MAGICAL THINKING — Game of Thrones Style

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I watch Game of Thrones. Didn’t want to. Heard it was gory and violent. But I happened to see the first episode about a year ago. That was all it took. I was hooked.

I’ve tried to figure out what captivates me. Why the fascination with White Walkers, Wildings, the nasty Lannisters (except for Tirian), and beautiful Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons? Speaking of…wouldn’t it be great to have a couple of flying, fire-breathing beasts to call upon when you needed to make a point? Even a smallish one would serve the purpose if it could burp a little flame. She wouldn’t even have to fly.

None of the main characters in Game of Thrones do battle alone. Queen Cersie has an army, the Iron Islands have ships, John Snow, King of The North, has Wildlings, and Daenarys has her dragons not to mention thousands of savagely loveable Dothraki warriors.  

I usually don’t feel sorry for myself, but one day recently I got to thinking. When the chips are down, I’m really all I have. It’s not that others don’t want to help but my battles are with inner demons, and beyond lending a sympathetic ear (which is a comfort), there’s not much anyone can do.

As my mind meandered down that trail, one thing led to another.

I thought about fairy tales, white knights, genies and the like. How waiting for something else to be the answer is pretending I’m helpless. It’s casting myself into the role of victim, a part for which I’m extremely ill-suited, thank you very much. So I made a list of all the things that wouldn’t be showing up to help me and suddenly, with a little massaging, a poem emerged.


No white knight is riding to your rescue
Your kiss won’t make a prince of a warty toad
There are no magic potions to heal the heartache
No magic words or wands to smooth the road

No genie will appear when you rub the lantern
To grant your wish or bestow on you three more
The golden coach that should have come at midnight
Is a pumpkin in the field just like before

Good luck with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
Ali Baba’s thieves stole it years ago
And forget the sound of Santa on your rooftop
Rumor has it he’s gone south – can’t stand the snow

There’s only one thing sure you can depend on
In this crazy world of​ caustic disarray​ ​
Your own brave heart in bold determination
Will illuminate the path and clear the way


This poem reminds me that I am the answer I’ve been waiting for.


A Life of No Regret


I ran across this poem recently:

What I Regret
By Nina Cassian

. . . never having heard the voice of the Dodo bird . . .
. . . never having smelled the Japanese cherry trees . . .
. . . never having punished the lovers and friends that
deserted me . . .
. . . never having asked for honours that I deserved . . .
. . . never having composed a Mozart sonata . . .
. . . never having realised that I’d live long enough to
regret all the above . . .
. . . and much, much more . . .

What a heartbreaking indictment, a tragic litany for a final act.

At some point in my fifties I realized that if I continued my trajectory, I would die with huge regrets. The picture was graphic: I saw myself on my death bed. I felt the agony of an unlived life but it was more than that. I was ashamed. Why had I undervalued myself? Why hadn’t I followed my dream of travel, my love of adventure? Why had I squandered the gift of years? I was smart, strong, healthy, and capable right up to the end. I could have changed my circumstances at any time. But seeing the shrunken disillusioned shell I’d become, it was obvious I hadn’t.

The vision terrified me. But it prompted action: a slow steady turning of the barge midstream to head toward the waterfall, and conquering that, to the sea beyond.

What I know now that I didn’t know then is a basic condition of my character: I have the capacity for unfathomable darkness and I’m hard-wired for adventure. It’s in my DNA. But if I don’t get healthy excitement, and if the darkness isn’t deliberate it will come out sideways, corrupted, and dysfunctional. In my life, it had done just that.

People thought I was nuts to move to the other side of the globe alone, to a place where I knew no one and had only been once for a two-week vacation. But there are times when knowing settles into the bones; times when you realize that listening to the crazy voices in your head will save you.

People have asked me, “How did you summon the courage to do it?”

Courage? Ha! It was terror, pure and simple. I was terrified of the alternative and fear is by far the most powerful motivator there is.

That short visit was enough for me to know that Bali’s energy was different, that there was something there for me.

The culture is rich, deep, and ancient. Shamanistic rituals maintain the balance between darkness and light.

There are world-class events: the Ubud Writers Festival, the Food Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Bali Spirit Festival, the Kite Festival, the Arts Festival, that challenge and entertain.

There are natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, that provide enough trauma for several lifetimes.

There are problems: illiteracy, pollution, poverty, which create boundless opportunities to get involved and help. Bali, by nature, provides everything I need and allows me to be fully who I am, effortlessly. And maybe that’s the key: the lack of striving.

I hope you aren’t tired of hearing this from me. I know it’s a recurring theme. But I can’t emphasize enough the importance of living a fulfilled life. I hitched myself along for the ride on someone else’s dream many times. It’s a spirit-shattering business. Nobody but you can live your life. Nobody but you can nourish your soul.

What to do about all that?

Awake before five this morning, the brightening sky lured me from bed. I slid open the wide doors, welcoming the light in the east and the soft breath of dawn. With steaming brew cupped warm in my hands I watched the fire at the horizon fade to blue and scribbled my musings.


But the more I wrote, the less I knew, until my jumbled, tumbling thoughts spit out this question:  WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALL THAT?

Instantly the words came…

Get up early
Watch the sunrise
Hear the sounds
Smell the incense
Feel the caress
Taste the coffee
Receive the blessing
Give thanks

It’s being present and allowing my mind to rest, to let go of trying to ‘figure it all out.’ Don’t push the river, Dad used to tell me. Too often I rushed headlong into a solution of my own devising that brought suffering in the end. Older now, and somewhat wiser, my heart knows that the answers will appear when they’re ready if I give them the chance.

Eight Degrees South of the Equator

P1090651Today the clouds are heading at me on stiff breezes out of the east. Winter is coming…I can feel the change. It’s mid-autumn here. March, April, and May are precursors to the winter months: June, July, August. It’s still a challenge to wrap my head around the backward and upside-down reality of living in the southern hemisphere.

As if to herald the new season, one that is more inspired and prolific than the past three months have been, I woke up in the night with a sentence in my head. It’s a great sentence…so great that I got up out of a dead sleep, turned on the light, found pen and paper and wrote it down. Here it is in all it’s brilliance:
The moments exist in picture without story, devoid of memory, bone minus flesh. 
Now you tell me, is that or is that not a great sentence?! Too bad I have to be asleep to come up with such artistry. But I know exactly where it belongs in the memoir so I’m turning there now, to plug in that literary bit.
But before I go, I scribbled a poem recently. Maybe you’ll enjoy…
P1090121I crack an eyelid.
Through east facing windows
the ink of night
pales at the horizon.
A rooster crows,
then another.
Without warning,
summoned by their cry,
a fringe of coral
singes jagged palms and rooftops,
shoots to ragged clouds.

The sky explodes in color,
softens and is gone.

Tropic sun crawls heavenward,
drags relentless heat
through daylight hours
then slips into decline,
slight breezes in its wake.
No lingering twilight.
A dog barks.
It’s night.

That’s how it happens here
eight degrees south of the Equator.

March 29, 2015
Sherry Bronson


A Downward Dog View of Yoga

The ex-pats in Ubud have an uneasy relationship with the yoga crowd that floods the streets with nubile bodies in leggings and sports bras. There are good reasons for this. I’m guessing that the median age of the ex-pat population here approaches 70 so maybe there’s just a speck…a smattering…of jealousy? But to give them credit, these people did not grow up in the era of self-discovery with the influx of mystical influences from the East. Even some of the younger ones roll their eyes and avoid organic and raw food restaurants known to cater to the heightened awareness  crowd.

So this morning when I opened an e-mail from my sister in Northern Minnesota, and read a poem she wrote recently, I knew I had to post it for two reasons: first, she’s a great poet and has published her work in a book, Musings of a Damsel, Reflections of a Crone (click the link to see more), and second, because it’s so true and I knew if I could relate then many others would too.

My Inner Eye
by Gwen Lee Hall (pen name: Wendolyn Lee)

My friend is into yoga; she practices faithfully.
She tells me it’s done her a world of good, and it would be good for me.

I resist, but she has an answer for every excuse I know.
Yoga can take me places I never dreamed I’d go.

It will open my breath, open my mind, teach my soul to fly.
I’ll see things I’ve never seen before when I open my inner eye.

And so I cave. I buy the mat. I learn a pose or two,
And sure enough, the part about my inner eye is true!

Downward Dog on the livingroom floor, I see popcorn under the chair,
Dust bunnies under the sofa, wads of puppy hair…

So today I’m getting my exercise with a dustpan and a broom,
Seeing things I’ve never seen, right here in my livingroom.

Thank you my friend; I now include yoga in my routine.
My inner eye gets a workout, and my livingroom is clean.

Drinking from Blackwater Pond



Mornings at Blackwater
by Mary Oliver

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.

And live
your life.

I may have said this before, Mary Oliver is my hero. She surprises me. She uses common words in uncommon ways so I have to pay attention. I can’t get lazy and just assume I know where she’s going.

This poem is particularly significant as Ms. Oliver speaks of ‘the dry bowl of the very far past,’ and ‘the river of your imagination…the harbor of your longing.’ Then she urges that you ‘put your lips to the world and live your life.’

What I love about this is that you realize from her beginning stanza that the world is Blackwater Pond. It isn’t clean or clear. Rather, the trees weep their leaves into it’s depths. Wild creatures swim and feed in it’s murkiness. It’s gritty and real, and this is what she suggests that we put to your lips and drink. 

When we do that, as she did every day, you connect with the present and move beyond the distresses of the past. You begin to see things differently, to imagine, and to dream, until finally you are capable of making different choices. You begin to live your life.

Give yourself permission to let go of whatever is holding you back. Don’t allow the past, or your perception of the present, or your mistrust of the future, to confine you.  Your life can be so much bigger than that.


A Roof of Sorrow

Yesterday, dread settled on me

like a roof of sorrow.

I counted my money

though I already knew what was there.

“It isn’t enough,” I moaned to the roof.

And the roof agreed, “It isn’t enough.”

All day my mind belabored the lament

until it sounded like truth.

Sleep was late coming.

But when I woke to the sounds I love

and the place I love

with sunrise blowing through the curtains

like a promise,

the roof was laughing.

“There’s more than enough,” it said.

“There’s so much more than enough.”

And I saw  with blinding clarity

that money is only a thought,

the abundance or lack a mere idea

with which I can choose to torment

or bless myself.


Sherry Bronson 12/19/2014

Building a House in Bali – big stones arrive

We had polished off a killer meal of Lake Batur fish and copious amounts of Bintang. We’d solved half the world’s problems and discussed the other half ad nauseum. The mosquito coil lay in ashes on the floor, spent. The guests had gone home and I was reaching to turn off the garden lights when a bush rustled. Bushes rustle all the time, but after dark I notice. My eyes scanned the shadows while my mind ticked off possibilities: herons, squirrels, monkeys…Ketut. “Ya, stones come tomorrow,” he said, stepping into the light.

“What time?” I knew it would be early, I just wanted to know how early.

“Oh, maybe tweluv.” In Ketut speak, the number twelve has two syllables, twel uv.

“You mean midnight?” I’m still grappling with Bali time.

“Ya, in the street, many-many.”

He made the announcement and left. Pasek appeared moments later. “Ya, stones come tomorrow,” he said.

“What time?” Didn’t I just have this conversation?!

“In the street now, maybe five bring inside.”

“Five in the morning?”


I didn’t sleep much knowing my stones had been dumped in the busy Monkey Forest Road and would sit there until the women came in the early morning hours to haul them to the house. I pictured small stones. I know that sand has to come, and metal, and bags of concrete. Small stones were also on the list of materials.

P1050897At 5:30 I heard voices whispering in the garden. My windows don’t have glass. There’s a bamboo blind between me and the forces of nature. At 5:48 there was a bit of shoveling and scraping. I got up. I had just spread out the yoga mat on the bedroom floor when, at 6:09, an avalanche of volcanic boulders crashed to earth.

Through the window, women pushing pinkish wheelbarrows piled high with rock streamed past me. The boulders rolling out of the barrows created a thunderous roar. Ketut strolled up and I said, “Why big stones? I thought little stones.”

“Oh, first big stones. Make strong.” He disappeared into the kitchen to make coffee for the workers. When he emerged with glasses of the thick, black drink, I joined the women for their breakfast break. The savory scent of chicken and chilis emerged from their brown paper wraps. The smallest one of the group had a bag of kue, the Balinese sweet treats that I love. She offered them to me. I chose a browned ball. Coconut, palm sugar, and sweet potato lay hidden in the center of the cake-like confection. “Mmmmm!” I said as I bit into its moist sweetness. A beatific smile beamed from her weathered face.

Their rest was brief. As they retrieved their wheelbarrows, Ketut, ever mindful, scaled the palm that towered over the dump site for the rocks. His machete sliced off six coconuts and a couple of enormous branches. Being clobbered by a coconut isn’t a happy ending. One of them split when it hit the rocks. Next thing I knew, a glass of young coconut water appeared in front of me. Delicious!

Mid-afternoon the task was done.
P1050907My first materials have made their appearance. “Sand tomorrow,” Ketut said.

“What ti…” I began, then realized…it doesn’t matter.

Only When It Rains

While subzero temperatures hammer the snowy Midwestern United States, I get up every morning glad that I’m not there. My sister reported -37 Celsius (-34 F) and the pipes froze in the new home of a friend who posted devastating pictures of the damage on Facebook. Schools were closed for two days because of severe weather.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re tough Minnesotans and they almost like it, don’t cha know! But after a while it gets to even the most stalwart among them. Except my dad. I’ve never heard him complain about anything. Ever.

The lotus pond planter overflows

The lotus pond planter overflows in the back garden

Rain pours off the roof in the front garden

Rain pours off the roof in the front garden

So I’m not complaining about the rain, really, I’m not. After all, it’s warm, and its making things even more impossibly green than before. But it’s frequent, and it’s torrential.

If you live in a house in cold climates, you have walls, windows, and insulation. If it rains, chances are it’s cold. You batten down the hatches and go about your business inside.

I have no glass in my windows. My house is three-sided with the fourth open to nature. When it pounds down as hard as it did today, I can’t hear myself think. So I run about with the camera trying to capture the wildness of it. Or I make a huge bowl of popcorn, plug in headphones, and watch Orange is the New Black – as many episodes as it takes.

And then…

when there’s nothing left to do, no escape, I write a poem to express what I’m feeling in the moment, not so much by the story, but by the way I tell it.


“Do you miss them?” she asked,
lines of concern creasing her forehead.
A leaf sashayed to earth.
Darkness in the west
rumbled a warning.
She waited for my answer,
her cigarette curling plumes of smoke
upward in the thick, still, air.
Do I miss whom, I wondered.
My family?
She flicked an ash over the rail, still waiting.
She was random like that.
Her questions seldom hooked into
any previous conversation.
I liked that about her.
It left options.
I could choose the meaning I wished,
she didn’t care.
Hanging out with her made me feel
and silly,
and a little sad.
“Not usually,” I said,
brushing a strand of wet hair off my face.
“Only when it rains.”

Rain making a waterfall down the temple steps

Rain creates a waterfall down the temple steps

Are You a Dream Catcher?

If you lose your dream, you lose the force that propels the universe forward
on your behalf. Don’t doubt it for a minute. It’s 100% true.

Dreamcatcher by

Dreamcatcher by

*Some people have forgotten how to dream.

Some have a dream but cannot imagine achieving it.
Dream Catchers have both imagined and achieved what they want in this life.
They have one quality that others lack.
My daughter, Joy, says they’re fearless, but that’s not true. They’re just as terrified as the rest. The difference is the fact that they don’t allow fear to stop them from doing that thing that calls them. They know that not pursuing their dream is a compromise, a decision to live someone else’s life instead of their own.
That was in my heart today as I thought of you.

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