You Know You’re a Trekkie When…

Yesterday, I was sitting quietly, thinking about my Dad on what would have been his 76th birthday when the following prayer came into my head:

“I pray on this day of memories to speak to my father, the one whom the wind called Henry. Though I am far from his bones, perhaps there is a spirit in these unnamed skies who will find him and honor him with my song.”

If it doesn’t sound familiar, it’s probably because you’ve never watched Star Trek Voyager, or followed along on the spiritual practices of Chakotay, Voyager’s First Officer.

(Like the title of this post says, “You know you’re a Trekkie when…”)

With all apologies, though, to the more traditional prayers among you, this fictious invocation said exactly what I needed it to say — to the Universe and to my Dad:

Yesterday was a day of memories. And while I could not be near the places my Dad knew or visit the cemetery where he is buried, I would hope that whatever thoughts I did have on his birthday would be carried to his spirit – wherever and whatever that is.

I have sat through funerals during which anecdotal Bible passages were read and stood graveside during rote prayers. I’ve listened while priests and pastors have comforted the grieving with admonitions of sins and promises of future visits with loved ones. Once, I even heard a song sung that suggested my loved one wanted me dead, too, so I could be walking in heaven with them.

(Good Lord, please don’t beam me up there.)

I like Chakotay’s Native American approach honoring our loved ones. Which is problematic in itself, since neither the actor who portrayed him nor the writer who consulted on the program were actually Native American. Oy vey!

Man without a country, woman without a god?

Quite the contrary. I have many gods — god as the Universe meets me when I walk in the woods, and god as joyful song joins me when I sing out loud in my car. Quan Yin watches over those daily travels, Ganesh holds my visions, and Earth Touching Buddha grounds my yoga practice. A reclining Buddha protects me while I sleep, St. Anthony welcomes me every morning, and I like to believe that when I curse at my computer, somehow it’s actually a prayer to Jesus Christ to help me be successful in all of my endeavors.

This is what I feel: god is everywhere and in everything, and prayer is too. Prayer is in holy scripture and haiku, in Psalms and poetry, in song lyrics, and yes, even in an episode of Star Trek. And as Captain Kirk once said, “sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.”

Essay, ©2019 Jen Payne.



How easily you

write of changing seasons,

life grown from death.

Circle of Life,

you pontificate

during Sunday service

in wooded cathedral

where summer genuflects,

jewel weed

and wild grapes

stand at the Crossing.

Everything is flowing,

God whispers.

How foolish are you to resist?


Words and Photo: ©2015, Jen Payne

Time Traveler


He arrives across this wasteland of time
in accelerated motion      lights      moving      swiftly
like Roddenberry’s hallucinations.

Resistance is futile in the face of such memory,
as this time traveler pulls strings of moments from gray matter

string theory:
          we are all connected

As he is to me, I am to him and to you and his
by threads of stories we tell each other here, now
in this space      time      continuum


How we shape shift —
reconsider, reevaluate —
move warp-speed from present to past to future.

That superposition feeds poetry…and soul —
but my heart is here sweet time traveler          here

• • •

Words ©2013, Jen Payne
Image: Folded Time, ©Julien Pacaud. Reprinted with permission. For more of his witty, wonderful work, please visit


Spatial Anomaly

“Have you had a gunshot wound?”

“Do you have metal pins, screws, plates or staples?”

“Have you been fitted with artificial limbs?”

It could be worse, I think to myself as I check the boxes: No, No, No.

On the way to Yale’s MRI Center we passed the Smilow Cancer Center and I think: it could be much worse.

I’m here for a routine scan. “Routine” is a nice way of saying I’m not worried…and you shouldn’t be either. I’m not worried about the results anyhow, we’re just getting a better look at something. I am a little worried about the process.

“Do you get nervous in small spaces?”

“I don’t know,” I write in pen next to the Yes and No. It’s not every day I stuff myself into a 2’ x 6’ tube.

It’s days like this when I think:

“Make sure you remember where the exits are.”

“Who thinks up these things anyhow?”

“Damn, where is Bones McCoy when you need him?

But I’ve come prepared. A good friend is here for moral support and hand-holding. My spiffy iPhone keeps me connected to the outside world while I wait — and take photos (see above). A CD of music is at the ready for the 45-minute E-ticket ride that is about to commence.

I’ve been here before. Twenty years ago after a car accident. I remember enough to know three things about an MRI: it’s loud, it’s long, it’s boring.

They’re running late today. Six of us sit in a waiting room — three in street clothes reading magazines, three in one-size-does-not-fit-all hospital gowns with IV tubes taped to our arms, waiting.

Two hours later, I am led down a long corridor and I hand my CD to the technician before she straps me down and hooks me up.

I hope they don’t mind my choice of music, I think. Krishna Das singing kirtan is not for everyone. And it’s playing very loudly. But as the table slowly slides into the machine, I let go of all of that. I hear the first few notes of familiar words and music and…

Namo. Namo. Anjaninandanaaya

… I start to breathe.

Jaya Seeyaa Raama, Jai Jai Hanumaan

And I start to relax.

Jaya Bajrangbalee, Baba Hanuman

Slowly, I let the breath in.

Sankata Mochan kripaa nidhaan

And slowly, I let it out.

Jai Jai Jai Hanuman Gosaaee

In my mind, I am doing yoga.

Kripaa karahu Gurudeva kee naaee

Familiar postures with familiar breath.

Sankata Mochan kripaa nidhaan,

With familiar music.

Laala Langotta, Laala Nishaan

Slowly in my mind.

Hare Raama Raama Raama, Seetaa Raama Raama Raama

Until the table itself moves slowly. Out.

“I have to ask,” says the technician as she unhooks me, “What were you listening to?”

“Krishna Das,” I manage from a lovely state of bliss.



“It’s very similar to what I listen to,” she says.

As we walk back to the waiting room she tells me about Jai Uttal. I spell out K-r-i-s-h-n-a D-a-s and give her the CD to take home.

In the dressing room, I look at the person in the mirror thinking: there is method to the madness, order among chaos, and reasons for everything.

Live Long and Prosper. Namaste.

• • •

Photo ©2013, Jen Payne. Lyrics from “Baba Hanuman,” from the Krishna Das CD Breath of the Heart.

Making It So

“Make it so,” is the often-heard directive from Captain Jean Luc Picard on the Star Trek series The Next Generation, and I am more and more inclined to make it my own.

This week marks my 45th anniversary here on planet Earth. If you’re anywhere near my age, you know this feeling: things are beginning to feel a little familiar. The things I’ve always wanted to do, the places I’ve always wanted to go, the hopes and dreams, follow me along like a satellite on a fairly consistent trajectory. Round and round they go.

But for several years now, I have made it my mission to boldly go where I have not gone before—those places I’ve always thought about or talked about or dreamed about.

In 2006, it was le grande voyage—a two-week adventure in France. “For my fortieth birthday,” I told my friend DeLinda, “I want to go to Paris.” And somehow, we planned and saved and took the time off and made it so.

Since then, my adventures have been a little closer to home. I travel as I can, where I can. But, each birthday, I ask myself: what new thing do I want to do this year?

“I want to explore New York City more,” I said to my friend Martha a few years back. So, for my birthday in 2008, I hopped on a train and spent the day in Central Park and the halls and galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2009, I stood at the top of the Empire State Building, and this year, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with my dear friend Tara.

It may sound a little pompous, but as I stood at the center of the bridge yesterday I thought: I am here because I said so. And that is the key!

I have spent a lot of time these past few weeks thinking about the familiarity of my life; the constant of those hopes and dreams that remain just that. What I realized (read: remembered) yesterday is that if never give them the directive—if I never say “I am going to France,” or “I am going to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge”—I never will.

“To seek out new life,” reads the Starship Enterprise’s mission statement. Starting this week, so does mine!

“It’s kind of symbolic, walking across a bridge mid-life,” noted my friend MaryAnne. Indeed—about as symbolic as this message I spotted on the other side of the bridge: Seize the day. The Hour Flies.