Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus
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Love and chaos in the time of the coronavirus

The world is rife with panic and pandemic.

People are sick. People are dying. The COVID-19 respiratory illness is sweeping across the globe. No place will be spared.

Italy is quarantining. Have the Italians stopped their millennia-old practice of bussing on both sides of the face in greeting? 

I bet they have. Kissing is for the inviolate.

The macrocosm is a mess. In the microcosm, in the tiny whimsical, poignant slice of All-That-Is that is my personal life, a chaos stew bubbles.

One friend died of a drug overdose. 

Did she intend to die?

I was close to her during grad school. I remember her talent, her intellect, and her bright smile. Could I have done anything else to help her?

A beloved family member succumbs to cancer, by degrees. He’s in palliative care now. It’s hard to watch a good man die.

A beloved friend is mentally absent. Something has claimed her wonderful intelligence. She tells me the same stories over and over, sometimes beginning the anecdote mere seconds after finishing it.

I have pulled away from a friend whom I love. I can not tolerate her lack of truthfulness and lack of consistency right now. Usually I can shrug off her failings because I remember my own flaws, and because I have in mind her many wonderful qualities: her extraordinary generosity, her capacity for lovingkindness, her playfulness. But right now, the lack of truthfulness and lack of dependability feel like too much chaos, in a world that is seething with chaos.

Mystery of Birth
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Mystery of Birth

Mystery of Birth




I had the misfortune to be the impecunious shiksa married into a well-to-do Jewish family.

My sincere conversion to Judaism, a religion I love, slightly blunted their dyspeptic view of me but didn’t resolve it. Not that my former in-laws were aware of their bias or their inability to accept me because of my differentness. They’re a generous folk. They mean well, by and large.

But the plot thickened some years after my divorce, when I did my first DNA test. The results came back with so many “Ashkenazim” notes that I thought there had to be a mistake. I phoned the company.

I said, “I don’t understand my results.”

The lady clerk said brightly, “Oh, you’re Jewish.”

I murmured, “Yes, but who knew?”

I figured my mother had some Jewish progenitors. There were large murky areas in her ancestry, though we knew they largely inhabited the Southern parts of the US, with some Native American Indian thrown in. I figured some lost little Jewish girl had got off the boat in Ellis Island and found her way down South, where the crazy Scotch-Irish were boiling up squirrels in their crockpots and alchemizing moonshine in the hills. As well as marrying themselves some Indians.

My father’s family had been in the US for generations. They all had quintessential American names like Foster and Taylor. They were English-Scotch-Irish, with some Native American Indian thrown in. His mother was dark-haired and claimed Apache blood. There was no way my dad had any Ashkenazim blood.

Then my mother and I both, coincidentally, took another DNA test, 23andMe.

I was visiting my mother when she mentioned she had her results.

“Oh, let’s see your Jewish roots,” I chirped.

She opened a web browser, logged in, and opened her results.

0% Ashkenazim.

This did not accord with the 25.5% Ashkenazim ancestry that 23andMe revealed to me.

For a moment, the room swam in front of my eyes. I had a sinking feeling that I had been switched at birth. My mother, whom I love dearly despite our sometimes fraught relationship, wasn’t really my biological mother.

She said, “I guess Jim was Jewish?”

Oh, right. My father. I said, “He had to be half Jewish because I’m a quarter and you’re zero.”

But this was all very odd. My father’s family was from Arkansas, had been there for generations, and I had a recent Jewish ancestor from the Lithuania-Poland-Russia-Belarus area. Very recent.

I returned home and shared my DNA results with my mother, and 23andMe kindly confirmed that she was, indeed, my biological mother.

That left the mystery of my father. He never fit in with his family. Looked nothing like them. Had at least 75 IQ points over them. Was basically given away to be raised by a prosperous farmer. Called himself “the black sheep of the family” because he was smart, and joined the Navy and moved away from them.

My mother says he never bonded with anyone his whole life.

I didn’t like the man. He was abusive and prone to dark, erratic mood swings. He was an alcoholic. He cheated on my mother and engaged in all sorts of nasty behavior.

But I began to think that there was more to the story than met the eye. I began to believe that he wasn’t biologically related to the people who had raised him so poorly–because none of them are Jewish.

On 23andMe, I’ve been able to eliminate all the DNA relatives from my mother’s side. The remaining DNA relatives fall into 2 camps: one is Jewish, largely Russian-Polish-Ukrainian-Lithuanian. The other side is largely British-Irish and German.

That would be my paternal grandparents. Among them, there aren’t Taylors or Fosters or Slattons, or any of the other surnames associated with the people who raised my father. There is no commonality with the Slatton family.

The question is: Who was my father?

There’s some possibility that the woman who claimed to be his mother was indeed his biological mother, and she had fooled around.

But I think it far more likely that my benighted father, may he rest in eternal peace, was swapped in the hospital. Some other family went home with the real Slatton boy. And the son of a Jew and a German-Brit went home with the Slattons.

So I am sleuthing.

Who was my father? What are my real roots?

My friend’s grandson passed
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My friend’s grandson passed

Today was the memorial service for a dear friend’s infant grandson.

There were photographs placed around the room in the funeral home. It was a room for congregating, with neat rows of chairs for the visitors and tissue boxes placed at strategic intervals.

Mourning is excruciating anyway, but yoked to a child’s death, it is insupportable. There are no words.

This friend of mine has been in my life for nearly 20 years. He was my advocate and counsel, and slowly, over time and mutual respect, he became a friend. Then a dear friend, someone with whom I can always share a joke. He and his wife have gone to dinners with me and Sabin; they’ve come to visit us at various summer rentals, and we’ve been to visit them.

He’s a good man. He loves his children. I can’t imagine what was harder for him, watching his daughter grieve her tiny son, or his own grief about his grandson.

It’s not my first experience with the loss of a child. My sweet nephew died 25 years ago. He simply died one day. It was years before his pediatrician figured out that he’d had a rare genetic problem.  I respect that my sister continued on after his passing. I just don’t know how she did it.

I sat in the memorial service and thought, This is the essential stuff of human life. This is it–stripped bared, down to the marrow in the bones–what life is about: loss, love, family. Togetherness. Having each other’s back when the worst happens, the unimaginable strikes. The solace of community.

It’s easy for people to get lost in a fantasy about life. It’s easy to get stuck in the quick and shallow pleasures. Especially in our culture, where there’s a cultural ideal of a beer commercial life, all frolicking in the sunshine with the hip gang. It’s a glib and seductive path.

It’s also all too easy to allow mundane problems to take over so that this moment now isn’t enjoyed and lived fully–with the juice squeezed out over your hands.

This moment now is never going to be perfect. But it can be savored–for those who are alive. I pray that I will always be alive until it’s my turn to pass.

“Remember that my son lived,” said my friend’s daughter. It came from her heart and pierced mine.

I had sent gifts but hadn’t yet met him. Still, I will remember that little guy.


Returning to Source and Writing Again
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Returning to Source and Writing Again

Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci. 

It’s the new theme: writing again.

The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.

It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.

It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.

Change is afoot.

Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.

His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.

In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.

Why then this heart ache?

For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.

What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?

How have I betrayed myself?

I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.



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The resonance around a friend’s passing.

Today was my little one’s birthday, and she was home sick with a bad cold.

“I really hate being sick, mom! I don’t want to be sick!” she cried, in her sweet, fierce way.

I tried to console her. I offered to play cards with her or even to snuggle, but she was restless and achey. She wanted to lie quietly and read Harry Potter. I was happy she knew what would make her feel best, and I love seeing her growing independence.

It’s a bittersweet pleasure. Her independence, as does her birthday, means that she’s growing up. She’s no longer my frisky little cub, merging blissfully into my arms. There’s a young woman taking coltish shape. The young woman is creative, smart, engaging, and empathic while also being opinionated; I like her and I enjoy her. I am most eager to see this individual emerge.

But I will miss the little golden cub with her playful leaps and pounces.

This is already a week of missing people. Just a few days ago, a woman died whom I liked and respected. She was a beloved neuropsychologist who had worked extensively with our family, and I had great appreciation for her unique quality of being exceptionally soft and kind while also being imbued with immense intelligence. She was one of my favorite people to deal with. My husband Sabin and my daughter adored her. She managed a difficult meeting at my daughter’s school with rare grace, compassion, and authority.

She was too young to go. And I owed her a phone call to thank her for something. I had in mind I’d call her once the new year got underway.

The day after learning of her death, I attended a memorial service for a friend who had died at Christmas time. Sabin and I sat with our hands entwined, listening to my friend’s husband and children speak lovingly of her, of who she was in all her rich and imperfect and precious human fullness.

I thought how lucky my friend was to have a husband and children who accepted and respected her for exactly who she was; there’s a kind of wholeness in that, and the wholeness remains in the face of loss. I did not manage to find that kind of loving acceptance for myself in the first half of my life. I’m grateful to have been given a second chance.


With respect for Budd Hopkins, June 15, 1931 – August 21, 2011
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With respect for Budd Hopkins, June 15, 1931 – August 21, 2011

Missing Time

I met Budd Hopkins only a handful of times. We had a mutual friend who knew of my interest in UFOlogy and who grudgingly–and with noted mockery of me–made the introduction. My friend quoted a line he’d heard at a dinner party where Budd had spoken about UFO’s, and one of the other guests had rolled his eyes. “I’ll believe when I can kick a tire.”
Budd was a brilliant man. He was unfailingly polite and soft-spoken, with the current of intelligence and thought bubbling through his conversation. He was both passionate and restrained about his work in the UFO field. I have a personal interest in UFO’s and am somewhat private about the origins of this interest, despite my outspoken support for reincarnation, energy healing, and the paranormal in general. I didn’t quite work up the nerve to ask Budd some of the real questions I wanted to ask. But I could have.
Budd showed my husband Sabin and me around his house in Cape Cod, where he had a studio. Budd was very much working with sacred geometry. I liked his current work though his earlier abstract expressionism didn’t do much for me. That’s a matter of taste. Regardless, Budd was a talented artist with a fabulous eye for line and color. A world-class artist, in fact.
His UFO work was seminal. It inspired some of the greatest researchers into the field, including Dr. John Mack, the Harvard professor who worked with UFO abductees and who came to believe that something real was happening. Something that must be studied because so many people were affected. “An extraordinary phenomenon demands an extraordinary investigation,” Budd proclaimed. Rightly so.
I know that UFOs are real. I am here to witness: They are here. By UFOs I mean non-terrestrial biological entities. I do not know if they are real in the physical sense or if they are confined to the bandwidth of the astral planes. This question I did pose to Budd, who told me flatly, “They’re real in the physical.”
For sure they are present in the astral planes. The thing is, the astral planes are real. They are, in fact, as real as the physical planes. They’re just different bandwidths.
Budd once mentioned to me the phenomenon of invisible beings. The moment he brought that up, I could feel, tangibly and powerfully, the being standing near Budd. Ten feet away, as present and watchful as if a stalker were standing there.
The universe is bigger than many people like to acknowledge. This, I think, is about safety. Many people (especially educated folks) feel safer clinging to the Newtonian box, the grand machine, which is predictable. To hell with quantum physics, that spooky action at a distance that made Einstein shudder. To hell with infinite dimensions in the multiverse, which the many worlds theory espouses. These people have blinders on which only allow them to see a tire which they can kick.
Fortunately great souls like Budd Hopkins aren’t wearing blinders. To Budd: it was great to meet you, and I wish you peace and joy in your journey.