person holding a green plant

Photo by Akil Mazumder on

– a tribute to John Lewis and teachers who lead


The blessing is in the seed.


I have known the planting of seeds—

seeds of song, seeds of poems, seeds of the work of words.


The blessing is let me show you.

The seed is now you do it.


The blessing is you have learned.

The seed is now teach another.


I have known the planting of seeds—

seeds of love, seeds of kindness, seeds of the comfort of words.


The blessing is let me hold you.

The seed is now hold another.


The blessing is I see you.

The seed is to listen.


The blessing is in the truth.

The seed is yours to tell.




*first line from Elegy in Joy by Muriel Rukeyser

The Sweetness of Chanting

chant 1

59. Sakala-buvana-srstih



sampadam vyarthadrstih;




moksa-margaika-drstih.                       (missing the diacritical marks)

(May the divine glance of the Guru ever dwell upon me.  It creates all worlds.  It brings all nourishment.  It has the viewpoint of all holy scriptures.  It regards wealth as useless.  It removes faults.  It remains focused on the Ultimate.  It is the highest ruler of the three gunas,  which constitute the world.  Its only goal is (to lead others on) the path of liberation.)

If you’ve ever read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, you might remember her ranting on and on about the early morning chant called the Guru Gita.  It’s one of my favorite parts of her book, because I, too, have felt the weight of those 182 verses.  And yet, I’ve been chanting those verses on and off for more than thirty years.

Only last week, on another quiet COVID-19 Sunday morning, we finished our regular meditation and decided we might as well chant the Guru Gita.  

What a fortunate decision!  With nowhere to go, and nobody around to distract me, I sank into the familiar chant as if sinking into a warm, fragrant bath.  The Sanskrit tasted good in my mouth, like ripe, juicy fruit.  It felt like coming home. Why had it taken me four months of social isolation to start chanting? I wondered.


Later, I recalled something that (I think) was said by  Swami Muktananda. If your mind is too agitated for meditation, chant instead.

Chanting was what brought me into Siddha Yoga.  I still choose to listen to kirtan with Alexa or Spotify.  If the chant sticks in my head (I’m susceptible to ear worms), I don’t mind because the continuous repetition of names of the Divine is preferable to pop lyrics.

In Gilbert’s memoir, she solves her battle with the Guru Gita by dedicating it to her nephew.  The corona virus seems to have reopened a path for me.

chant 3


Mushrooms at the Edge of Dread


closeup photo of white mushrooms

Photo by Ashish Raj on

(inspired by What Kind of Times Are These —Adrienne Rich)


At times like these

new fears emerge in the night,

like mushrooms.


At times like these

we wake in the contagious morning

to discover pale, sinister growths.


At times like these,

truth is a buried treasure

hidden under sand on an uncharted island.


At times like these,

we guess and guess and guess again.

What is safe? What is holy?


At times like these

we hide and wait for the cure,

but will all be required to take it?


At times like these

touch is precious medicine.

Everyone should have a hand to hold.


At times like these,

living at the edge of dread,

only burnt offerings can please the gods.


Kim Ellis   7-23-20

Natural Pleasures


Our walks often take us past this meadow behind the apartment complex.  It is possibly a wetland preserve.  I don’t know.  For whatever reason, it is undisturbed.  Today we paused to listen to the bird chorus.

Further along, we came upon this tree in bloom.  I’ve always called them “feather duster trees,” lacking the proper name.  Some have tan, dirty-looking flowers, but this one was glorious pink.


The wild grape vines are flourishing this summer.  One vine was waving in the air, seeking to grab hold of something, only there was no purchase nearby.


We were delighted to find some ripe wild black cap berries.  There’s nothing like the sweet-tart taste of a berry right off the bush.


The last pleasurable surprise was a baby mantis, rescued from a basin with slick sides.


Before COVID-19, we would never be out walking on a weekday morning. Thus are the strange yet lovely joys emerging from social isolation.

Note: apologies to readers–some posts are missing photos.  I mistakenly thought I was cleaning up my media library and later realized my good intentions removed the same photos from the posts as well.  I don’t know how to reinstate them.  Sorry.

Escaping Verizon Wireless

person in black jacket holding smartphone

Photo by cottonbro on

For several years now, we’ve been paying an exorbitant phone bill. Verizon enjoyed charging us $185 per month for two phones and unlimited data. When I’d ask the assistants in the Verizon store in town, “Can’t you lower this bill?” their answer was, “Oh, sure! When you’ve paid off your phones, it will go down $20 a month.”


A friend said she and her husband used the new Spectrum Mobile carrier and were only paying $28.50. They had no complaints. That sounded good to me, so I called Spectrum. I got a pleasant young woman in South Carolina. “Oh, you don’t need unlimited data based on your usage,” she told me. “You’ll be fine with the $28 plan, and if you use more data, it’s only $14 a gig.”

I signed us up.

A few days later, the new Spectrum SIM cards came in the mail, and my trials began. First, I had to figure out how to get our phones out of their cases and open the iPhones. I mastered those tasks. Then I was supposed to go online to Spectrum and follow the directions to activate the phones. Easy, right? No way.

oneplus smartphone black and white sim

Photo by Silvie Lindemann on

Before we could activate our phones, we had to have them unlocked. In order to unlock the phones, we had to pay them off. That made sense. But no, we couldn’t pay them off on the phone, we had to go to the store.

At the Verizon store, a youngish guy with an ineffective mask took my money and announced we were paid and clear to go. However, I didn’t escape the store without a dire warning from the manager that I would be sorry sorry sorry to leave Verizon, because Spectrum had lousy service. And those fools who had left Verizon had come slinking back.

Back online to Spectrum I went, and discovered that my husband’s phone was unlocked, but mine wasn’t. I was told to contact Verizon.

Have you tried to contact Verizon? It is not easy. I spent about four hours that afternoon, first chatting with two different Verizon chat people. Finally, one said, “Oh, no, we can’t unlock your phone from here. You have to call the tech support guy.”

Well, the tech support guy messed around for a while and finally said that something that sounded like “FIMA” wasn’t unlocking so I should call the super-tech. I spent about another hour with the super-tech (who happens to live in Arkansas and has two grown girls and came from New Zealand—we had a lot of wait time). He eventually had me erase everything and start over. Unlocked?


I went online later that night and Spectrum advised me to call my carrier because I needed a “number transfer pin.” I was borderline hysterical by now, so I waited til the next morning.

First thing, I called the number Spectrum messaged me, and got the information that, as of three weeks ago, Verizon was requiring these number transfer pins. If you call Verizon to get one, the recording just tells you to go online. That’s when I discovered that we’d been messing around with my phone so much that I couldn’t access my Verizon account.

I called the Verizon tech support, waited on hold for another long while, and finally got Amy. I burst into tears while explaining my problem. She put me through a long list of steps, downloading the Verizon app, resetting passwords and account owners and on and on. Finally that was straightened out. But could she give me the precious PIN? No. I had to get it online.

At this point, I was terrified. I’d had two new passwords and reset things and I was afraid to push a key and get locked out of my account again (back to square one). But, blessings upon us, I managed to navigate to the right place and click on the right icon, and LO! Verizon messaged me my PIN.

What a nightmare! I do suspect that Verizon makes exiting difficult so that customers will just give up and keep paying. However, we appear to be free for now. Whew.

Fear and Longing


My granddaughters live three states away. I haven’t seen them since January. The enforced separation is causing tears and heartache—on both sides. For me, though, as the aging adult, the longing is confused and aggravated by fear.

I’m close to seventy years old. What if I die before we can be together again? This strange and virulent disease could be the end of me. Other younger folk are often less anxious. Today we ventured out to a D.IY. store to get some needed house supplies. Although most of the customers had on masks, there was an atmosphere of laxity that I found alarming.

I hurried through the store, flinging air filters and bug spray into our cart. On the checkout line, the man in front of us had no mask. I commented on this and pulled back further. My husband, whose dementia blanks out the crisis daily, made a joke about the fellow being a tough guy.

“It’s not funny!” I shouted. I moved our cart to the self-checkout lane and rushed out of the store.

I don’t know if we’ll attempt another shopping trip. I truly felt unsafe, and also angry that others’ cavalier attitudes force me to take risks.

When I asked my doctor about the advisability of visiting the family, he said, “Sure, you can walk with them outdoors.”

“Oh, no, but they live five hours away,” I said.


If this social isolation lasts months longer, I may reassess the risks versus the emptiness. For now, though, we’re back in the apartment, too far away.