayers, healing energies, and good wishes. And I have truly felt your supportive thoughts as I worked my way through the most difficult days.

Also, your many generous contributions are helping in so many ways, by bridging the gap in lost income (due to limited ability to work at my day job), helping me to pay for doctors’ visits, and other health care support. For that too, thank you from my heart.

/ Photo by CarbonNYC /

2 responses so far

Jun 09 2008

Ivan’s Health: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

Published by under Ivan's Story

Last week I was going to write a note about how I’m feeling so much better — then on Friday I got hit again. Two steps forward, one step back.

So, my apologies about no poem on Friday, but it gives us a good excuse to continue our exploration of women’s voices into this week. I hope you enjoy the selections.

2 responses so far

May 30 2008

Ivan Interviewed

If you’re interested in my thoughts on sacred poetry, how I ended up on this path, or if you’re just curious what my voice sounds like, you may want to listen to an interview I did recently with the Ecstatic Art & Theater Project. They are an excellent organization that explores and encourages the sacred/transcendent/ecstatic in art and theater.

Ecstatic Art & Theater Project

Online Newsletter focusing on sacred poetry.

Audio Interview (20 min).

I’d love to hear your comments on the interview, either via email or through the blog. So please let me know what you thought after listening.

9 responses so far

May 16 2008

Health Update

Published by under Ivan's Story

I’ve been getting several emails from people concerned about my health, asking for an update. My health has been up and down, but I think the trend is generally on the upswing and I seem to be out of the most critical state. I still haven’t been able to return to my work as a computer programmer, but I hope to resume limited hours in the next couple of weeks.

The question has also come up, If I’ve been unable to do even basic work lately, how have I managed to continue with the poetry emails? Truthfully, I don’t know. Composing these emails is the only thing I seem to have enough energy for. I guess it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. :-)

One response so far

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