Author Archives: Eric Halliwell

About Eric Halliwell

I am the creator and sustainer of, a website which features (among a few other things, like interesting and inspiring quotes, and Sufi stories) my poetry and illustrative blog posts, about one 1000 word essay a month. It is Sufi-themed, probably because for seven years I was an officially initiated Sufi mureed, in San Francisco circa 1970’s. My poetry has appeared in these publications: Penwood Review, Ascent Aspirations, Umbrella Journal, (since defunct), Shine Journal, Ashé Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal. I can be reached at

To a Child, New Stuff Is Inherently Interesting


Yellow Rose Heart

New PR–337

An Obscure Divine Signature

Do you ever wax nostalgic about the wind?
Me I remember walking over a bridge of light
When I was eight the muse was slumming

And I was humming the song
The Yellow Rose of Texas
While thinking of a yellow rose

And I remember it was some
Sun-drenched wind
That etched it on my heart

Like a yellow diamond might
Leave an obscure divine signature on
The stained glass in Sainte-Chapelle


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”


Gentle Readers,
I had been meaning to get back to the story of my youth (good practice for my memoirs!). I have been distracted lately with metaphysical issues, but I dimly remembered a promise to get back to my personal tale (which after all, was the one that led me to Sufism, and then finally, this blog stuff.) In fact I just did some research and found I ended last September 23’s (see archives!) post with these words:

“But there was a dénouement to this. Three years after leaving (the orphanage), to supposedly live with my mother again (wait til you hear about that one!) I came back for a visit, and Donald Lee (Mrs. Hunt’s spoiled grandson) had every aspect of being ashamed and apologetic for his earlier treatment of me. ”

Yup and so now comes the tale of my orphanage exodus.

Perhaps you will recall that my mother did come to visit me every two or three weeks. No doubt it would have been more often but the orphanage was out in the sticks, and it probably took her an hour and a half to get there.

And interesting things happened on her last visit to me there. I had gone to church on my faithful bicycle Hiawatha, which involved a steep hill on up to the metropolis called Oak View (a suburb of Ojai, which was a suburb of Ventura, California. My mother lived further on of course, in Camarillo. She needed to live there because she worked as a “psychiatric technician” at Camarillo State Hospital (the one dedicated to the non-criminally insane).

Anyway on the way back from church, going downhill on the steep slope out of town, I pedaled as fast as I could and prayed (both to Jesus and my bicycle–See, even then I was a pantheist!) to make me go faster and faster. But I had little reckoned on the sudden gravelly hairpin turn at the bottom of the hill and I went flying and landed unconscious. A nice man came by in a pick up and shook me awake and put my bike in the back and drove me to the orphanage, and guess what? Waiting for me (and yes, my younger brother Robin) was my mother who was all smiles and enthusiasm saying this was the day we were finally all going to live together again (me, Robin and the two oldest, Mike and Jim) with her in scenic Camarillo.

But I wouldn’t let us leave before first saying good-bye to Mrs. Hicks*, my sanity-saving surrogate mother and teacher for both the second and third grade. I wanted to give her a good-bye gift and my mother convinced me what would be a good one was her half-used deodorant stick. Later I got a letter from Mrs. Hicks, wishing me well and saying my note and gift had given her “a warm feeling inside.”

I was to attend Pleasant Valley elementary school. They called all of the seaside town of Camarillo area “Pleasant Valley.” And rightly so, what with the sunny breezes and the nearby seascape. In fact the above ode to a yellow rose poem, was written with the memory of hearing the famous song (The Yellow Rose of Texas) in my head as I crossed the overpass bridge, with just such a sun and wind at my back.

Our time there didn’t last, but it lasted long enough for me to fall in love with a nine year old girl denombre Ellen Jones. I had fought for her for six months trying to wrest her from a certain Brian Muldoon. And finally, just before summer vacation, she said she was mine! (Cue in the ecstatic trumpets!)

But there were flies in the ointment (I guess that killed the medicinal properties?).

Mom told us that our Dad had gotten married again and he and his wife wanted to have us stay with them for the summer.

Which was okay. But we were not close with my father** (a story for perhaps another time) and certainly not his wife, a sophisticated Barbara person***. But she was a bit cool, and unfairly favored her own son from a previous marriage. Another spoiled brat named Robby Jano.

But to a child, new stuff is inherently interesting, so it wasn’t so bad.

And so the summer passed, but no sooner were we back sighing with relief, that Mom said “Don’t bother to unpack. You are going right back. It was all an experiment for them to size you up during the summer and then decide if they wanted you to live with them or not, and they did. And you can’t stay here. I work nights and need to sleep during the day and you guys are just too noisy.”

Which seemed dishonest and unfair. Because she had never complained, certainly not enough for us to suspect that our staying or going hung in the balance. But a night of tears and pleading and promises did nothing, and so we were sent right back. I think that was the straw that finally sent reeling my love for my mother. Though I was still to live with her off and on, for the next few years, alternating with the father, and finally Grandma Dorothy. More on that (perhaps) later.

But she let me come back for a last date with Ellen. (we went to the county fair). And we wrote for several years . . .

This girlfriend separation stuff had also brought me tears when a one named Penny at age six (my bright spot in the orphanage) moved away.

I remember seeing her drive away looking at me out the back window, just like in the wonderful movie “A Little Romance.” (Diane Lane’s first, age 13, and Laurence Olivier’s last. Age 80?)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Have I mentioned my second and third grade teacher, Mrs. Hicks before? But even if so she is worth mentioning again. She knew I had no mother at hand and so pitched in, inviting me to help her in her garden on week ends and summers, and who fed me a version of ambrosia she called tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches (tomatoes we picked from her garden!) ‘Nuff said.

** To epitomize why: when I was threeish years old, and he was still with us (He soon after this incident divorced my mother, and largely disappeared from our lives. Until later of course–see above for an instance), a neighbor lady had given me a tootsie roll, which my father confiscated, saying it would spoil my appetite for dinner. But he let me put it in the refrigerator for a dessert later. But when after dinner I came for it there he was in front of the fridge eating it himself.

***Who interestingly had lived in China ‘til she was sixteen (her father was one of the later famous missionaries who were jailed by Mao Tse Tung, but then he got dramatically released as a “humanitarian gesture.” Not much of one because his cancer was so advanced he died in his wife’s arms in the Philippines, which was as far as he could make it. (His wife and daughter–my father’s bride–had escaped the Red Army and got to the states, during the Chinese Revolution. The story of their brief reunion was front page news in the U. S. : The Dramatic deathbed visit by the grieving widow.

The Old Guy Has a Cast Iron Stomach


J. R. R. Tolkien


New Start–68

Science Proves the Existence of Love

“At his right hand, holding a trumpet, stood Hussein,
his bodyguard, a giant Oriental, wicked as a monkey . . .”
–Nikos Kazantzakis (The Greek Passion)

Now hold on!
I must speak in defense
Of the essential goodness of monkeys
For instance an experiment I read about
In psychology class with monkeys charged

To keep safe their monkey friends
They had to push a button
When a red light appeared or their friend
Would receive an electric shock
But they could intervene

(They had their own countermanding button)
But guess who got the ulcer?
Not the victims being protected
Though they knew the risk they were under
No it was the undertow of monkey love

The left hand of their friend’s fervent
Yet ulcer-producing defense
That had cost the monkey friend
And I’m sorry about that ulcer business
Though in general I like it when science proves

The existence of love
Speaking of which you’d think
Poor God then would get an ulcer
But I hear the old Guy
Has a cast iron stomach


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”


Gentle Readers,
(First, an apology if any recognize any of this post. Though it has been quite changed, it was cannibalized and adapted from pre-post records of an earlier post, that some hacker vandal erased from the archives; God knows why)

“Daddy! Daddy! I crossed the street all by myself, and I didn’t even get runned over!”
–Mehera Halliwell
(At age five, demonstrating proper gratitude for what she receives in life)

Something there is that doesn’t love a friend.*

Hell, something doesn’t love ceramics. Or so you could conclude by how often dishes break. Even valuable antique ones.

Not that I am suggesting paranoia.

No. it’s just like we look before we cross the street. So I think some “paranoia” is healthy. Indeed, some wise guys have suggested taking care, with reasonable precautions.

Yes, danger is there. That’s probably why with Jesus it wasn’t enough we be as gentle as lambs. It was good also to be wise as serpents. And sometimes the threat’s a spy behind our lines like some Wormtongue** within, whispering fear and/or other negativity. But in Sufism, it’s kind of an echo of Jesus when he said “By their fruits shall ye know them.” If afterwards (or during what you are doing) you are sick at heart, well, I believe in signs.

But the scary times are when that is too late. Meher Baba, the co-founder of Sufism Reoriented*** (the other being Hazrat Inayat Khan) had a favorite song, Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.” There’s a telling lyric there which refers to cursing “the chance that was wasted.”

We’ve been talking about friendship.

I say “we” because I am expecting company on this blog–why? Well I am just being here a good Sufi. Keeping an optimistic attitude. Because it is always sweet to find there are people who share our concerns. It can even come to feel like family, such sharing. I start with friendship, but soon perhaps I will segue to another form of love: family, for instance. Of course too, I also think of my friends as that and in the very best tradition of that.

So as you may have surmised, today I will talk about how careful we have to be with friendship. But whenever I can, I will ditch the prose and rely on my poetry. If only because when a poem is any good it gets right to it and my prose likes to play Ring-around-the-Rosie. And gets to fall down a lot (on the job). But not in the other sense. It’s pulling teeth to get it to shut up. So my prose tends not to want to ever fall down (read: shut up).


Sometimes I think I became a poet as pure therapy for long-windedness.

And so without further ado, to the rescue.

I refer to a switch to poetry.

But for that you must see the above poem. It’s a poem about a true friendship that is a little off the beaten path of such poems, but to paraphrase James Thurber, “I think you will be amused by its presumption.” And speaking of poetry, I must digress to mention that just today I posted on Facebook two quotes about poetry. (FYI I am big on collecting interesting and/or inspiring quotes. As you will note if you check out the Quotes button up top. Along with Poems and Stories), Yes and though this is a pro-Sufi blog, suffice it to say it’s also a pro-poetry blog. Of course, that is tainted by my fierce belief that poetry is a very Sufi thing. Largely because it is therapeutic to the heart, and Sufism is the religion of the heart. So it’s hard to nail down stuff like connection/causation.)

“In the Eskimo language, the words for ‘to breathe’ and ‘to make a poem’ are the same.”
–Lyn Lifshin

“Poetry ought to be a by-product of living, and you can’t have a by-product unless you’ve got a product first.”
–Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

So I am at my putative word limit and so time to say good-bye. Which customarily has been with this sign off: “God be with you.” But maybe it’s again time to explain how I came to that. I had an epiphany which helped me to choose. There is a line in a Bob Dylan song (Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right) that always puzzled me, “Good-bye’s too good a word, Babe, so I’ll just say fare thee well.” I remember good-bye is a contraction for “God Be With You” which is clearly a better word than a mere fare thee well.

And so, God be with you. Hasta la proxima.
Eric Halliwell

*Full Disclosure: Robert Frost reference: (Mending Wall) “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”

**Wormtongue was a weaselly advisor to the king of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. (Happy to say, he got his comeuppance!)

***The Sufi order I was initiated into and which I belonged to from 1972–1979.

A Favorite Face of God


Professor Josephine Miles


A Favorite Face of God

–To Dani

If you don’t know where to start
(What to give someone
Who has everything)

Just do sweet things for God

Whose heart’s conveniently at hand:
Just pick like a flower
A favorite face of God

Just do sweet things for a friend

And speaking of friendship, here’s another. (Which was published in the Berkeley Poetry Review*):
New Start–162

Master the Perverse Impulse

“To make a friend, forgiveness is required which burns up all
things, leaving only beauty; but to destroy friendship is easy.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

I don’t know . . . I think
It’s similarly easy
To throw oneself off a cliff
It’s true and that’s probably why

I have always been
Supremely scared to be on a ledge
I think I would visit the Grand Canyon
On my belly with only my head

Projecting over the rim
I figure by the time I got up to jump
I could master the perverse impulse
So friend you’re pretty safe with me

I’ll take a lot lying down


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”


Gentle Readers,
Perhaps some of you gentle folk would like a break from my autobiographical posts. If so, it’s good that I have decided to get (for a bit) a bit back to some more directly Sufi speculation. This post as you may have already surmised, is about friendship, a concept much talked about by the founder (Hazrat Inayat Khan**) of my erst Sufi order which I was lucky to be accepted in between 1972 and 1979.

However, I will still start with a biographical reference:

When I was young my favorite television show was Science Fiction Theater. At the beginning of the show, the emcee, with a dry wit sparkle in his eye, strolled onto the stage and said, “Let me show you something interesting.” He would then walk over to an experiment which demonstrated the scientific principle upon which the current episode was based.

I often like to do the same thing, in my poems. For instance today’s poems each feature an introductory quote from Hazrat Inayat Khan, about friendship. Kind of a springboard.

Why start with friendship? Friendship is a thing frequently addressed by Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of a Sufi order in the United States, circa 1920 (Yes, the one I was in for seven years). Indeed, in Sufism, their saints were called “friends of God.” I would summarize Inayat Khan’s approach then to friendship as a sort of “God Practise.”

There is a lot of controversy over what may or may not constitute “God.” But let’s escape from the “fundamentalists” by stipulating that at least for Inayat Khan’s brand of “God,” God is explicitly stated to be what you “imagine” Him/Her/Whom to be. Imagination, Inayat Khan says, is a holy thing. Reminds me of a favorite quote of the heroically tragic*** yet great, English poet, John Keats:

“I am convinced of only two things, the sanctity of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.”

So Inayat Khan would say, whatever makes your life worth living, whatever to you is “holy,” then go ahead, imagine that as a manifestation of God. (And don’t be surprised when God again “appears” in that disguise.)

Yes, and the bit about the heart’s affections nicely leads back to friendship, does it not? Which is the theme of today’s blog post. (Que vivan las coincidencias!)

I love it when (as so often happens in Sufism) the spiritual practice called for is so much fun (Friendship is fun, verdad? E. g. who wants to go to the county fair alone?). And so it was easy to fall in love with my “religion.” What’s not to like about fun?

I want to say “more anon” but that sounds disconcertingly like the name of the black gate of Mordor.****
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS–perhaps you’ve noticed a touch of pantheism in my poem. But fyi, that’s too a Sufi thing.

*which poetry journal by a strange coincidence was founded many years ago by my old Cal Berkeley poetry professor, Josephine Miles (see photo above). What an inspiration! She from childhood was confined to a wheel chair with crippling arthritis, and yet she went on to become a foremost academician of poetry, not to mention a noted poet herself. Here’s the Wikipedia article:

**Hazrat Inayat Khan died in 1927, leaving behind a Sufi order whose mureeds (students) were drawn from the Western world (e. g. Europe and the United States). Here is a short and moving bio from Wikipedia:


***Tragic because he died of tuberculosis at age 25. But wait that’s not the time for your tears, which are occasioned by this:  He died from the contagion contraction of caring for his dying of tuberculosis brother.

****”Morrannon, though as the white wizard Gandalf used to say, “Name it not!” And for all youse non-Lord of the Rings fans, allow me to explicate. Morrannon was the name of the Black Gate of Mordor (the entrance), home of the (in)famous Dark Lord, Sauron.

Also the anon bit again, reminds me of my beloved yet oft drunk Grandma Dorothy who on retiring would call out “I’ll see you all anonymous!”