The smell of burning — and sirens fill the air And all that I can do is think of you, alone in there
I call you on the telephone, small miracle, I get through But when your voice comes on the line I realize — it’s not you
You are no longer you, and I am suddenly not me The ground’s been ripped from underneath our 2 clay feet
It’s like a movie — but it’s true And everything sad has turned a deeper shade of blue
Oh ashes, ashes — from steel and concrete We all fall down, we all break down on 2 clay feet
2 clay feet 2 clay feet Life is a dream, life is a dream, life is a dream Are we awake, or do we sleep on 2 clay feet
“Where are our other lives?” she cried to me Something has changed, everything has changed, way down deep
The devil take them, the devil is me There is no devil, there are no angels, on 2 clay feet
2 clay feet 2 clay feet Life is a dream, life is a dream, life is a dream Are we awake or do we sleep on 2 clay feet
I’m honored to have an instrumental mix of “2 Clay Feet” featured on the recording Svadharma, a collection of music published by Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health to benefit their teaching for diversity program.
The Ujjayi Breath, also known as Victorious or Ocean-Sounding breath, is a wonderfully relaxing breathing practice.
This breathwork is based on a steady inhalation and exhalation through the nose, with a mild constriction at the back of the throat.
The constriction creates an “ocean sound” that helps to focus the mind, and create a relaxation response in the body.
If you’re feeling anxious, nervous, or less than confident, or if you are dealing with medical issues, give this simple breathing technique a try. Practice upon waking, when lying in bed before sleeping, or anytime!
This breath is soothing and calming. There are no medical restrictions.
1. Hold one hand up in front of your face—palm turned toward your face—and imagine your palm is a mirror. Next, pretend you are fogging up the mirror with your breath. To do this, exhale with an ‘H’ sound. “Haaaaaa…” This is the ocean sound.
2. Drop the hand, and repeat.
*Notice that compared to a exhaling normally, adding the ‘H’ sound allows you to lengthen your exhalation.
Inhale normally, and repeat. As you empty the air completely, the naval draws back toward the spine. Exhaling fully in this way will allow you to deepen your next inhalation.
3. Inhale normally, and practice the exhalation again, this time with the lips closed. Continue making the ‘H’ sound in the back of your throat as you exhale, but exhale through the nose, with the lips lightly closed.
4. Now, make the same ‘H’ sound with your mouth open as you inhale. You’ll find this to be super uncomfortable! So just do it once or twice. Then, keeping that constriction in the back of the throat, that ‘H’ sound, inhale through the nose with the lips closed.
Once you follow these simple steps, that’s it! You no longer need the above info. You’re ready to engage the Ocean-Sounding breath. Ready to relax.
A few suggestions to support your new breathing practice:
Sit comfortably with a long spine, or lie down. Soften the jaw. Soften the brow.
Breathe slowly and deeply, in and out of the nose. Lips are together, teeth apart.
Begin to engage the Ujjayi breath by inhaling and exhaling through the nose, while gently constricting the back of the throat, using the ‘H’ or ocean sound. Keep the lips lightly closed.
Extend each exhalation, emptying completely.
Deepen each inhalation, filling the body fully.
As you inhale, you may want to imagine the breath moving into the body through the lower belly, or pelvic region, and continuing up the torso, expanding the rib cage all around the body, feeling the breath in the sides and back of the body, then moving higher, under collarbones and into the tops of the shoulders.
As you exhale, imagine this 3-part wave of breath washing down from collarbone region to the pelvis.
Inhale—3-part wave of breath washes onto the shore—
(Up the torso from pelvic region to collarbones, and/or tops of shoulders)
Exhale—empty completely (from collarbones to pelvis) feeling the naval draw back toward the spine as the 3-part wave of breath retreats from the shore, returns to the sea.
Besides being a published author and Songwriting instructor at Project Write Now in Red Bank, NJ, Mimi Cross is a 200+ hour certified Kripalu Yoga teacher. She has been teaching people of all ages Yoga and Meditation since 2001.
Let Shining Sea transport you to a fictional peninsula in Maine…
Seventeen-year-old Arion Rush has always played the obedient sidekick to her older sister—until a mysterious boating accident leaves Lilah a silent, traumatized stranger. As her sister awaits medical treatment with their mother, Arion and their father head to his hometown in Maine to prepare a new life for them all. Surrounded by the vast Atlantic, songwriting is Arion’s only solace, her solid ground. Unexpectedly, Arion blossoms in the tiny coastal town. Friends flock to her, and Logan Delaine, a volatile heartthrob, seems downright smitten. But it’s Bo Summers—a solitary surfer, as alluring as he is aloof—that Arion can’t shake.
Meanwhile, Lilah’s worsening condition, a string of local fatalities, and Arion’s own recent brushes with death seem ominously linked…to Bo’s otherworldly family. As Arion’s feelings for Bo intensify and his affections turn possessive, she must make a choice. But how will Arion learn to listen to her own voice when Bo’s siren song won’t stop ringing in her ears?
It’s summer, and the children in your life may not be drinking enough water. Dehydration can contribute to optic neuritis. When my son’s optic nerves became inflamed I had never heard of this condition, which is why I’m posting about our experience. It is my hope that our story may help parents in need.
“Mommy, look. The lights don’t work.”
My little boy, who had turned eight two weeks earlier, flicked the hall light switch—
The lights went on.
I’d already called the doctor the evening before, when my son complained he was having trouble reading. The doctor suggested his eyes were tired. Dry maybe, because of the winter weather.
“It’s probably nothing,” he said.
I said, “It’s not nothing.”
“Bring him to the office in the morning.”
That night, like nearly every other since my son was born, I read aloud to him. We were deep in the Harry Potter series, and in the bedtime hour, where darkness is the norm and dreams begin to beckon, the vivid imagery of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix transported us both from my son’s room to Harry’s wizarding world, the story soothing us like a familiar song. We’d been to the real Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando just six weeks earlier—although ‘real’ may not be the best word to describe the wonderful fantasy-fulfilling destination.
The next morning didn’t feel real either. By 9am when we arrived at the pediatrician’s office, my son couldn’t see the eye chart. By the time we got to the eye doctor, he couldn’t see the chair in the examination room.
We drove to the emergency room at Jersey Shore Hospital, the children’s wing. It was empty, yet the attention we received was minimal. I had a bad feeling. Check in, triage—both processes were completely chaotic. The seats in the waiting room were dirty. I wanted to leave.
The head of neurology was on vacation. When I asked to speak to the neurologist on call, someone on staff handed me a piece of paper. It was a bio, with a picture of the doctor.
“Your son will need to undergo a battery of tests.”
The list included a spinal tap, i.e., a lumbar puncture, but there was no pediatric team available to perform the delicate procedure, and pediatric specialists—I was told over and over—were definitely necessary.
We waited hours for a room. The staff in charge of assigning one wasn’t told that we were there. By this time, my son was blind, except for the ability to see shadows in front of his left eye.
There were serious questions to consider. Was there pressure on the brain? Would a lumbar puncture reduce it? Meanwhile, my son needed an MRI. A CAT scan. But since no one knew what was wrong, anesthesia for the MRI wasn’t an option. Nor was injecting my son with a substance that would allow them to see contrast if he did get an MRI. Was he the victim of a virus? Was there swelling? Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories—not options.
Except for the few horrific moments when the shunt was placed, (for a blood draw, with an eye toward an IV drip at some point), my son remained calm—calm, and fascinated. That was my boy during the MRI, (without contrast), which was finally given without anesthesia. An hour of stillness, of listening to the machine noises, the knocking sounds which, when aurally embraced, become musical.
I stood for that hour, and held my son’s foot. So he’d know I was there. So he’d know he wasn’t alone. I never left his side. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the longest novel of the Harry Potter series and apparently my personal charm of protection, never left my side. All through the waiting—in the eye doctor’s office, in the hospital room that night, I read, and read, and read aloud. Call it mother’s intuition, or a woman’s way of knowing—or maybe it was just a bit of magic. Somehow, I knew to grab the book from my son’s bedside table, before we left the house that day.
Sunday morning. The world outside the hospital windows was white. Was frozen.
The neurologist came flying into the room, breathless and wild haired, shocking my son and myself out of a fitful sleep.
“There’s a team—they don’t normally do children, but they’re willing to do the spinal and—”
“Willing?” I gestured to the door, to the hallway where we should clearly be having this conversation. “Willing.” I repeated. She nodded enthusiastically and began speaking at high-speed about how I needed to sign consent forms, how she needed to let the team know, because it was Sunday, and they—
The doctor knew, I realized, that she should have come in the day before to see my son. She knew, that what was happening to him could be very, very serious.
“If it had been your child,” I pressed, “would you have been here yesterday?”
Her smile fell, finally. She admitted that she hadn’t realized how severe my son’s condition was.
“You spoke to me yesterday,” I said. “How the fuck did you not realize?”
The doctor looked shocked. More than that though, she looked guilty.
“And now,” I continued, “Here you are, after telling me yesterday that nothing could be done because there wasn’t a pediatric team available—now you’re saying it’s okay to go ahead with a procedure that could leave my son paralyzed because you have a team that normally works on adults who is willing?”
That’s when she told me about another hospital. “Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” she said, “is one of the best hospitals for children in the country.”
I said, “I want to go.”
My mother, on the phone, counseled me to stay put—we all knew moving my son was a risk. But I knew—somehow I knew—that staying where we were was more of a risk.
I said, “I want to go now.”
They would have helicoptered us, but there was too much snow. So we went by ambulance.
I’ve forgotten the names of the two EMTs, but joined together, their last names sounded like a wine company. The two men had kindness, raying out from their eyes, from their smiles, like light.
“Lumos!” demands Harry Potter, waving his wand, when he needs to spark a glow in the darkness.
Halfway down to Philly, I told the EMTs my son was supposed to be hooked up to an IV drip.
The one sitting in the back with us, said, “Really? They didn’t tell us that.”
I said, “Really.”
He connected the bag.
Two hours. Lights flashing.
My son. Looking up at me. Though he couldn’t see me.
We arrived at CHOP. The doctors came in groups. They asked all kinds of questions. But they didn’t just ask me those questions. They asked my son. They treated him like the person he is.
We stayed four nights. The lumbar puncture—the only time my son had to be anesthetized, the only time I wasn’t allowed to be with him—was the hardest. I waited out in a large lounge. People nearby were crying. I was crying, but just a little. Because I had already decided, if my son remained blind, well, there were worse things. They were happening all around me.
Over the next few days, between Harry Potter reading marathons and cuddle sessions with his new stuffed animals, my son received intravenous steroids that began to restore his sight.
To me, the recovery of his vision was nothing short of miraculous, but my boy was still relegated to a hospital bed, so I was thankful that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is 870 pages long. It is also increasingly complex. Harry faces new challenges and there is a deepening of mysteries. I didn’t fail to see the parallel.
My father said, “I don’t know how you do it, how you can sit and read aloud for hours like that.”
I told him it was because I wanted to find out what happened next in the story and that was true, but also, it was because reading to my boy was something I could do in a time where I felt completely powerless. As if The Order of the Phoenix was a Sanskrit mantra or a prayer, I put my passion into reading for my son. I read as if it could save his sight. I read to save my sanity. That book was my wand.
The doctors came and went, their smiles growing ever brighter. The kitchen sent up mac and cheese, and that was, surprisingly, deeply comforting. But nothing gave us comfort like Harry Potter, who, although he is a wizard, is still in many ways a boy. An ordinary boy, just like my son.
Ten days at home, where I carefully measured ever decreasing doses of oral steroids with almost paranoid precision. Another trip to CHOP, where my son enjoyed another visit with Dr. Liu, the rock star ophthalmologist, and half the neurology department. Everyone was optimistic.
I lifted my head, and looked around.
Today, with the four-year anniversary of my son’s ‘adventure’ approaching, after dozens of trips to Philadelphia, and about 1200 days of vitamin D supplements, after countless blood draws, many MRIs, and as just as many neurological exams, my boy is fine. He was very lucky that the optic neuritis didn’t do any permanent damage—his vision is 20/20. Plus, he’s seen a tiger up close at the Philadelphia zoo, visited Maillardet’s automaton at the Franklin Institute, fallen in love with Philly cheesesteaks, and thinks maybe he’d like to go to Drexel—though that may be mostly because of their dragon. My son’s been partial to the fire-breathing beasts since he was introduced to Norbert, in the very first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Philosopher’s Stone has many properties. It’s sometimes called the ‘elixir of life’. It is useful for rejuvenation. I can vouch for that.
My son is now a participant in a study at CHOP, and I’m glad, because this means he will continue to see the neurologists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia yearly, until he is eighteen.
It’s been determined that my son’s optic neuritis episode was not related to MS—but we still don’t know what it was related to. And that we don’t know—is a good thing. The fact that we don’t know means that the doctors at CHOP have ruled out all serious illnesses.
Still, I will continue to swab the inside of my son’s cheek once a month for the next year. (Oversize Q-tips, tiny containers, fridge to freezer, DNA—you get the idea.) I will continue to make sure he takes 4,000 IUs of vitamin D daily. And although I will continue to take him to the excellent local eye doctor any time he’s at all concerned about his eyes—my son is extra sensitive now as far as his eyes go, and I am hyper vigilant—we recently saw the ophthalmologist at CHOP for the last time.
As he examined the pale scarring at the back of my son’s eyes, Dr. Liu said,
“Anyone who looks—will see this. For the rest of your son’s life, it will be there. He has his scar now.”
Hundreds of talented authors, editors, illustrators, and literary agents joining together to offer their time, talent, and treasure to support the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Through this auction, you can bid on signed book bundles, personalized artwork, one-on-one conversations with editors or agents, and hundreds of other prizes.
The premise is simple: bid early and often, win and donate, claim your prize.
Please take a look! There are SO many generous offerings—you’ll definitely find something you wantneed!
Hopefully you’ve already dipped into your pocket for people in Puerto Rico, or maybe you’ve helped folks in Houston. If you live in Monmouth County, there’s another cause that needs your contribution, and in return, you’ll hear some amazing stories!
Project Write Now is delighted to announce this year’s annual fundraiser, “Come Together: A Performance + Party” to be held at the Two River Theater on Friday, October 13, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
If you’re local, I hope you’ll come hear a dramatic reading performed by students who will share their incredible writing. Michael Sarin and I will be playing miniature pieces of original music in between readings, something I’m really excited about. We hope the music will give the audience an extra moment to reflect on the the writers’ words, while at the same time evoking something more of the their work, possibly something invisible. (For a beautiful and articulate take on the concept of invisibility in writing, read this, an amazing piece from the August 25th New York Times Book Review by Roger Rosenblatt entitled “The Invisible Forces That Make Writing Work.”)
We’ll start the evening with a cocktail hour featuring music by singer-songwriter Austin Vuolo. After the performance, the festivities will continue with more music, food, drinks, and lots of conversation and community!
Please join me for this special celebration! You can purchase tickets here.
For more information about Project Write Now, a non-profit dedicated to helping people of all ages become better writers as they gain the confidence, skills, and insight needed to reach their personal, academic, and professional goals, please visit the PWN website.