• The Ancients

    by Carmen H Gray

    one of the many trails I’ve hiked in the pacific northwest

    Time passes

    it is a path of fallen petals

    strewn across soundlessly, like dew drops

    upon fresh blades of grass

    they are just as temporal

    each petal holds a moment

    whereby a day was lived,

    gladly or sadly

    depending on the circumstances

    they disintegrate

    softly curling inward

    becoming part of the footpath

    where little bare feet tread

    scattering with the wind

    and nestling into the ground

    resting under layers

    of newly fallen petals

    the soil and rocks

    collectively guarding all

    the knowledge and secrets

    of each day lived

    and each night spent

    here on earth

  • hands

    hands by Carmen H Gray

    the ice was crisp and forming

    on the leaves of my plants

    i had tended

    i knew each leaf, each flower

    i could almost feel their cells,

    filling with tiny shards of ice

    cutting them open and destroying plant tissue

    which made me grieve their deaths

    but it wasn’t until i saw that man

    on the side of the road

    whose delicate cells were simultaneously dying

    that my heart leapt outside of my chest

    on this icy day

    in this tale of two cities

    brimming with the new Elon Musks

    and the homeless, what a juxtaposition

    the last part of his body i noticed

    were his hands

    which could have belonged to any one of us, really

  • The Healing House

    “Before you can hear, much less follow, the voice of your soul, you have to win back your body. You have to go on a pilgrimage beneath the skin.”

    ―Meggan Watterson, Reveal

    The Healing House

    by Carmen H Gray

    one day they may come back to you

    have your prepared yourself anew?

    have you gone on your own pilgrimage?

    have you faced your very own umbrage?

    for when these lessons return to know

    the breadth and depth of your adagio

    this is when all is revealed

    the stalwart strength in your shield

    the gentle bend that did not break

    regardless of the commanding quake

    you will then come to find

    that in the midst of all that time

    the stumbles and the thorns helped form

    a compelling foundation to transform

    your healing home inside of you

    a precious place of highest value

    it never stops until you end

    the effort put forth to transcend

    each new lesson to teach you more

    that is what a healing house is for

  • Phantom Dog

    Phantom Dog

    by Carmen H Gray

    Why does it hurt so much?

    You having to leave?

    Perhaps your existence is a metaphor

    Your eyes mirroring all of the humanness

    That we experienced in a certain set of years

    A living/dying time capsule

    God gave us such creatures to teach us

    How to hold space

    How to pause time and embrace

    A lifetime of lessons

    A dog’s life being a condensed version

    Some creatures are here to fast forward

    And simultaneously flashback

    Our perception of an era.

  • Conversations with My Father

    by Carmen H Gray

    From the novel, Wild Animals I Have Known, by Ernest Thompson Seton

    How do you have a conversation with your father when he isn’t quite himself? I’ve been learning to navigate this recently. Tonight I called him to check in on the state of things. He informed me that his sitter had been ensuring that he eats and drinks. He also gave high praise to the people working at the hospital, telling me that they were kind and helpful, but not too helpful because they had to push you do things for yourself as much as you could. He told me about his foibles and again brought up the name of one nurse named Rosa, whom he particularly favored because she was “perhaps even bossier than your mother”.

    “What are your big plans for the night?”, I asked him.

    “Well, they’ll give me medicine soon that’ll knock me flat,” he answered.

    “What will you do in the meantime? Have you attended any classes today?”, I inquired.

    “Nope, I just stay in bed most of the day and think about things,” he answered.

    I then remembered that I had in my possession several novels by one of his favorite childhood author’s, Ernest Thompson Seton. He’d given me these books 3 years ago and I remembered him telling me he thought my students may enjoy them, but I never did take them to my classroom.

    I am glad I didn’t, because I decided maybe it would be a good idea to read to him. So I found the novel, Wild Animals I Have Known in my upstairs library. The first story in the novel is about Old Lobo, a very clever and powerful wolf who evades the exasperated humans. It was written in 1898 and the setting is in Northern New Mexico. My father has always been a nature lover. I stopped every couple of paragraphs to reflect on the story with him and he knew all the characters and the highlights of what we were reading-he told me he’d memorized all of Seton’s stories. I enjoyed reading to him and after about 30 minutes or so, decided it was time to stop and save the next chapter for our next phone conversation. He told me he really liked hearing the story and that it made his evening even better. Before I got off the phone I told him about a dream I’d had two nights ago. I was at the home of his parents. I walked around all of the rooms and though I did not see them, I felt their presence in their home. I walked him through each of the rooms with my words and he recalled those places in his own mind.

    After we got off the phone, I remembered a poem a friend had posted recently, The Peace of the Wild Things. And it gave me pause because it is exactly why my father has always held an affinity for nature. I look forward to more adventures with Old Lobo, for he has more days to live yet.

    The Peace of Wild Things

    by Wendell Berry

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

  • The Invincible Summer Within

    In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
    I realized, through it all, that…
    In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
    And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
    “-Albert Camus

    A is for Aprazolam

    B is for Buspirone

    C is for Cymbalta

    I can name many medications in the anti-depression/anti-anxiety and mood stabilizer categories that begin with almost all of the letters in the alphabet. I’m familiar with many of them. They’ve been thrown around since I was 16, when I discovered my youngest sibling on a terrifying downward spiral mentally.

    I am familiar with psychiatric care and with alternative methods to regulate a hijacked amygdala. I’ve seen the evolution in psychiatric care over decades and I’ve seen the stigma associated with it diminish in the last decade the most. I’ve seen the greatest breakthrough in a reckoning with mental healthcare in the last 2 years, mostly due to the pandemic. For the general public, words like “trigger”, “anxiety”, “impulsive behavior”, “suicidal ideation”, “depressive episode” are now part of a common awareness that didn’t exist (out loud) when I was 16. Back then, those words were not casually thrown around in conversation. Back then, they were whispered in hushed conversations and even considered sinful (I grew up Catholic-you didn’t talk about attempted suicide or suicide at all. Like sex, if you didn’t talk about it, it wouldn’t happen). I had to learn all of these things during the course of my life. They were things I feared and wanted nothing to do with, but you know, what you fear the most is often what you end up having to face.

    from a hike last summer in Colorado-feeling invincible

    I’ve had to be on suicide watch, use my mindfulness/yogic breathing to help bring loved ones back to the present and to help me come back to the earth more times than I can count. Each time it has been an opportunity for me continue learning.

    The first time I learned about anxiety was when I was in college and I was experiencing a panic attack. I had no idea what was happening to me. It was frightening. And, because it was not something you talked openly about to others, I suffered quietly. Until I couldn’t. I got physically ill and could not eat. A dorm mate, whose name was also Carmen, must have had some understanding of what I was going through. She held me and rocked me through a particularly bad panic attack. Finally, I went back home to speak to the same psychiatrist that my younger sibling saw. I just knew I was crazy and something very terrible was wrong with me. When he explained what was going on with me, it was such a relief. And years later, when the anxiety popped up again, the therapist I saw helped me further by explaining what was physically happening to my brain/body when I had a panic attack. That helped me the most, I think. It seems so simple. But it was a stepping stone to what we now refer to as “mindfulness”, which is something I now teach to others. Being aware of your body, your breath, where you are in space at the present moment. It came in handy when my own children suffered with their mental health struggles.

    The Body Keeps the Score (written by Bessel van der Kolk), the go-to book for understanding trauma and how it is stored in your body, was introduced to me by a Somatic Therapist in 2016. I knew a thing or two about trauma at this point in my life-I’d attended trauma therapy with my daughter from the cancer she’d experienced and from the divorce I subsequently went through afterwards. I thought I understood trauma after that. I recall the therapist explaining how the mother suffers acutely when faced with her child battling cancer. She taught me that when the brain is in trauma mode, a person’s thoughts and behavior change. I was making connections with prior trauma that I’d experienced and how it triggered anxiety. But there was more to learn.

    This Somatic Therapist and I met at a Shamanic Women’s Group that I attended weekly. She taught me about trauma that is bone deep. And ancestral trauma-how it is carried from one generation to the next. There was still more to learn about how to slow down and to be present. I gave the book to my daughter, a few years later, after she came home from treatment of a major depressive episode. She’d learned about it in treatment already. She also came home talking about DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). She’d superseded me in her knowledge. I observed how we return to a situation when we haven’t mastered the lesson. That is exactly what life does to all of us. Life was nudging me, saying ”you’re not finished with the lesson”. There was definitely more to learn.

    My father has suffered with his mental health, as well. In the last year of this pandemic, it has been especially difficult, but truly the last 7 months have been a living hell for him. My mother, a nurse by profession and caretaker extraordinaire, has been dealing with the day-to-day duties of supporting a loved one (yet, again) with depression. She is in her 80’s, but here she is learning more about mental healthcare. My daughter visited her grandparents and could empathize well with her grandfather. I can chat away with my mother about all the therapies and medications and the caretaker perspective. But there is still more to learn. And I like to think, with each layer that is peeled back, we are learning and we are healing. We are learning how to maneuver collectively. Learning about acceptance, love and facing our fears. Learning how to tap into that Invincible Summer Within.

  • Half Moon

    my hand outstretched in half moon pose today

    Half Moon

    by Carmen H Gray

    Today, as I leaned down into the ground

    Connecting to the floor with the right hand and foot

    While lifting the other half of myself skyward

    Gravity pulled drops of sweat down

    To puddle together near my right fingertips

    I was invited to remember

    How two opposing energies

    Generate a power that is greater than its singular parts

    And how each difficulty we encounter

    Requires an equanimous state

    Though we have toppled over many times

    We are drawn to keep seeking

    That pause in a perfectly balanced pose

    Between the Moon and the Sun

    It is quite exquisitely powerful and subtle both

    Like a knowing look

    Shared by companioned hearts

  • Today

    Arms and legs suspended like drapery

    Today I imagined my heart split open and a bouquet of flowers

    Burst forth

    While I lingered in the tender vines

    I surrendered to time

    And all of the entanglements it demands

    Leaves fall when they are ready

    To give the ground a soft landing

    For a well worn boot

    Or a home to rich fertile earth secrets

  • What Lies Inside

    What Lies Inside

    by Carmen H Gray

    What stirs her

    Only the burs that stick inside the lace lined white socks

    Oh the flutterings of the old, burned burrows

    Drawn in the straw colored grass, they come out

    Reeling from thorns that are still sharp

    Yet certain steps retrace forgotten paths

    Altering the trajectory of the stars, as it were

    Never to be known the same again

    That is what lies inside

    Like chards broken into bits

    A mosaic of light and sound

    Sometimes dimmed in an overly bright world

    Too fast, too demanding

    Get off of the merry-go-round

    Stand still in the centripetal force

    Felt on the periphery

    Or be that force itself

    That is what lies inside

  • Courageous

    Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”

    ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

    An act of courage is as unnoticeable as breathing

    (to the outside observer)

    When you’ve kept everything stored up for a potential moment

    That has yet to materialize

    It is the unfurling of a leaf

    The action directly following an extended pause

    I don’t agree with Seneca

    It’s not some times

    It is all of the time

    Living is an act of courage

    It isn’t involuntary

    Like I was taught in biology classes

    It’s more like:

    Lungs, breathe

    Anger, seethe

    Heart, beat

    Move, feet

    Fingers, feel

    Feelings, heal

    Eyes, blink

    Brain, think

    Living is an act of courage

    So I salute you, my courageous one

    Living courageously each minute

    Each hour

    Each day

    Each year

    And I honor the beauty you bring to us all

  • Suspended

    For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,

    Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.

    So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain: Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.

    -Amanda Gorman


    by Carmen H Gray

    Fold yourself gently into it, my love

    Suspension is the pause

    Before you let yourself step further

    Even if you trip, have confidence

    In the fall

    The sweet earth

    Contains a purpose for you:

    Soft grass reminds you to lean into her for comfort

    Icy streams awaken your senses that are dulled

    Vast meadows with their worlds within worlds

    Show you there is always more to examine

    And even the harsh desserts

    Where the sea once was

    Have vestiges of a former way of being

    To teach you

    Life can change

    And shift, yet even so, it adapts

    Everything you need is

    Where you are

    Let yourself fall a little back to earth

    Forces pull you downward, inward

    For a reason

  • Love In The Time of Everything

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    Love In The Time of Everything

    by Carmen H Gray

    When I was little

    I wrote about a heroine

    In one of my silly chapter books

    Writing and writing

    My favorite escape

    She had auburn hair

    And striking green eyes

    I didn’t know

    She would materialize

    That one day she would

    Come to be

    And how this little sprite

    Would change me so

    I did not know

    It was not all sugar and spice

    It was laughter

    But also tears

    And tumors and fears

    Inward reflection

    Rejecting affection

    I knew


    In the time of the highs

    That’s the easy part

    But my heroine

    Showed me how to find


    In the time of the lows

    And how the cracks

    Are certain signs

    Of wholeness

    Being born

  • The Light that Pervades All Things

    “Whether you worship Christ, Krishna, Kali or Allah, you actually worship the one Light that is also in you, since It pervades all things.”

    ― Anandamayi Ma

    The Light That Pervades All Things

    by Carmen H Gray

    Within you there is a light

    It has a certain miraculous quality that gives it momentum

    To traverse the stars

    To change the course of any path

    Simply by beaming

    To act upon anything beyond itself

    Creating dynamic evolution

    You can find it in the strangest moments

    Washing someone’s hair

    Learning a language

    Pausing to breathe

    Noticing the layers in a single rose

    Listening to the crickets chirping in the night

    Or the frogs singing their chorus

    Seeing yourself

    Seeing others

    In other words, living

    Not just merely surviving

    Lends itself to shining

    The Light That Pervades All Things

  • Teach

    Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 12.55.11 PM


    by Carmen H Gray

    I rushed to sort it all out: 14 years of 28 gone by

    As I piled more things to the side for goodbye

    There wasn’t enough time to go through it all

    I glanced at the artwork, left lonely on the wall

    I sighed and I conjured up all that I’d taught

    And little nuances that each of us brought

    To this space confined between four walls

    And even beyond that, into the halls

    I heard the sniffles with tears, the children who needed healing

    I also heard laughter, the “hello, Ms. Gray’s,” while excitedly squealing

    I packed it all up-those sights and those sounds

    I headed outside to the gardens and grounds

    Where the rosemary was named and the aloe was tended

    Where the fig tree was climbed and fairy houses blended

    Into the rocks, the acorns, and where the leaves unfurled

    This is where little hands created imaginary worlds

    And I kept the sadness locked up, not revealing

    When my son saw me and asked how I was feeling

    So I told him the school, his school, was going away

    I glimpsed at his face, the boyhood cheeks gave way

    To a chiseled, grown up profile

    He looked at me with a smile

    Though still lost in my thoughts, and feeling distracted

    He gently said,

    “Mama, just think of how many lives you’ve impacted”









    “The intuition of the moral sentiment is an insight of the perfection of the laws of the soul. These laws execute themselves. They are out of time, out of space, and not subject to circumstance.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I Am-Ness

    by Carmen H Gray


    I Am-ness is letting the whole

    be made up of all Parts

    The parts we wish to project

    The parts we wish to protect

    I Am-Ness is the absence of division

    Or Duality

    It is all knowing, all being, all light, all love, all truth

    It is everything and nothing in the blink of an eye

    It is the symbiotic receptacle of the space between space

    It is loving, when it is hard to love

    It is seeing from the pinnacle into the valley below

    I Am-Ness is possibility that we are changing into reality



  • The Rich Deep Tones of A Cello


    drawing by Carmen H Gray

    The Rich Deep Tones of A Cello

    by Carmen H Gray

    I’ve heard it in my dreams

    As if he called to me

    His voice in that same living tone

    Of her beloved instrument

    The sound waves echoing from our distant past

    An expanding ripple of spheres

    That reach across time

    Pausing to recapture

    The rich, deep tones of a cello

    That hold so many memories

    She ordered resin today

    The parentheses have had their moment

    I feel the exhaling of one hundred breaths




  • From A Dream

    “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”-Oscar Wilde

    From A Dream

    by Carmen H Gray

    You and I, we made such vagaries of the mind

    We called ourselves by unrelated names

    And wandered into an altered world, where our ages

    Were neither young nor old, nor anything in between

    As if we were ageless, we were

    I saw you writing and you watched me daydreaming in this distant place

    I could not remember who I was anymore

    As if I had disintegrated into no one, but everyone at once

    And you were there to witness such an existence

    What strange lives we have lived together

    Thought I


  • Truth Teller


    art & poem by Carmen H Gray


    Harbinger of Truth

    Night Scout

    Spirit of the hidden realms

    You called out

    Before dayspring with its auspicious, tender light

    Caught me, heedless in my faraway flight

    Who? Who? You asked

    And I heard the question

    Though I found no origin

    Surrounding my perception

    What were you foraging?

    So attentive to the starkness

    A keen awareness to the rustling

    Of flight wings in darkness

    Harbinger of Truth

    Night Scout leave-taking

    Giving me pause

    As dawn was breaking

    Benediction with a farewell sigh

    As you moved swiftly

    Into the violet-gray sky



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