2015: Pick Your Song!

It’s 01/01/2015.
The big question looms: How will you live it?

There are some lovely ways to think about this question.

Some folks pick a color for the year.

Some folks suggest you pick a word.

One gal suggested you write yourself a letter from your December 2015 self.
(I might do this one.)

I like these ideas.


In all honesty, I was not ‘sold’ on all this ‘pick one!’ stuff originally.
Sometimes this shit feels cheezy.

But I like the idea of having something to hold on to through the year – a guide or touchstone.
When we feel pushed or pulled outside ourselves, these kinds of things can bring us back to some truth or goal we knew in early, dark days of the year.

I also like the idea of how a guiding word, color, or goal can keep us mindful through the year.
If we take the time to relate to our goal, color, word, etc. it can help us see the world in different ways. Such a practice keeps us connected to this moment or this day in a way that is different from our usual habit.

Mindfulness is good.


sparkles from water on a tree, frozen during winter time


In this ‘in-between’ space between Christmas and the New Year there is a lot of openness and flexibility. I often feel most connected to myself in these kinds of spaces.
More relaxed (at least, after the holiday hubbub has subsided).
Fewer expectations.

In this kind of space my heart is more open.
Open to what might be.

I am open to what is really true.
About me.
About my life.
About what I want.
Or what my heart wants.

And when I find that truth – what my heart wants – I need a way to hold on to it.
The truths of the heart are so easily lost.    (I know you know this.)

So, a color, a word, a letter…they help us hold that truth and keep it in our pocket – like a small stone – all year long.
Its weight touches our leg.
We can touch it gently with our palm.
Over the year it becomes a part of our life.


I invite you to pick a word, a color, write a letter, whatever floats your boat.
My offering is this: pick a song for your year.

Not the song you think your year will be like. (no no no!)

The song you want your year to be like.
The song that will guide you.
The song that opens your heart.
The song that renews your world.

Pick one.
And tell me what it is! (Right there, in the comments!)

To all my lovelies who get this via RSS, please come over and share if you’ve picked a song. I would love to hear your voices and wishes here!

Oh, I almost forgot: my song is “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon.
(There is a great line in it “…this woman is my destiny…” – I am my own destiny this year.)

All my love and blessings for a sacred, sensual, joyful 2015-



My Christmas Present: An Undivided Life

I am giving myself a huge, scary Christmas gift today.

I already gave other people I care about their gifts.
I know that is what this holiday is about. <wink>

But I have been back in my beloved Seattle for a week now and I am so very clear on one thing:
I cannot pretend to be something I am not anymore.


a picture of the Seattle skyline, heading southbound in Interstate-5

This is where I come from.

Cloudy picture of the Seattle skyline from the SODO area of town


This website is the one place I feel free to say what I think, what I believe, what I have learned.

And because I have a place to be myself, really myself, I find I have less and less room in my mind, spirit, and body for not being myself everywhere else in my life.

– – – – – – – – – – –

I am just about to turn 40 and I finally feel like I am living up to my potential.
I am ready to be all of who I am in my life.
I am ready to make my life my own.

I cannot live a divided life any longer.
I cannot be bright, bold, and spiritual in one place and not the other.
I cannot compartmentalize my sensual self from the rest of my life.
I cannot diminish the love I have for Seattle and pretend to be increasingly Boston.
I cannot stretch myself to bend around others anymore.
I cannot divide my intuition from my professional self.
I cannot hold back the colors and textures that I am.

I have, in one big way, been living a lie here on this site;
I write under a pen name.

For me to live an truly undivided life, I must use my own name.
It would seem that, perhaps like the Velveteen Rabbit, it is time for me to become real.

And the place I start with that is here, where I am already most myself.

So, I want to say today, as a gift to myself, and in recognition that I am all of who I am, this:

My name is not Joanna Stafford-Montgomery.
My name is Joanna Meriwether.

I want to claim this space as something that I, Joanna Meriwether, created and create.
Joanna Meriwether is the one who has learned these lessons and theorized the things here.
And I want to claim all of this for myself.

Because it is the best of who I am.


black and white photo of Joanna Meriwether

This is me as sensualist.



This is me, utterly satisfied, after some ecstatic dancing.


Full color photo of Joanna Meriwether from the torso upwards

And this is me, on vacation, feeling most myself.


Living a life divided is hard work.
Separating yourself into pieces, and keeping them all alive and functioning takes extra effort.
Even the story of “Who I am in one place is not who I really am” is hurtful to your soul.

Because living a divided life hurts your mind and soul (and will eventually trickle down to
hurting your body).

Living a divided life is not how we are meant to live.
And it is a way I can no longer stand to live.

I want an undivided life.
A whole life.
And all the benefits and growth that come with it.

If you want to live a full, whole life, consider working with me to help you.
To help you find your pieces.
To help you put them together.
To help you live a whole life.

It’s the new year- maybe it should be a different year.

Here is to a whole life.
A life that goes all-in.
A life, a place, a name, a person who holds nothing back.

Today, I start.




Washaway :: Letting Go

One of my favorite places in the world is literally being washed into the ocean right now.

two story house partially falling off a cliff into the Pacific ocean at Washaway beach

(Photo courtesy of KOMO news. Video found here.)

It is a red, A-frame cabin in North Cove, Washington. Locals call it ‘Washaway Beach’ because, for a century, the beach has been washing away at this part of the world.

The cabin in this picture is not the cabin that is my favorite place, but it is next to that cabin.
Twenty years ago I had to walk a mile to get to the beach from the cabin.
But now…my cabin will be the next to fall.


My cabin is a respite in the busy world for me.

When people ask me to think of somewhere relaxing, or to think of a favorite spot, this is where I think of.

I spent many summers living in this cabin with my family, laughing and running on the beach, reading old National Geographic magazines, playing board games, and going without a TV (can you imagine?!?).

I finished many pieces of homework sitting on the wooden stairs,
knees crunched up under me, as if at a very small desk.

This cabin was the first place I thought of myself as a writer.


I have been grieving about this loss a lot.
I keep running through old memories of this place.
With my family,
with my Papa,
with my husband,
walking amongst knee-high, scratchy green grasses.
And simultaneously thinking about how, soon, my favorite place will still exist…at the bottom of the ocean.


I have also been thinking about the Buddhist idea of non-attachment a lot.
That holding on to a particular outcome, a particular way, creates pain.
How we must also let things go as they die and change.
To hold on is painful.
And worse, to hold on is useless pain.

I must learn to let go of the pain and sadness that this destruction brings.
I must learn to accept that this is what is.


There are two kinds of letting go that I have encountered in life.

The first is the kind of letting go where I have no control over the outcome.
I cannot control the sea storms or their giant waves.
I cannot control what will happen to this cabin.
This will happen. I cannot make it any different than it is.
I have no control over this.
And I am so sad.

I am sad that this place will be gone.
I am sad that I will only have my memories and never be able to visit it again.
I am sad that all I have now are Polaroid-like memories that I can flip through in my mind.
And they are fading.
But, there is no stopping this.
If I hold on, try to deny it, try to ‘fix’ it (but how???) I will only feel more pain.
The real answer, the one I do not like, is that I can only, like those sea waves, let go of my grief and desires
one crash at a time.

Let these feelings be pulled away, bit-by-bit, like the tide pulls in the wood and the sand,
dragging them to the ocean bottom, where they can rest.

I can only let my sadness dissipate.
Small steps, tiny bits of letting go, until it is done.
[Although, I suspect the memory will sting for a good, long time.]

Eventually, my grief will wash away, too.

It might take years.
And that’s okay.


The other kind of letting go is much worse, in my opinion.

It is the letting go that you have a choice about.
The kind of letting go that must be fought for and one must be dedicated to.

It is the practice of intentional letting go.

When I was trying to let go of That Guy, I had to do this kind of letting go.

I dedicated myself to letting go because I knew it was best for my soul.

This kind of letting go feels like pruning a tree branch.
[I’ve done it before, I thought. Hell, I’ve done it a lot. I even sawed down the Christmas tree!]

Only, as I pruned one branch, five others sprouted in its place.
And, as I cut each of those branches of desire off- letting them go – another five sprouted up in their place.
Mis-placed desire can re-produce easily and endlessly.

This kind of letting go is hard work.
My arms ached after a while.
And then they burned. And there was still years of work ahead.
I wondered if this was some kind of curse, my inability to cut it all out and leave it behind.

I made many mis-steps in the letting to process.
I got very tired.
I put down my axe and pruning shears once or twice (and learned what a mistake that was).
Sometimes I got lazy. [And had a huge mess to clean up later.]

Making the effort to really let go of something is draining.
I had to be dedicated to it.

With time, I understood how to prune that desire, that attachment, and let things go.
I know, now, what it takes to really let go.

Effort. The effort of mind and body to work in conjunction. Like an old, married couple, the body will pick up where the mind has no energy.

Knowing in my soul that this is the right path. When you are dedicated to the life of the soul, to nurturing it, you will do what must be done for the health and goodness of your soul.

Self-compassion. Being kind to myself as I learned to let go was essential. Berating yourself for mis-steps, going backwards, or anything just creates more pain and dissonance inside you. Internal dissonance and pain does not help the soul heal.

Faith that this would work out, somehow, some day. Faith is another component of the soul, and having faith that good will come of the letting go process can keep you afloat.

These are what kept me afloat, able to let go and move on.

This is what I know of letting go.
The kind over which we have no control – and grieve anyway.
And the kind over which we exert control – and grieve anyway.

I grieve for the loss of this wonderful place on planet Earth.
And as I grieve, I let go.




We find everything waiting there…

You will remember that leaping stream
where sweet aromas rose and trembled,
and sometimes a bird, wearing water
and slowness, its winter feathers.

You will remember those gifts from the earth:
indelible scents, gold clay,
weeds in the thicket and crazy roots,
magical thorns like swords.

You’ll remember the bouquet you picked,
shadows and silent water,
bouquet like a foam-covered stone.

That time was like never, and like always.
So we go there, where nothing is waiting;
we find everything waiting there.

Pablo Neruda
(translated by Stephen Tapscott)


hoarfrost on tree limbs with a dark background



Mirrors. Seeing. (3)




This is my edge.


All the clothes on.
All the doors closed.

I do no see my sensual self here.
Despite what others tell me.

But I

Something wiser in me weeps.

‘See yourself as sensual,’ she whispers. ‘Everywhere.’

Don’t blind yourself
to that feeling
that beauty
that truth.

From her great Fire of Feminine Truth
She grabs ash;
the ash of my no-longer-useful perspective
(it has burned without my knowing it).
The Magical Mom Spit that cures all
She purses her lips and pushes it into her palm.

Applying the salve to my eyes.
It dries.
I push.
I push.
I push against it.
Open those eyes.

This is the edge.
I want to see myself as sensual- at all levels, in all ways.

My eyes, like caterpillars,
are dissolved, and reborn.

Wet-winged butterflies they are.

Today, this picture, I finally saw myself as sensual with clothes on.

I hold the tender wings of that gaze, that feeling – that 3 seconds –
and let it settle into my skin, a soul-salve.

With time
this flying will become natural.


– – – – – – – – – – – –

Sensuality is different for each person.
So is where and how we feel sensual.

For me, it is much easier to feel and be sensual when my clothes are off.
(Naked, as it were. Ahem.)

It is much more difficult for me to believe I am sensual when I am doing my everyday stuff.
But I am learning.

This is my edge of sensuality.
And I want to push past it.

Because I know now, just in these few days with this picture,
with these fragile moments of feeling both sensual and ‘daily,’
that I can be.

That I am sensual.
No matter what.