If I have only 1 piece of advice to give in my whole life, it is this

If I have only one piece of advice to give in my whole life, it is this:

Hang out with violet.  She’ll delight you, and she may just save your life.

Check out why here:



I’ll be writing more about violet coming up, including an elixir recipe, and a sparkling-with-life soup recipe.

Thanks to five genius friends and anonymous coder, this blog will soon redirect you to my new, beautiful website: Art + Nature = Magic

Right now I’m in my writer’s cave working on a series of posts on natural aphrodisiacs, a new full-length play, and a series of posts on herbs by the seasons (and other projects).  I keep slipping outside to be with the plants… especially beloved violet!

After Ecstasy, the Laundry

IMG_2558Question of the day: How do you recalibrate after drastic change and upheaval?

I’m back in NYC after approximately six weeks of traveling in over thirteen different cities on three continents with my partner and his family.  There was an anniversary celebration, an engagement announcement, a mysterious illness, the heartbreaking passing of a loved one, a flood, and ending with a holiday.

I’m full of love and grief, gratitude and fear.

My eyes have been saturated by the beauty of space and nature in so many different forms, from the lush green of the papyrus swamps along the Nile contrasted by fiery yellow sand dunes close to Sudan, to purple flowering rosemary on orange cliffs above a glittering Mediterranean sea in Catalonia.

these are a few of my favorite things
a few of my favorite things: Aresh, wild rosemary, Mediterranean Sea

I’ve been enchanted by the charm of 1,000 bobbing white sailboats in the Old Port of Marseilles and by late-blooming fuchsia roses and scarlet leaves bathed in soft autumn fog in the Loire Valley.  I’ve been comforted by dappled sunlight on  sycamore trees over the brook I played in as a child in Virginia…

wet rose at Chateau Moulin a Vent, Burgundy, France
wet rose at Chateau Moulin a Vent, Burgundy, France

I’m touched by the warmth of my beloved’s family, and humbled by the challenges and triggers brought up by time spent with my own.

Coming back to NYC, I recognize that I’m at home in my body and psyche.   I’m at home in New York.

And now, as I struggle with the enormous blessing of regaining a solid routine that I get to re-invent on my own, I’m reminded of the title of one of my favorite books:  After Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield.  I think that the title says it all.

I’ve woken up on dark mornings in our NYC tenement apartment to lists miles long, little knowing how to begin.  I found out about the passing of a loved one via  email in the airport in Cairo, and this has me feeling helpless and raw as well as blessed to have known him, and gifted with the reminder that we do not know the time we lose… I must live in the present.

Thanksgiving was challenging for me, as I know it was for plenty of people.  My partner said, “I think this house is haunted.  And you’re possessed by it.”  That’s what it feels like when I’m there, the place where I grew up, and the only place in all of my travels that I didn’t feel at home.

This isn’t the fault of any of my family, present tense.  It comes from the resonances of the past, the relationship that I have with those walls and the memories in them.  I’ve felt afraid of the power they have over me.  Ultimately, it’s humbling.   I have so far to go to be free, to be always present.

photo (11)
today in our community garden

In the meantime I have a community garden to attend to (thank God), the first chapter of a new novel that wants my attention, a half-finished play, a thousand story and essay ideas, and the burning desire to write poetry.  The other, non-writing list of priorities and chores is as long as the Nile.

My shadow patterns have been surfacing.  I wasted half a day window-shopping.  All of my inner critics and monsters have been sauntering about loudly.  I’ve lost hours to inner darkness, not writing, just starring and thinking bad thoughts.

But I’m altered.  I have skills to regain my equilibrium. I know how to listen to the true desires of my soul.  And I’ve tried things in the past to get me out of funks, and these things have worked, so I know that they work, and so I do them, despite being unmotivated.

I’m letting my dreams help sort things for me.  My night dreams will often tell me exactly the best next move to make if I pay attention to them, and I’ve been listening.

I’ve been going for long brisk walks, and, if there is any sun to speak of I’ve been soaking it in.

I’ve been getting re-inspired by all of the incredible creative energy of NYC.  I show up when I don’t feel like it, and I’m generally glad that I did.

Breathing, chanting, and praying helps me, even when the prayers are simple, Anne Lamont style—that is:  “please, please, please, and thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I do my Dancemeditation practice, rocking on the floor, gently stretching to favorite music, moving and paying attention to my breath.

And mostly, I’m making sure to write something every day.   I can feel the subtle shifting of my being, way below the surface, and I have to be patient to whatever wants to emerge, in its own time.

In this, the darkest time of year, when I’m engulfed by recent experiences and surrounded by first drafts, I need to be patient with my writing and psyche.  I ask for patience and gentleness.  I remember the line from Rilke, “I love the dark moods of my being…”

Why?  How?  What is the gift?

I’m humbled.   I turn inwards.  I slow down.

I need to be humbled, to be inwards, to slow down.  And so I am grateful for these challenging moods.  Maybe sometime soon I’ll get there another way.

Under the Sont tree in Egypt where I tore off a piece of my favorite scarf as a prayer and offering.
Under the Sont tree in Egypt where I tore off a piece of my favorite scarf as a prayer and offering on All Soul’s Day.


What do you like to do to regain equilibrium after major shifts?

Learning a New Super Power…

It was an extended artist’s date, an initiation, a training, the official embarkation of a part of my life’s calling, and a wonderful time.

Last week I was in a magical place, learning magic from magic folks.  I was deep in the study of Active Dreaming, embarking on a  three-year Active  Dream Teacher Training with Robert Moss at Mosswood Hollow, Duval, Washington in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

Mosswood Hollow, a place that told its intuitive owner its very Wind-in-the-Willows name,  is a place where bears, cougars, mountain lions, bobcats, lynxes, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and wolves roam the land.  Moss climbs up and over trees and white-bellied squirrels peek out from behind large ferns.  I was thrilled to be camping on that wild, wet, green earth.

The week started and ended with synchronicity.  There was a ghost hunt, the meeting of old friends who had never met, like in Dr. Who, the sharing of deep stories and tantalizing dreams.

Every day the iridescent blue Western Steller jays flew in front of the dining room from garden feeder to cedar tree, showing off in their joyful, proud way.

One of the dear friends I hadn’t remembered meeting before, Nancy, talked about a dream she had before she arrived where we were all naked, chatting away, and that’s how it was.  Although we appeared to be clothed (very fashionably), we were naked as jay birds, sharing our soul’s dreams.

Our teacher, Robert Moss, has a vision of the world becoming this way… sharing dreams around the breakfast table, encouraging each other to discover ALL that is within us.

Among other things, dreams are windows into our soul’s longings, and portals to true sources of our personal power.  I’m thrilled to have learned a method of deepening my own dreaming and teaching it to others.

It feels, quite frankly, as though I’ve uncovered another super power, (listening to/ hearing plants & animals being super power #1 & 2) and like the others, it’s a super power that people can uncover for themselves, an ability that we all share… and I’ve learned how to show folks how to do it.

Hurray. Hurrah.

Very soon I’ll be offering some sort of workshop involving teaching active dreaming… I’ll have to dream on it a bit more first…

In the meantime, this has been great for my writing.  I’m brimming with stories…

Blood, Guts, & a Bottle of Bordeaux

Last night, over a warming meal and a shared bottle of Bordeaux plus two extra glasses…  ahem… I told one of my dearest friends my renewed and slightly terrifying plan.

For one year I am going to budget hard (so not a whole lotta Bordeaux) and write full time.  I’m not going to focus on building a little herbal empire.  I’m not going to finely craft a business plan for anything except becoming a paid writer, which means that I will also need to submit my writing places on a regular basis.

I’ve been writing every day for many years now, but I often write from my nice, relatively safe, mile-a-minute mind.

My mind isn’t the best writer.  My heart’s much better, but she’s fickle.  She likes poems, and plays, and sometimes stories, personal essays, and longer works of fiction.

“7 Ways to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Bomb… in bullet points!” is not writing from my heart.  Thus far, anyway.

Because I can right now, and because I don’t know when the opportunity will come again, my primary job for the next 365 days will be to write from my heart, spirit, and soul.

Things could change. Things always do.  I might have a child.  I might have to take care of someone in my family.  I might not have the financial ability to live thriftily and spend the vast percentage of my time making art.

Maybe it isn’t wise to take this risk, I tell myself.  Maybe I should continue to build my herbal business and spend my extra energy writing instead of the other way around… but I can’t stop myself anymore from taking this risk.  I can’t and I won’t.  I’ve learned the hard way that once my spirit and soul truly decide something my ego has to go along for the ride.  Just ask my ex or the restaurant managers of my last ‘real’ job.

My wise friend had two suggestions for me:  1.  Stick to the budget.  (I could get lucky, but it isn’t smart to assume that I will be… although I am going to plan to be lucky)

2.  Find a supportive community.  For me this means, among other things, finally going to poetry open mikes again after a hiatus of…. 17 years.

I’ve also added a third piece of my own advice.

3. Move and breathe everyday, preferably in a community of others interested in embodiment.

After returning from an incredible retreat with my teacher Dunya and our Dancemeditation community, I’m excited to start this new adventure by participating in the ’90 Day Self-Directed Intergalactic Dance Party’ hosted and conceived by delectable dancer, Dancemeditator and writer Alia Thabit.  I’ll be improv dancing for at least 20 minutes every day, focusing on my breath and the beat, and I’ve added my own additional prompt of writing whatever wants to come out in poetic form for at least 20 min. a day. (Notice I didn’t say poem-a-day… but writing in poetic form for a minimum of 20 minutes a day… and maybe, as time goes on, I’ll give myself a maximum number of minutes also).

I think that this, along with regular doses of magic, synchronicity, travel, nature connection, art inspirations and mentoring/ learning from kids in my community garden should keep ‘the channel open’ as Martha Graham might say.


This thing I’ve told myself I’ve wanted for so long is now possible, and that possibility is a little terrifying.

I’m deeply grateful to my precious handful of supporters, all creative geniuses, who read this blog… I know that I’m going to need this space in the year to come to feel connected to the outside world as I keep climbing and falling down that rabbit hole, into the sea of tears and out beyond with nary a glass of wine  and just a little cup of oatstraw tea…

Diving in. Photo by Nathalie Molina


Finding Gratitude

I feel grateful to be alive.    This gratitude lives in an underground stream that runs through the center of my blood.  It must always be there, but I haven’t always been able to feel it.

This feeling of gratitude is gentle.  There’s no sweeping symphony accompanying it.  My inner music is just birdsong and wind, and here on New York’s Lower East Side that’s punctuated by the sounds of rattling bike chains, car horns, brakes, engines, and the incessant river of the human voice.

I’ve recently returned from 13 days of Sufi Dancemeditation with my teacher Dunya and our community outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico on a ranch full of jack rabbits and singing coyotes, silent snakes and air infused with the scent of juniper after rain.

After that I had 2 ½ days with Lilly Allen’s Be Present community in here in Manhattan.

During these 15 ½ days I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of my body, spirit, and soul, and to feel nurtured in the company of many wise women in both communities who’ve been doing inner spirit work for over thirty years.

With Dancemeditation I was given the enormous gift of time immersed in spirit and the body.  With Be Present I was given the gift of the container to listen with immense presence to other people’s most tender realities, as well as the time to share my own from a very open state.

I feel full.

I want to write.

I lie in a claw-foot bathtub and stare for hours at the changing light. My thoughts are fast.  Dreams and visions.  Forgiveness.  Heartaches.  Ancestral memories.  There are psychic openings followed by blessed blank white space.  My heart contracts and expands.

Space has been created inside me.

I can see and feel so far below the surface, and that’s where my gratitude lives.

photo by Ann Paquin

A Secret to Healing the Flames of Anger

My anger really does rise.  Not like bread.  More like a kitchen grease fire—quickly and with high drama.

In the kitchen-of-my-anger there is a chef whose hat’s on fire. He’s running in circles, cursing in French until the curly ends of his mustache catch on fire and he plunges his head into a pickle vat.

Only sometimes the anger is harder to control than that.  Sometimes it feels like there isn’t a pickle vat in the world large enough to quench the flames.

When that happens it’s usually because I’m angry about something that the wiser part of me knows has old, deep roots attached to it.  I can unwind/let go/ release the present situation that triggers my past pain, but the older anger, the anger I’ve been storing for years, is much harder to release.

How do I work with my anger?

Buddhist teacher Thich Nat Hanh says to breathe with the emotion.  Breathe in and out for a few minutes, focusing on the breath, and then focus on the emotion, “I breathe in, and I am angry”  “I breathe out and I am angry.”  Hold the anger and comfort it by witnessing.

Of course, to remember to do this takes practice.  It’s also tricky for me to truly honor that anger—not to try to ‘breathe it away’, or in the case of my Dancemeditation practice, to dance it away.

How do I honor my anger while transforming it?  How do I learn what it has to teach me?

I need all the help I can get on this one, and so I turn to the plants.

Burdock (Arctium Lappa)

Burdock is my most favorite plant for getting in tune with nature fast.  As soon as I get off the subway at the Prospect Park stop, I look for a patch of burdock, searching for a big bushy clump of deep green leaves.  They are abundant, and it doesn’t take me long to find them.  I reach for a cluster of thick stalks where they meet the ground, and put my fingers into the center.  I instantly feel slowed down, more at a natural pace, grounded.

By late spring burdock’s leaves are several feet long, leathery, and covered with a bit of fur.  They are somewhat triangular, coming to  rounded points with wavy margins.  A small child could hide under the leaves.  One leaf would make a good mask.  You could also wrap a leaf around a part of your body that felt sore and inflamed and get relief.

Burdock is big.  Expansive.  It knows how to claim its space.

When I sit and breathe with the plant, quieting my mind, letting my hands feel burdock’s cooling, slightly furry leaves, this is what it whispers to me:

“Put your bare hands into the earth.  The ground is hard here, and rocky.  I like hard, rocky places. I can help you to face hard places in yourself.   I like working with stones– jagged stones that cut into me, and smooth stones I can hardly feel.  The stones hold the earth’s memories.  I can help you to work with your memories, both jagged and smooth.

“Dig my deep roots and feel the soil on your skin.  Feel the earth’s gravity holding you close.  My roots keep going down, further into the hard earth, wrapping around the stones. It takes time to work my roots out of the ground.   It takes time to release the stones with proper gratitude.  They have held me.  They have made me strong.  There is wisdom and medicine in the slow process of release….”   


Some practicalities:

I buy burdock’s fresh roots at the local farmer’s market or organic grocery store, though when I have the chance to dig them out of the earth myself it becomes a wonderful grounding ritual.

The roots are most medicinal in early spring and late fall before and after they have put their energy into making leaves and flowers, but I eat them fresh all summer long, as there are always some that a farmer wants to get out of a field. Burdock is very abundant.

Burdock is also wonderful cooked into immune-rich broths, or grated and sautéed with carrots, garlic, and ginger.

Here’s a link to a good recipe for quick refrigerator pickled burdock, a nice alternative to eating it raw.

Maybe it was pickled burdock that the chef in the kitchen-of-my-anger was searching for all along.

(Burdock has so much more to share than what is possible in a blog post…  think of this as the briefest of introductions to multi-faceted plant that could become a very good healing friend.) 


How Do You Work With Your Anger? An Open Question

"Exit, pursued by a bear." --stage directions for Act 3, scene 3 of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

As friend and wisewoman Nissa Chirstie says, sometimes things can’t be put into a nice neat package with a bow.  

The  protagonist of the following story is loosely based on the character of Perdita from one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic and visionary plays, A Winter’s Tale.  

(Spoiler Alert) Perdita’s father, the King, orders her to be abandoned on a mountainside in a distant land when she is still an infant because he believes that his queen was unfaithful.  Infant Perdita is rescued by farmers and grows up to become an herbalist in her adopted country, developing a deep relationship to the wildflowers, to whom she feels a kinship.

 Perdita a la Casa Bruja  (Perdita at the Witch House)

The house sits inside a clutch of stones on a low hill in a clearing of Dream.

The scent of beeswax and linden blossoms mixed with blood pulls in wanderers who have been looking for secrets without knowing they were looking.

A grandmother lives inside.

She isn’t anyone’s grandmother in particular.

Her skin is the color of a still pond at noon in midsummer.

Her hair is the color of winter.

Her eyes steam and hiss orange in firelight.

In sunlight they are the color of changing leaves.

In this house there are spiders in all the corners.

There are five rules:

  1. What is left unsaid is listened to as closely as what is said.
  2.  Liars, storytellers, dream speakers and poets are given pillows and can spend the night.
  3. Idle chatterers are not offered food until they spend enough time in silence.
  4. Questions may be asked as long as answers are never demanded.
  5. Song and dancing precede and follow all other actions.

“Grandmother, tell me about anger,” asks a young girl, Perdita, who doesn’t belong to anyone in particular.

She is breathless from dancing and her voice flutters.

“Tell me something that doesn’t fit into an envelope.  I need to know something beaked and feathered and fork-tongued, something rough and misshapen and pulsing. I need to know something with claws.”

The grandmother’s face is tattooed with vines.  They snake around her eyes as she smiles.

“Sometimes anger is the birthday cake of a child born without a mouth,” she says.

“It is the fragrant sweat of a pig stuffed with cinnamon before the slaughter.

“It is beet juice and brandy pissed out by a jaundiced old man.

“It is war, darling, ripping through the body in waves.”

Perdita shifts her weight.  She stares past the grandmother.  She is looking for something with claws.

“Anger is also the life blood of the mother who loses her child by gunfire, her boy taken by ugliness set in the mind like bricks.

“This mother’s anger pries open her mouth to scream, breathing full bellows of air, to be a body pushing for justice, for the survival of some other boy and some other mother.

“Anger is the energy of a child held underwater in a bathtub by a parent twisted and riddled with ants like an old tree grown carelessly in concrete.

“The child’s legs kick, jump up and out of the tub, run!  And she hollers truth until someone hears, even if it takes a lifetime.”

Perdita can see the flick of a forked tongue, hear wings beating.

“We need this anger like sunlight.  It’s absence is a curse.”

The grandmother of no one in particular falls onto her knees.

She beats her chest.  Bows her head.

Her hair fans into the air around her and blows into shapes that break like ice as her gnarled fingers thrust into snarls and pull hard.

“Oh!  How many of these curses there are in our world!  How many!  How many!”

Perdita is feathered and clawed, sucking in long breaths.  She lets out a scream of sunlight.

Her grandmother holds out her hand and they dance.


Next Post…

A Herbal Ally for Working With Anger



The Alchemical Power of Bitterness

Loss catches me rushing.  It puts metal clamps on my legs and forces me to sit with my sadness.  As I write this I’m sipping rooibos tea and watching the long fingers of the sun stretch across a busy intersection just before sunset in an outdoor cafe.  My heart is heavy thinking about the recent passing of a beautiful woman I knew through our shared spiritual work, our Dancemeditation and Sufi practice.

When we were on a retreat together two summers ago, she asked me to show her a pool of shimmering water that some of us had found underneath a high waterfall in the middle of a forest near where we were staying in upstate New York.  We slowly hiked into the forest together on our afternoon break between day and evening meditation.  We were barefoot, not speaking much, noticing the plumes of mist rising between the trees in shafts of sunlight after a night of rain.

The waterfall was writhing with life after the storm, frothing down the cliff-face and churning into a wide pool in front of us.

We stripped off our clothes and dove in, emerging to float on our backs, comfortably silent, just being with the water flowing over us and buoying us as the sound of the falls laughed and sang in our ears.

As we dried off in the sun, my friend talked about wanting to bring her children there, how her radiation was going, how much she enjoyed being in her body.

The passing of her vibrant, loving spirit gives me my sense of gratitude  back, places it gently in my heart, a gift.

I remember to appreciate all of life.  The gorgeous spring sky is easy.  But the appreciation needs to extend beyond that, to the transformative potential of my sadness, my anger, my fear, the times when I feel frantic and anxious.

Bitter is one of the tastes that the Western palate doesn’t often utilize in our food.  In the West we prefer sweet.  We adore sweet.   And yet we need bitter.  Bitters help to nourish our livers.  They help our systems of elimination.  They help us to live.  Bitter roots such as dandelion help to ground us.  The bitterness in chocolate gives it character.

Without the gifts of sadness, of anger, of fear, I can’t empathize.  I can’t fully differentiate the thrill of joy when it comes.  I can’t revel in the experience of overcoming obstacles.

Bitter is a taste that can be acquired, like anything else.  I cultivate my appreciation of the bitter aspects of life through writing, through reaching out to others in need, through the healing miracles of great art.

Today I’m remembering to enjoy the bitter as well as the sweet.  I’m remembering how to see beauty in what feels like struggle, to savor it as though I were always plunged into the pool of a waterfall, shimmering and pulsing with precious life in all of it’s complexity.


What I do to honor bitterness in my life:

A little ritual/ an excellent spring herbal tonic:

Boil a pot of water.

Toss in a large handful of some bitter roots.

Dandelion, burdock, and yellowdock would be perfect.

Celery seed and sage would be good choices too.

Inhale the bitter flavors.

Think about your most challenging emotions or situations.

Imagine the bitter herbs grounding you, giving you strength and clarity.

Allow yourself to be present to any fear, anger, or frustration that you feel.

Cover the pot.  Let the herbs and your thoughts simmer.  Write them down if you like.

After ten minutes or so strain the tea and drink it, imagining the herbs helping you to feel grounded, calm, clear, grateful, and present to whatever comes.

I often do little rituals like this one.  Would you like me to share them here on the blog from time to time?

How Your Friendships Could Be Saving the World

The women in my family take friendship seriously. 

On a quiet afternoon sometime in the early 1950’s, my grandmother famously took a long bath in her house in England and came out of it deciding that she must take her dear friend Valerie to tea as soon as possible.  At a time when she didn’t have much money, she got out of the tub and picked up the phone to arrange to fly to New Zealand to meet Valerie the following week.  My grandmother had impeccable intuition.  She knew something was going on.  Valerie needed her.

My mother and her brothers never learned exactly what Valerie had needed.  Maybe she’d had a miscarriage?  A broken heart?  A broken bone?  Maybe my grandmother had needed her?  My grandmother took her secrets to her grave, only saying when she arrived back in England almost a month later that Valerie had been relieved to see her.

My mother taught me to nourish my childhood friendships, the way that her mother taught her.  Always gardeners, the women in my family cultivate their friendships with careful feeding, watering, and pruning, but without too much fuss.  A little black spot on the leaves or a few aphids on the stalks are greatly preferable to spraying nasty chemicals everywhere.  Basically, be there for each other and take it easy.  Take friends the way they are, and maybe they’ll do the same for you.

Thanks to this great family gift passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me, I have friends that I’ve been lucky to keep from preschool, elementary and high school, as well as deep, important friendships made later in life.

In the community garden where I have the privilege to work with some incredible kids and youth, I watch friendships between young girls grow and mature over the years.  I see how girls thrive on each other’s support.

Then, ages 11-12


Now, 3 dear friends, ages 16-17

I’ve noticed how, as there is no “best friends” button on facebook, many teenage girls are now “married” to each other.  In it’s tongue-in-cheek way this speaks to the importance of close friendships in girls lives.

I’m interested in what these deep bonds that often form between girls and women mean.  They are powerful.  There seems to be a current of support for these friendships that is only just starting to materialize for men as well in the culture at large.

When these friendships are nurtured over the years, building trust through shared histories and experiences, working through blocks, learning to differentiate in adulthood, creating healthy boundaries, sharing skills, knowledge, wisdom, and resources as well as fears, women are much more likely to reach their potential.

Friendships this flexible and exuberant are invaluable, often under-appreciated in the larger culture, and they are potentially revolutionary and world-changing.

Bestselling author, psychologist, and women’s and environmental rights activist Jean Shinoda Bolen writes in her book Like a Tree: How Trees, Women and Tree People Can Save the Planet about the power of helping just three friends, who in turn help three friends, until the circle wideness to one million in only 36 cycles.

When women support each other’s true spirits instead of a culture that tells us to shop, to worry about our weight, to underestimate our worth, to fear differences in ourselves and others, we are strengthened.  We are able create cultures of respect, nurturance, common sense, humor, and love of the imperfect.  We are able to support men in their deep friendships with each other and with women, friendships that have not historically developed the same cultures of nurturance.  We are also more able to open our hearts and lives to the wisdom of trans-gendered people and all forms of difference because we feel more comfortable in our own skin.

I am deeply grateful for my beloved friends, near and far. I know that step by step our friendships are making the world a more compassionate and saner place. Let’s celebrate these friendships and learn how to encourage them in each other.

Join the conversation!

Has friendship played an important part of your life? How do you cultivate and celebrate friendship?  Was it encouraged in your family growing up?  If so, how?  If not, what have you learned about how to encourage or support friendship since then?