Monday, June 23, 2014

Beauty of Interest

I was walking through Central Park the other day, on my way to the public restrooms near the Delacort Theatre. An older, well dressed lady stopped me to politely ask if I knew where the Great Lawn was. I am familiar with the location of the Great Lawn inside the Park, but as I explained to her, I am not sure exactly how to "get there from here," so to speak. I basically advised walk East and South a little ways. She was concerned about the curving trails and winding pathways inside the Park, fearing she might get lost if she merely ambles East and South.

"Well," I quipped, "at least you'll be surrounded by beauty as you wander along."

"Oh," she sighs with a dismissive gesture of her pale hand. "I am not interested in beauty."

And just like that, I was rendered speechless. Simply smiled, shrugged my shoulders and made my way on up the hill towards my destination.

But ever since ... I have been thinking - how could anyone NOT be interested in Beauty?  ???????????????????????

Isn't there something inherent in human nature that is interested in Beauty?  Isn't that why it often stops us in our tracks? Isn't that where inspiration dwells and where great art comes from?

Is it even remotely possible to NOT be interested in Beauty?

Perhaps this lady had seen enough beauty (with a small b) in her day and her quota was full?  Or perhaps she had no capacity to take in any more? Is this what we all have to look forward to in the twilight of our life? Being too busy or too lost or too distracted to be interested in Beauty??  I am personally planning to travel the globe in search of Beauty before my days in the sun are through.

I got to thinking about the little things. All the little bits and dabs of Beauty here and there. How they sneak up on us and demand our attention.  The curve of a laughter-filled face. The first little blossom in the window box after a long rough winter. The particular shade of blue in a clear summer sky at dusk. The possibilities are endless. If we are not interested in Beauty, how much of our experience do we reject? Or hide from? Or repress?

Sometimes the little things strike me, stick to me like glue. Until words eventually come tumbling out to explain.  Join me as I indulge  a secret Beauty that found my fingers one fine day. That little curve beneath the pelvic bone, so large and tender and fragile. One day I found it mesmerizing. Sacred.

She Sleeps

She sleeps
in fetal pose.
I trace the curve
of her hip with my finger,
that pocket of Divinity
where complete surrender
I could take her hip bone with me as I go.
There is no need.
For I know
that she would give it me
if asked.

Duvall O'Steen
© 2014 Duvall O'Steen LLC

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


There is a danger
that lurks
in every label

a searing pain
into the first impressions
the value judgments
the assessments made
at every preconceived twist of phrase

the narrowing of minds
the blind spots
that hinder the kind of knowing
that releases us from shame.

There is a lie
of omission
in every title
a speck of blinding dust
that conceals the vision
of the multitudes
and darkens our inner light.

There is a blast
to the very base
the foundation
that makes up my fragile soul
each time you mark me
with that irritating name,
stinging my skin
with corporal confinement
and deadly chains.

There is a voice
that quiets
surrenders in vain
silent screams
made miniature
by the pigeon you have holed me in,
a depth of melodic range
never to be sung again.

How can I ever let you
know me
when you already
my fame?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

That Fear of Generosity

So, I'm standing in line at Starbucks (yep, guilty pleasure time) and the young lady in front of me is paying for her beverage. Searching her wallets, her pockets, the compartments of her handbag, etc., literally looking in any possible place where coins might hide.  She was searching for quite some time, effectively holding up the line and causing me to feel a bit uncomfortable for her.  So I offered to help. "Can I help? What do you need?" My wallet open and ready to pitch in the necessary coinage.  She looked a bit startled, glanced at me with furrowed brow and uttered a forceful "no", then promptly went back to searching.  The perky young gal behind me chimes in "I'm sure she meant to say 'no thank you'."  I just smiled at both of them and stiffened up, feeling like a creature from another planet.

The undercurrent of hostility in this young lady's reply to my offer baffles me.  What is so wrong with a generous and friendly gesture?  It was clear from my tone that I was not rushing her, nor impatient with her. I was simply trying to "pay it forward", as they say, and offer a small token of generosity to a complete stranger.  I went from feeling magnanimous and kind to feeling naive and a bit gauche in a  matter of milli seconds.  I shrugged it off and ordered my daily dose of green tea addiction and walked to the waiting area at the end of the bar.  Here she is again.  She avoids eye contact and moves out of my aura to wait over near the napkin bar.  Again, I am baffled and feeling like I've done something wrong.  Weird.

What is it that is so scary about generosity?  I found myself thinking of this on the way home.  I myself have been guilty of such an ungrateful and proud response.  I will never forget it.  I had a very kind-hearted friend once go shopping with me to buy a gown for a black tie event.  She graciously offered to pay for these two dresses because I could not decide between the two and my budget was meager, to say the least. I adamantly refused, as pride kicked in and my do-it-your-self-sufficiency bristled up my spine.  I did not need a hand out and would not even consider letting her pay for my dresses.  A mutual friend who was with us at the time said to me, "Duvall, why can't you just accept a gift with joy in your heart?"  And I was floored!  I stood in complete silence as I realized that my adamant refusal was potentially hurtful to my very generous friend who only wished for me to have lots of great reasons to get dressed up in my near future.  Wow.  I gave in then and there - "you're right - you're absolutely right," and we proceeded to check out.  I walked out with two dresses and two very dear friends that day. 

I learned that giving is, in fact, a gift to the giver.  It feels good to be generous.  Not allowing someone to be generous to us can be hurtful and offensive.  Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and its lashing hurts, sometimes piercing the skin of those who only want to do something kind for us.

I like to be generous and I recognize the lift it gives my spirit whenever I commit an act of generosity.  Sure, I understand the impulse to shy away from it or say "no thank you - I couldn't possibly accept".   But now, I try instead to say thank you, and really mean it!  To accept a gift with joy in my heart.  It is amazing how good we BOTH can feel when we simply open ourselves to the act of giving AND receiving.  Two mood lifts for the price of one, so to speak.  ;-)

Along a somewhat similar line of thinking, I once wrote a poem about learning to love without need.  Adoring, offering, receiving, enjoying without the weight of obligation or neediness.  Somehow it rings a bell and feels relevant here...

Without Need

Like the Sun
with rays of outstretched arms,
I can love you
            and not want.

Shine my fingertips across your skin
reflecting all your whiteness
allowing shadow underneath, accepting;
the powerful tenderness of Touch
soft, deep shade of bluest Trust.

Like a Circle
with its never-ending band, complete;
I can lack
no thing from you
wrap myself around
just to glory in your you-ness
breathe in the blossoms of your Spring smiles
mourn the winter in your eyes
catch the falling leaves of truth you speak
melt in my desire for your summer heat
revolving all around me.

Centered, I can see all sides of you
captured by your gravity;
swells my soul
to recognize your melody 

You are

and   All That Is

in Me


in the vastness of your presence
and sings my life for me!

©2013 DOS
The excerpts of all of the poems presented in this blog are copyright protected, as each and every poem has been copyrighted.   For a complete copy of any poem, feel free to email your request to:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Becoming the Background

Sometimes the universe speaks to us, whether we listen or not.  I recently heard a song lyric that continues to stay with me.  Or more accurately, I mis-heard a lyric that still stays with me, a threat, a warning sign, an invitation...  The line was something along the lines of "I am becoming the background."  Oddly enough, I cannot name the song, the artist, the date, time or place that I heard it, but boy, do I remember that line.  Strange how it keeps repeating in my head.  Things that make you stop and go 'hmmmmm...'

Also, interestingly enough, there is a current documentary film making headlines all about back-up singers ("20 Feet from Stardom") which comes highly recommended from a friend.  The thought even came up in a game recently - 'would you rather'?  The game question reads something like this --"Would you rather live a short life and become famous in your chosen field? OR live a long life knowing you were meant for greatness but never quite achieved it?"  Ouch.  Either way - ouch!

I find myself wondering more and more about legacy and what my efforts in the theatre are achieving and whether or not it is somehow self-serving to just keep doing shows.  I do believe in the power of live theatre to heal, to change people's lives, to increase awareness and tolerance, to touch people and expand their compassion.  So, even something as simple and seemingly self-serving as "just doing another show" is meaningful.  Truly.  I just wonder about the bigger picture.

And now it is father's day.  I find myself aching, quite literally, to make my father proud.  He was always very proud of me, no doubt. And he taught me that I could "do anything I set my mind to" and he was right.  Everything I have ever achieved, I earned through hard work, determination, humiliation, passion, enthusiasm and time... And to this day, I am not one to let fear hold me back. So, why is that I now feel 'I am becoming the background'? 

As actors, we are taught to "find your light" -never be in the darkness on stage.  If an audience can't see you, they can't hear you.  So where is the spotlight I am now supposed to find? What is the foreground of my life?  Am I committed to finding it?  Or better yet, to painting it?  Creating it?  Who is the hero I am waiting for to come and nudge me on to center stage?  I am becoming the background.  Can you hear me in the dark?  Am I brave enough to truly make my voice heard?  ???

I once wrote a poem called "Discovering Me".  Perhaps a perfect pastime for summer 2013...

there is a stillness
to my listening
Tiny seeds of my soul
are bursting forth
like jonquils
dancing their yellow youth
to buoy my cheek bones
into lifesaving smiles
much to my surprise.


My womb is swelling
I'm giving birth
to someone I've never known
the petals pushing through
untie the brilliance of red shoe strings
my sash askew
girl toes freed
begin to tap
and chase the butterflies
head thrown back
as Roots of a Voice
vaguely familiar
uniquely my own
gnarl and twist and effort their way,
with the help of spring,
to the bright blueness
of the expansion


©2013 DOS


The excerpts of all of the poems presented in this blog are copyright protected, as each and every poem has been copyrighted.   For a complete copy of any poem, feel free to email your request to:

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Year - New ... what?

January!  It's always so full of promise, so alive with expectation and resolution and mystery.  I often look forward to the beginning of a new year, never really knowing which way things will turn.  This year, I am lucky to ease into 2013.  With only part time employment, winter weather and a shrinking local community of friends, I am blessed to have some time on my hands.  I've soaked it up with culture.  Movies, museums, books.  Even upgraded to the new I-phone 5 so that I could properly balance that feeling of enlightenment which art imbues with the healthy dose of stupidity that new gagdets bring.  ;-)

And therein lies the conundrum... in this new year, I feel both empowered/optimistic and bewildered/lost - all at the same time.  The world feels ripe, alive with opportunity and possibility, and yet I feel like the man on the brink of "two roads diverged in a yellow wood" (Frost)... not knowing which way to go or which prospects to pursue.  The typical artist struggle between commerce and creativity throbs inside my brain. I need to earn more income and yet I long for more fulfilling projects and meaningful ways to spend my time. Perhaps this age old debate is at the heart of my dichotomy of emotion.

Some people long for a crystal ball and even seek one out.  I recently had a friend gift one to me.  A free session with a psychic who uses lots of numerology.  Granted, she said some amazing things, but even her inner future spotlight could not predict a path, a direction, or any usable advice for me.  As usual, the answers lie inside.  Time to turtle duck inside my shell and simply "be" with all the energy and all the possibilities.  Time will tell.  And Guidance will instruct my feet.  For now, I give in to the humility and the vulnerability of confusion.  In fact, I welcome it.  I open myself to every path and every option and I embrace the cornucopia of opportunity that 2013 brings...

As we ease into this year, let us all pause and bring awareness to the full potential of the present moment.  It sings with unpredictability and joyful creative power.

This wee little poem is called Temptation.  Perhaps written at a time like this - on the verge, on the brink or in a lull between great things.  Somehow it feels relevant at the start of something new to simply stop.  To quit.  And then, perhaps, begin again...

To quit
a striking chord
the rhythm of cessation
disconnected from the Blood
the pulsing river of change
that is today

To stop
for just one Breath
clear and deep
a breath like Birth
to let me start

©2013 DOS
The excerpts of all of the poems presented in this blog are copyright protected, as each and every poem has been copyrighted.   For a complete copy of any poem, feel free to email your request to:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parents. Can't live with them or...

Let's face it -none of us would even be here if not for our parents.  No matter how good or bad they are or were, we often take them for granted.  The sheer fact of their existence is proof of ours, or at least a conduit for it.

I've had several friend lose a parent lately, and I just lost one of mine last year.  My friends' hurting hearts bring all of my grief top of mind; it resurfaces in surprising ways that humble me.

As human beings we tend to glorify the dead, and maybe rightly so.  What we take for granted in life is somehow magnified in death.  The tremendous power of loss breaks down those defense mechanisms that limit our gratitude or constrict our capacity for love, appreciation, tolerance.  I believe I love my father even more now that he is gone.  The value of his impact on my life becomes ever more apparent as I face the many struggles and joys of this life without him. It is only in the losing of him that I found him as he really is/was - a slightly more objective view perhaps.  Hindsight, as they say...

The fragile continuum between life and death feels like a thin rubber band, variable, taut and oh so easily severed.  We are all eagerly fooled by the illusion of strength and evolution - believing our human bodies can adapt to any circumstances that may arise.  I've developed a profound appreciation for how foolish I am, especially after sitting vigil as my father slowly slipped away in a Hospice ward last summer.  Death, in all its forms, is like a mirror for truth, forcing us to face reality head on, in all its raw and precious glory.  Magnifying the goodness of those who've left us behind is probably our way to count the many blessings they offered us, belatedly.

I warn you this poem is rough, but God, is it truthful.  Proceed with caution...

Hospice Blues:
It ain’t for the faint of heart.

Smells of sanitizer
and inside air
sounds of gurgled breath
the date in erasable blue
leaving no doubt
of how many days are left.
"Billie" the kind one
bringing drugs and quiet chats
as memory goggles
shade my eyes;
I sense the Billie-Shellie-Deb du jour
but see only
the snowmen, stories, silly surprises
that would not make up
the scrapbook of my life
were it not for this gentle man
they tend,
who lay struggling
with the decision
tween this world and the next,
considering slowly and precisely
the perfect moment to give-in,

Time slows
to a steady rhythmic pulse
as jobs and loves
even dinner plans
fade to back
as the dashboard of my days
wipes tears or prayers
on intermittent speeds;
phone-rings, car horns,
even hunger pangs
do not disturb
the trance-like watching
in this stark and joyless room
my Daddy's pit stop
on the arduous race
to a hopefully pain free place.

I cannot bear to look
yet dare not look away
a treasure map of torture
dots his legs, fingers, face
He's molting
day by day
shedding this emaciated shell
removing All
that hinders him from Grace.

... and later ...

Thinning days
drying lips
the graying of knuckles
that weight upon my heart
to be with him
to let him go
an hourly quiz
that jars my soul
swinging like a metronome
tween morbid valleys of gripping fear
and roller coaster heights
of grateful wonder, honor, awe
to share the final moments
in his quiet denouement.
I think
        I'm lucky
I know
   that I am older
         without the wiser
         of Goodbye
the one and only gift
I could not wrap myself to give.

©2012 DOS
The excerpts of all of the poems presented in this blog are copyright protected, as each and every poem has been copyrighted.   For a complete copy of any poem, feel free to email your request to:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I sat beneath trees today.  Leaves all green and plentiful.  It's springtime and everything is aflutter with life and liveliness and growth.  Another cloudy day in May that brought depth to my favorite color and made greener my every wandering sight.  As I looked up into the trees all around me, I began to take note of the webs of branches, reflecting the map of my thoughts reaching this way and that. I love the way trees grow. Firmly rooted in one solid, still and significant place, they reach out and defy all sense of reason or gravity as they try new routes and altering angles to bring breadth and circumference to the shade they provide.

Being a curious soul who has often wandered down varying paths and in multiple directions, often at the very same time, I am delighted by the wayward nature of tree branches.  They give me hope, as they fork and splay and traverse various trajectories, always staying rooted in the glory of the trunk, the core, the life force of their being.

Oddly enough, I found an old poem, a short one, that is more about tree rings than branches but the tree imagery is somehow relevant here.  See if you agree...

I wear a stack of rings
around my finger
Each with its own story
of who I used to be
the many lives I've lived
the ages of this gnarled soul
roots twisted between greens
sprouting through seasons
dying each new death
A grand victory of survival.

©2012 DOS
The excerpts of all of the poems presented in this blog are copyright protected, as each and every poem has been copyrighted.   For a complete copy of any poem, feel free to email your request to: