Sending Love to Pele

“The fire of a volcano can’t be put out, it is the beginning, and the end.”

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I love Pele.  I love her clarity, her single element simplicity, and especially her enthusiasm for transformation. Pele represents the element of fire, the great transformer, the liberator of potential energy and liquidator of flotsam.

“There are other fire keepers.

We have different names, but we’re all sisters.

We used to be understood better, when you could hear us better.

We move, we change, we protect and balance all the pieces of creation.

And we’re VERY flashy about it.”

Every ancient culture has their fire goddesses.  Wadget and Brigid, Hestia or Vesta, all keepers of eternal flames, transformers of death into life. Shadow shamans transmuting material to energy to return to the web of life. Through eons of steadfast belief and ritual, this understanding of the fire element was transplanted to new places by migrations of human feet and thought. The Female Fire Keepers influence may have flourished and ebbed, but  for the most part, they were perceived as helpful protectors, their flames a benevolent resource.  Such is the usefulness of hot fire in cold climates.  Not so for Pele, Fire Goddess, keeper of the volcano at Kilauea.

Heart

“People are hard to understand

They come up to the smelly old crater and throw me a ham or a bottle or rum,  I don’t want a ham”

“Help me Pele!  Help me Pele!”

“I can help you change your life,

Gather up everything that doesn’t serve your spirit, old hurts and bad memories, guilt, grief, clear out the closet and the garage, give it up”

“I can burn them up, but you have to sacrifice these things to have new life.”

Pele’s Pacific post remains apart; her mission unique. She is site-specific for the island world of Hawaii. A place created entirely by VOLCANOES. She is a Fire Goddess surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean. Now that’s a solitary assignment.  Maybe it is that aloneness that sponsors her spontaneous interactions with people, all kinds of people. She is known for borrowing bodies and interacting with locals and tourists alike. I am one of those, Yes! Pele is real to me.

A long while ago, when the experience was new, I wrote our conversation down. It was a soliloquy really, describing her millennium long observation of human psyche, and human behavior. Is she an angry destroyer? vengeful and frightening, self-interested and self-serving? I think we have made her in our own image.

“If we ate here together, men and women,

 someone would have to be killed for it.

If you touched a rich man’s shadow, you got your head on a stick.

If a woman or a child ate a banana or a coconut they would be killed in a slow way, one broken bone at a time”

“And they said Pele is a danger!

Pele is vengeful!  She will be angry if you don’t do what we say!

Pele didn’t make those rules,

Pele didn’t maim children for eating what the mother island had provided for them,

It’s the people that did this.”

“I am the reflection of your fears;  I exist for balance”

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Maybe only male God’s get to play with fire, and a female Goddess is supposed to just cook on it? People prefer to make the elements “vengeful” and the “wrathful” rather than acknowledge our complete lack of control over the “forces of nature.” These projections may be useful, but not altogether fair. I can’t imagine how hair-raising is it to experience this cataclysm on a small island as a fragile human.  Is it what the ants feel when we pound on by their exquisitely constructed communities?

“The ships came in from other places and brought their own Gods

And they said Pele doesn’t exist,

That’s when Pele became a superstition.”

“Except when the ground shakes

And the lava comes to purify and begin again,

Then they remember me.”

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“Sometimes they see me when the Lava is really flowing.

But I’m always there, they just aren’t thinking that way.

They are blind until they get scared.”

“They think I show up to watch my handiwork.

It’s not my job, I just get it started.

Lava has lava ways”

So what’s really going on? It’s the hot breath of the Earth made visible. VOLCANOES are Transformation. Is it energy or intelligence that shape shifts elements into endless ever changing compounds in support of life.  Maybe not your life or mine, but LIFE on the galactic time line. We are of the earth not on it.

http://explorecuriocite.org/Explorer/ArticleId/3091/ringwoodite-the-missing-link-in-earths-water-cycle-3091.aspx

Be safe family in Hawaii, send her love!

 

Photos by Carol Martell

Please see copyrighted Painting of Pele by Arthur Johnsen

http://archives.starbulletin.com/2003/08/15/news/index8.html

 

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The Dreamer

It rained heavily last night for the first time in many weeks.  I slept a deep sleep, caught in the sticky web of a dream reality.  I was witness and player in a story in evolution.  Aspects of my day, and layers of my life, colluded to weave an intricate tale that questioned, who is where and what is real?

And what are you trying to tell me?

As in all good mysteries, clues were revealed, heroes intervened, and the main character had to grow or perish. I wasn’t the only witness, there were “watchers.” The less than benevolent crowd assembled in steep ascending layers. A shiny puppeteer commanded from the top, his diaphanous body swaying and snapping like a sail out of trim in a high wind.  I saw his head tilt back in a soundless cackle and I shuttered. I stepped back behind my own eyes and hoped for a more comfortable reality as the story began.

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We were seated in chairs for unseen days and nights, no talking, no movement. It was hard to stay alert, or even awake. Through heavy lidded eyes I could see a jam-packed room filled with red folding chairs shaped like car seats.  I was in one of them.  The people seemed to go away slowly over an indeterminate time. The room got smaller, the numbers dwindled, but the small space between us never altered.

Devoid of much stimulation or reason to be mentally “present,” I wandered. I became aware that others existed outside of this space. Using only my mind, I checked in on my Mother. We had planned a family dinner, and she was supposed to come. I got the message through sensation that she was sick, really sick, with an “illness.” She was physically weak, but still trying very hard to communicate to me through a sort of telepathy.  The images were like single pieces of a puzzle. There couldn’t be a whole, but she hoped the pieces were enough. Trying my best to remember each image, we began with ILLNESS.

I was concentrating on this task when something called me back. Returning my attention to my own body, I realized I was in a very strange state. I was only occasionally conscious. “Maybe it is not just the sender that is struggling, the receiver is weakened as well,” I thought.  I understood then that there were overseers watching us in this room.  One did nothing to attract attention.  This would bring removal.  No one saw this, but it happened.  I awoke one dark time to realize, but not acknowledge, that Sulu, the character from Star Trek was sitting next to me. The dream world, being the subconscious “free-for-all” that it is, had determined that this character had what I needed, to do what I came to do in this strange place. I returned to my quest to understand what my Mother was trying so hard to tell me.

RENNET!

The word spit out into the air like a chicken bone caught in my throat. RENNET is a part of cheese. She showed me images of cheese making that would elicit this word in my mind. A remarkable feat because I didn’t know that I knew that word. I didn’t know that “animal” rennet is extracted from the bellies of very young, slaughtered calfs, lambs and goats. Dreams images are like that: opportunistic.  I began to repeat the word like a mantra of remembering. RENNET RENNET RENNET!

Rennet is a combination of different enzymes that help mammals digest milk. Each animal produces a different type of rennet, therefore specific types are used for certain cheeses, such as kid goat rennet to make goat’s cheese and lamb rennet for sheep’s cheese. It is usually only extracted from the stomachs of young animals, as rennet in older animals contains little or no rennin.

https://sciencing.com/difference-between-rennin-rennet-8182538.html

My neighbor Sulu was working on something next door. His mind was busy and loud.  I could hear him easily.

“My wife is next to me on the other side, she can’t hear me. Something is happening here.”

The room remained mostly dark, no movement, no sound. Our numbers were down to about 50 people, a quarter of our original size. Shaking off my stupor, dangling on the cliff of unconsciousness, I listened to his thoughts. I was hearing the voice of George Takei, the omniscient reciter/narrator in Pacific Overtures, a production I had seen a while back.  It was his voice that I heard imparting the history of Japanese coercion by western concerns, giving voice to  those standing in front of the cannon. He had my attention.

Sulu was talking fast, as if in hurry to impart all he could. My mind was spinning like an old 33 vinyl record on a player set to 16, a very ponderous speed.  This alignment allowed me to hear the messages from a place not so far away where I believed my mother sat, unable to move.   I had to leave her to hear him, and that was difficult.

I realized then that there were only a few of us left. A door opened in the back of the room where we were, I focused hard to stay present. Sulu was pushing the nearly inert form of his wife through a doorway and reaching back to pull me through too. An image crashed through mind, a thousand birds in a building like this. BIRDS, I heard as we slipped out through the door.

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD

We were outside the building, in the world again. It was dark and cool. We were standing on real dirt, drinking in real air. The cool breeze on my face held a thousand elements. The sounds of wind, leaves, crickets, crashed over me and I was awake for a moment.  I could feel the bottom of my feet. My hands began to twitch. I saw a wooden six panel door standing ajar across the grassy alleyway.  We went for the opening and Sulu and wife disappeared into the darkness.

I heard voices then, very close. Stepping behind the door, I was careful to make no sound with my feet or breath.  The boots sounded heavy even in the greasy earth outside.  They dropped something on a broken table leaning by the door and it rattled like a hundred screws in a box.  These were the first voices I had heard in a long time. I didn’t really understand the words but in my mind, I saw a picture of a large bird. “BIRD, BIRD!”

It seemed important to stay alert but it was so hard. Did I imagine that these images of birds of prey swirled in the minds of the heavy-footed beings on the other side of the door?  A raptor like an Owl or Osprey, Hawk or Eagle with talons extended in flight flashed across my mind. I realized I was the prey and I froze.

They had been gone a long while before I moved.  I stepped back to look through the crack at the door jam.  I saw the box of “hardware” they had left on a table outside the door. Small blue balls connected in pairs with small links of tiny chain.

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD

I pushed the door closed, closing the hasp on the inside silently.  Clumps of dirt moved out of the way. The half circle of evidence of change was thankfully on my side of the door. I moved deeper into the darkness of this new room. As my eyes adjusted I realized there were two small cots a few feet apart, each with blankets and a pillow. Sulu stood smiling offer me a cot with the graciousness of a host at a Japanese Ryokan. Had it been days? Or much longer since I had laid down on a bed. I was unconscious again almost immediately.

I felt my Father then.  He didn’t have the same type of capacity for communication.  His eyes were closed and it was hard for him to maintain contact. I could see his face, but his thoughts were thready and faint when they reached me. “Through the Father” I heard. I thought I understood this, but instead of a religious icon, I saw the spiral used to represent the trail of DNA as we understand it now. A green snake traveling downward through the cosmos, “through the Father.” GENETICS! I heard.

GENETICS RENNET BIRD ILLNESS GENETICS

I repeated the word and I heard voices cheering.  I saw a scene from the Apollo 13 movie buttressed with my personal experience of a tour through the control room at Kennedy Space Center. Was there a NASA-esque control room somewhere monitoring these ethereal communiques? The thought was comforting and unsettling. The witness part of me wondered, “What is at stake here?”

Mom was back “on my radar” and apparently feeling better. It would still be a while before I came to wonder how someone who has no physical body comes to have a “ILLNESS.” It is all just “grist for the mill” isn’t it? Quickly, more pictures came.  I saw ocean, a rocky coast, a cow and her calf in a field, the small church on the edge of Kennebunkport. MAINE! Got it Mom, MAINE

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, GENETICS, MAINE?

When my eyes opened, Sulu was watching me from his cot. He reached out as if to shake my hand, we could just touch. His hand crushed mine at first, he backed off to a more appropriate grasp, then ratcheted up by small increments until the desired effect was achieved. Silently, he told me his wife wasn’t here anymore. I thought about my husband, wondering where he was in this story? Sulu’s eyes changed, with all the body tension and intensity of the Star Trek helmsman he whispered, out loud this time, “We need to go, now!” And just like that we were done with that place.

We were outside then, walking on a path through a temporary encampment of khaki tents and dusty vehicles. We were three: Sulu, myself and another man holding silence, and a tense reserve of quiet authority. We strode quickly through an environment that changed every few moments from dusty open desert, to thick Palm and bamboo forest.  I walked just behind the tall thin man with a 2-week beard, whispering in his right ear when I could keep up with his long legs.  Sulu, easily trotting on the left, corroborated my story, adding his own details.

This newcomer took in the story we told with worried thoughtful skepticism. The plot said he was my husband, but not in this life. I didn’t know this man, he was from a different place, and a different story. I understood he was a scientist.  Our story made him uncomfortable, very, very uncomfortable for reasons that weren’t yet ready to bubble up into his neocortex.

I heard the morning sounds of my home.  The beep of the coffee pot, the dove in the gutter over the open window of my bedroom, all familiar and comforting.  Keeping my eyes shut I backed up, retracing my steps into recent memory. I tracked the path back to the place where the story had ended. Sulu smiled and waved, a swing of a cape, his image faded and he was gone.  The tall thin man was standing in a group of white coated serious minds, unclear if he wanted to remember or forget.  I got out of bed for a pen and paper, and reached for my laptop instead.

The picture on Google today is Maria Felix on her 104th birthday

ILLNESS, RENNET, BIRD, GENETICS, MAINE

The dream was done with me.  It joined the world of collective thought quietly, drifting as dust on running rainwater going who knows where?

“The future Dream Society will be the fifth techno-economic system in which humans have lived. The first – the Hunter-Gatherer Society – gave way to Agricultural Society about 10,000 years ago. Agricultural Society began yielding to a third system – Industrial Society – about 1750, when steam engines began appearing in England. About 1950, a fourth system – the Information Society – began to take shape, but it now appears that the Information Society will not last more than a few decades longer before yielding to a society focused on dreams, adventure, spirituality, and feelings.”    Rolf Jensen,

Article from The Futurist, Vol. 30, No. 3, May-June 1996

http://cifs.dk/publications/books/rolf-jensen-the-dream-society/the-dream-society/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose Your Resources Wisely

It was misty on the big thumb that is Clearwater Florida this morning.  We live on the inside curve of the Clearwater-St Petersburg peninsula.  In the armpit, if you will, of “old Tampa Bay.”  The bay is beautiful. Shades of watery blue beneath whitecaps and the shadows of Great Blue Heron wings. A clam pot for birds, a safe passage for kayak and paddleboard the Bay lacks the primordial punch of the great womb that is the Gulf of Mexico.

We drove North and then West to the causeway at Dunedin.  We passed through the gate and maneuvered into a parking lot for 100 with 98 spaces left. The thick fog of a bottom-heavy steel gray cloud was just rising as we kicked off our shoes on flour white sand. Bands of blue green water snaked through the opaque ashen waves as the rising sun topped the palms at the edge of the beach. If you want to have color, you have to have light. Without illumination, life is just shades of gray.

 

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Those that show up at the beach on a morning like this didn’t come with sunscreen and a People magazine.  We come to the edge to restore and rejoice, or to soak up “beach time”, before the vacation runs out. Some stand ankle deep in salty water to reclaim dreams, or discover new journeys. Some come to petition the deities of great bodies of water for their divine assistance. Today I wasn’t clear who was doing what, except for one of us.

I saw them coming.  The two women walked slowly towards us wearing ultramarine blue t-shirts in different sizes. The older woman walked on the left. The deep lines of her face framed her expression of deep gratitude.  Clearly this was an extraordinary day for her to be walking here on this thin strip of land between waters, on this March day, with this young woman.  The older woman held her worn-well Keds in her hand as they walked barefoot near the water. She leaned in, listening attentively to the words that flowed from her companion. Neither seemed to feel the sharp shell rubble or notice the few passersby.  They were intent, focused.

Indeed! They were pregnant with change. The younger woman was supremely pregnant, probably beyond pregnant and well into “overdue.”  She walked strong, straight but with great care, balancing a belly that looked as if it might burst open at any moment.

 

“You came to the right place,”

I thought, thinking of the saltwater that filled that belly. Then I realized,

We are always in the right place,”

The young woman spoke fervently, passionately. Her arm movements animated her story and the old women with the wrinkles smiled a quiet smile. We passed unseen.

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It is my practice to stand at the edge of earth and water to check my trajectory and clear the emotional flotsam. Placing my thoughts in fragile shells, I create a shrine of temporal impermanence that holds my concerns and hopes for this day. The Gulf is my resource for reflection on the mud and miracles that happen daily. I imagine the Nereids float silently nearby, offering illuminating advice that wordlessly seeps into mind and heart through the souls of our feet stuck deep in the moving sands.  Their whispered encouragements float down from Tern’s wing,

 “Be brave! Be strong! Live! Live!”

Standing in sunlight and blue water one moment, and chilly wind of storm clouds the next, it’s all here, and it’s all good.

“Look at the sea, She lives there,

and She knows how it works,”

was my silent reassurance.

I walked up the beach a bit and found a message scratched in the sand by a sure hand on a sturdy stick.  It was addressed to the Sea and the Wisdom herein,

“I am ready now

I am ready now Baby”

March 19, 2018

She chose her Resources wisely I thought, as I wrote,

Godspeed!

in the sand with my toe. We are all in this together.

 

(http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html)

Photos: Carol Martell, Honeymoon State Park, Dunedin Florida

I am Sure- revisited 2018

We are struggling out of a dark time.

The Age of Aquarius has dawned. There will be peace and prosperity for all. There will be no hunger or hatred.   Love will prevail. The only snag in this Opus de Optimist is the pesky detail of responsibility. Who will recognize love, hold the light and pass it on? Certainly we can’t expect some dusty saints and oft-misquoted prophets to mould the whole ball of wax. This is our time, and our planet, and we are responsible for what we put in our minds and how we live our lives.

Whose job is it to hold the frequency of love and respect?

This morning it was my task to take a few bags of “camping” dirty clothes to the modern day riverside flat rock. Laundromat USA has taken the place of pounding stones and water to clear the sweat from garments of labor. I have never understood how beating anything with rocks would cleanse, but it certainly makes a rich metaphor for so many misguided efforts.

The narrow storefront held two aisles of machines in cramped space, ringed by tall-unadorned white walls and high ceilings. With two other Washers present, we did the bob and weave, avoiding all but the most rudimentary contact. “Excuse me,” and “Is this your sock?” was the only exchange. There is something a bit too intimate about seeing your delicates pirouetting about in the dryer face to hold any face-to-face conversation with strangers.

In these places of public necessity; the intersections of life travelers, I have often found pithy notes in strategic places. Direction and guidance from an invisible overseer of the laundry, thumb tacked, wrinkled missives written by hand in block print.

                                                    It’s OK to open the door

                                                   As long as you close it

A meter long TV was mounted from the ceiling, volume loud enough to be heard over dryers and humming front loaders. I initially ignored the Beelzebub over my head until I heard the sound of piteous whimpers, screams for help, pleas for mercy. Over my head glared the image of a young girl being tortured and sexually assaulted in High Def clarity. Gut churning horror reached out to wrap cold fingers of “what if” around my neck. Without warning the shadow side of humanity loomed dark and large. The media gods laughed at my shock, demanded my attention and manipulated my nervous system. Right there in the pleasant mid morning of small town USA I was played. I wanted to vomit.

Some might say “Not to worry, it was TV, nothing real here. “

Except to my nervous system, the fear was palpable, her pretend agony; visceral. Hands fisted, my heart pounding: I was having the appropriate human response to danger. Out of the three preset mammalian programs for danger: flight, fight, or freeze. I was experiencing freeze. Thankfully I have an intact cerebral cortex and I thawed fast enough to experience the next rush of emotion with all its colors.

It was anger. How could something so evil as torture be used for entertainment? I was enraged that images of such horror, evoking a fearful response are sent mindfully into the ethers, infecting innocents with violence. I felt repulsion that this cruelty to psyches is a vehicle for creating wealth for some, at the expense of all. I felt profound disappointment, realizing that some still watch the pain and terror of others for pleasure. Worse, these images go into our homes by choice, our choice.

I felt shame in our culture.

I felt the eyes of real people upon us.  People who live in places where torture is a real and daily event, an inescapable part of their lives. Human to human violence is served up here in our living rooms on a big screen over the fireplace with a Crucifix on the wall.

I imagined a “tyrant of terror” tossing daily doses of fear to the masses through the TV. Hyperaroused newsrooms searching for the worst of humanity. As tame ducks on a pond, the viewers snap at the easy garbage, ignoring the riches just beneath the surface. Their wild relatives know better. Fear is the most potent weapon of controlling mammals. Too bad the tyrant is us, no one to blame but ourselves for continuing this charade of good and evil. Evil isn’t just “out there,” it exists with our permission.

Is it possible to pollute your mind? Is it possible to hold love and light in the same consciousness that contains these images? Why eat poison when there is nectar available?

I asked the other Washer the name of this atrocity.

“Criminal Minds” she said.

Her eyes moved  quickly back to the screen.

“It’s terrible! How can that be on TV?!” I asked.

She appeared not to hear, the heroes were about to solve the murder with comic book dialog in flat intonation. Lost in her adrenalin nirvana, she leaned in closer to the screen, gaze unflinching. Her hands clenched and released around the hard plastic handles of her laundry basket filled to the top with neatly folded children’s clothing. Her body was trying to regulate her nervous system; but the images just kept coming.

I could see the super hero underwear; toddler size, and the tiny jeans. I imagined the big TV and the small children listening to the victims cries for help as they pretended to sleep.  I asked again,

“How can that be on TV?”

She wiped sweaty palms on mechanically ripped jeans and ignored me.

Deny the bête noire his nightly meal of innocence and believe in yourself

The planets aligned, the earth shook and we all returned to center by gazing into our iPhone faces. Flood, drought, disease and miracle; we turn on the TV to monitor the catastrophe and never turn it off. The vapid and the violent have taken up residence in our homes, with our permission. They sell their fabulous elixir of emotions and hormonal highs for a high price. Are we selling our souls for a jolt of adrenalin, a fleeting feeling of being alive by witnessing the trauma of others?

I would sooner bathe in a sewer than then let that darkness in my soul.

Fight back, turn it off, and live free. Feel the real emotions: your own. In this glorious time, we all hold a piece of light; let’s shine it at each other and laugh at the pitiful darkness.

Addendum February 17, 2018

The darkness felt powerful this week. I thought of this blog written three years ago and wondered about the path we have traveled. Our constant connection to “electronic senses” mainlines a relentless stimuli of anger, fear, sorrow and even “warm fuzzy feelings.” We are emotion junkies living for our next fix, just “Tell me what to feel…”

The images from a school in Florida were real. Lives ended in senseless violence by a person whose mind was in disconnect. We could find a scapegoat.  Or we could ask what part did we each play in preventing this tragedy. How can we do it differently next time?

I came back to this; fight back. Fight back with love for everyone, no exceptions.  Fight back with exquisite attention to what we plant in the gardens of our mind, and the minds of our children.  Fight back with actions that neutralize; answer a fearful face with a smile, and a hunched stance with a handshake.  We are responsible for the way we wear the privilege of being a human being.

We all have the power to change everything.

The Muse

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New growth at Kilauea

January 18 2018   Clearwater Florida

I spilled coffee all over the blue sheets. I reached for the cup, but hand and spirit were not occupying the same space.  I had just that moment come from a place both far away and as close as my skin.  Such infinite dichotomies make it had to juggle coffee cups with unenlightened fingers.

I had sat with my mother in the dusty sand.  She squatted close to the ground with the flexibility of a small child.  Her soft white hair in curls hide her face but there was no mistake. It was her voice and mannerisms, and-her hurts. She easily dug a hole in the ground the size of my coffee cup with her hand.  I watched the sand and the small pebbles pour out of her hands with a movement not of our time and space. The pebbles rolled soundlessly across a frictionless surface.

“Does being here make you happy or sad, Mom?”

“Sad.” She scooped the earth a bit deeper.

It was a “deep dream.” The rules of time and matter, life and death, are needless partitions in this realm of psyche.  I replayed the dream in my mind.  A faulty bit of rewinding to be sure. Information from this level tarnishes instantly in the light of ego.

I sat at a long dark wood table, not unlike those in the furniture stores I had frequented yesterday.  This one was as long as it needed to be to seat all the family that assembled.  The longer the dream, the longer the table. I stood with a gaggle of relatives in a vast open space.

“How about here?”

I had said, pointing to a flat area beside a cliff with no obstructions to the scenery.

“That’s where Mom lives, let’s sit here.”

I said, pointing to the white mountains to the west.

The view was extraordinary.  Across miles of high desert vista were a trio of mountain edges.  The front row of hills lay low and rounded in a dark blue grey tone.  The back layer was all sharp edges. Ragged rocky peaks that would cut skin, all wrapped in mist and clouds sitting unreachable and unwavering in the background.

The soft white mountains rose up from behind the foreground and before the background.  These were higher than the front range and smoother than then rough crags behind. The white mountains had lived in the world.  Their sharpness had been polished by what had been given, and what had been given up. Pieces and chucks broken off and sanded down by experience, resilience and love.

Even from our far away perspective, I could see that light emanated from this mountain range. The high soft edges illuminated as a glow from a far-away window on a cold, dark night. The lofty elevations sought the sky.  These are ascents too high and too steep for human feet. I imagined it was the light of the spirits who dwelled here.  I imagined my Mother lived there too. Until, that is, I found her crouched right there by our family table in the ethers.

“I keep doing this.”

She said, as she dropped an effigy of herself and another of a divine being into the hole,  covering it with dirt. Moments later as I watched, the sand and pebbles moved back and the statues were once again in her hand, and untouched by their journey into the ground.  I watched this three times before I had to turn away.  I was so profoundly sad that she would spend her days this way.

The trouble with light is that everything is illuminated and it is easy to lose focus on what is important. Suddenly, I was seated at the table with my siblings and other family members too numerous to be counted. It was a long table.  I can tell you it was a walnut table with rustic finish because looking for furniture is “up” in my life right now. Maintaining focus is tenuous.

A drama was unfolding in subtle hues around the “dream table.” Some people seated there were actors in this life scene, others spectators, some critics. We were all quickly consumed by Act II of Human Behavior and Group Dynamics. The beautiful white mountain was glowing a harmonious pink shade of possibility and here at our table, we are hunkered down making big judgements about small points.

I was observer and actor in a vignette of my own life. It was an algorithm of souls dancing with constant variables.  The date changes, the generations mix different equations but the product is the same.  I witnessed the scene with an omniscient perspective.  It was daunting.  It was an invitation to destroy inherited and created coveted constructs of “life’s purpose.” It was a plea to create a life of freedom and creativity, while I can.

Is my Mother really stuck in that enactment of repeating bygones?

bygone /ˈbaɪˌɡɒn/
adjective

1. (usually prenominal) past; former noun
2. (often pl) a past occurrence
3. (often pl) an artefact, implement, etc, of former domestic or industrial use, now often collected for interest
4. let bygones be bygones, to agree to forget past quarrels
Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

The constant burying and unearthing of people and events that should be dead, gone and composted. Is that her holy grail? I hope not.  If so that is hers to sort out and she is more than up for the challenge. After writing this I am sure she came to remind me and I am grateful.

“To thine own self be true”-William Shakespeare

Today, these words of Polonius are pearls of wisdom by Shakespeare on living a good and balanced life.
Meaning of To Thine Own Self Be True
The Elizabethan era audience of Shakespeare was well aware of the meaning of his words, though in modern age, words like “Self” and “True” have different. In fact, this phrase implies multiplicity of meanings. The first meaning is that someone can better judge himself if he has done what he should or could have done. The second meaning is that one must be honest in his ways and relations. The third meaning is that one must always do the right thing. Finally, keeping in view the character of Polonius in the play, many scholars are of the opinion that ‘True’ meant beneficial; therefore, his advice to his son meant that he must think of his own benefit first

https://literarydevices.net/to-thine-own-self-be-true/To thine own self be true

Photo Credit: Carol Martell, Kilauea Hawaii

 

Master Yourself

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power. Lao Tzu


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Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv Israel

Relaxing in the fine deep white sand, I watched as the last light of this day eased into the Mediterranean. The glowing sun reflected off the clouds, staining the edges of an unexpected thunderhead, to the color of pomegranates. I had just caught site of a stab of lightening in the dark cloud.

“Must be Zeus!” I thought.

The hot “land air” of the day rushed between the buildings. It blew my hair into my face, moving past me to collide with the cool air sliding along the top of the sea. Squinting against the last streaks of red, I saw a silhouette of a tall young man appear over the top of the jetty. He was frenetically paddling some kind of craft still hidden behind the rocks.

Even at this distance I could see his broad shoulders were hunched with the tension of his great effort. The paddle looked meager against the size of the surf. The fast choppy sweep of his arms propelled his unseen vessel amazingly fast against the moving currents. His head rose above the jetty with each wave, dropping from view as the swells crashed against the rocks. The cusp of sunset is tricky, evening time calls out the darkness. Sea air and land air change places, creating circular winds that move water into rolling underwater cyclones. And what about this strange cloud overhead? Here in the cradle of great myths and even greater divinities: anything is possible.

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Had an ancient canoe come around that rocky point, it would not be unexpected.

He jabbed at the water with the paddle designed for a gentle drift along the surface. The paddle board glided through the water between the great piles of rough boulders built to keep beach, and swimmers, safe from the powerful undertow. The wind was strongest, just above the water. He was pitched off his board many times, he leapt back up to paddling, as if spit out of the sea by Amphitrite herself. I felt a maternal “swipe of the brow” as he finally reached the beach. He ran by me headed towards the hotels at the edge of the sand. After witnessing his efforts in the water, I marveled at his effortless sprint through the deep sand.

I heaved a sigh of relaxation from where I was planted. I settled into a yoga-esque “easy pose,” seated comfortably in the still warm sand. I had come out to attend the setting of the sun. The movements of the sun are always sacred. In this place, people order their lives around this daily, pivitol event. Mine was a “sit in the sand, commune with the water, and thanks for the day “sun salutation” of my own design. I was feeling gratitude for the opportunity to be in this place.

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In another place, for another athlete, that workout would have been enough. But this is Israel, and that was just a warm-up.

Looking like the perfect powerful figures from a 3,000-year-old Greek pot, he thundered by me in the opposite direction. He reached the water in three strides. Three more times he paddled out against the wind, circumnavigating the long jetties, charging top speed out into the open water, amidst the crashing waves. Falling into the water, leaping back out in half a breath’s time, he ran his board aground to sprint at top speed, up the beach, circle the palms and back to the water, three more times.

I ground my own feet a bit deeper in the sand, listened for the voices of the present day volleyball players behind me. It was getting dark. There was only one other observer, meditating on a damp towel. Had I been dropped into some ancient arena? Was this a Perseus polishing up his Andromeda rescue skills? That is after all, Jaffa, or Joppa just down the beach. “Is Everyone seeing this??”

On the fourth circuit, I thought, “Certainly he must be done?”

He dropped to the beach, and performed  gut wrenching, core building isometrics. It was these maneuvers that seemed to finally blast out any remaining remnants of being a “mere human.” Then and only then did he stop, to face the dying sun and quietly paddle his board back to the marina. I have never witnessed such endurance. Maybe it’s the water, or maybe the hummus.

There is great strength here.

 

 

Autumn

It was the Autumn Equinox 2002.  We lived on New York’s Long Island, a 20-mile-wide swath of sand and rocks dropped by a glacier a few eons ago. “The Island” radiates west to east, beginning at the grimy industrial edge of Queens and Brooklyn. The land flows 100 miles to the East, separating the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, from Long Island Sound to the north. The sand surrenders to the water once again at the rough rocks and windy cliffs of Montauk Point. Long Island’s flexible, mutable geography supports little elevation, other than a few hills and some sand dunes in continuous flux.

From the pebbles of the north shore, or the southern sandy coastline, you can turn your back on the millions of people, the tangle of highways, and the hundreds of square miles of overstuffed suburbia. From that position, there is open sky; a celestial amphitheater in the reflection of the open water.  On that day in 2002, I stood in that locus and witnessed the zenith of a short lifetime. Autumn happened in the momentary pause between the exhale of Summer and the inhale of Fall.

Madonna, child, and a cat

Leonardo da Vinci, Study for a Madonna with a Cat, about 1478-80

 

I was a Hospice volunteer then.  I sat vigils, and ran errands for those who couldn’t get out anymore.  Mostly the need was for family respite; a planned visit that allowed family caregivers a few hours of personal space. Just a short breather for sanity’s sake. Tending a family member at the end of life is hard. It extracts the very best, and the absolute worst of us; all at the same time. In the sacred atmosphere around the end of life, all of our well-guarded facades are ripped away. We find our long-denied emotions dropped there on the carpet, at the end of the bed.  Sometimes that “short time left,” is achingly long.  For others, the longest life will never be long enough. I had some “regulars.” They are the best teachers and they were generous with their lessons.

There was Rose, feisty 80 lb., 90-year old, who arranged for her own discharge from a substandard nursing home. From her wheelchair, via front lobby pay phone, she reported her own neglect case to the Adult Protective Services Elder Abuse hot line. When they came to investigate, she convinced them she was put there against her will, and she was returned to her home. Her victory, was much to the chagrin of her concerned; but unavailable, adult kids. She admonished her children for their attack on her independence with a promise, “If you put me in a nursing home again, I will just have to die.”  After six months of hard fought freedom, supported by tenacious Hospice folk, they did, and she did. She remains a personal hero of mine.

Ellen, was another petite powerhouse. The top of her head reached my shoulder.  She spoke with the quiet, polite lilt of her Killarney childhood. Despite her bone warping rheumatoid arthritis, she displayed the personal pluck of the new bride, just “off the boat.” She had come through New York harbor, emigrating to the US in the 1960’s to join her brand new, US Army husband.  It was the drugs prescribed in large doses to help the pain of the arthritis that caused her kidney cancer; a “potential side effect.”  I brought her groceries, and she made us Irish tea that could melt rust.

On this Equinox, September 21, 2001, this request for assistance was very different. The woman from the Hospice office sounded frantic.

“Everyone is out on calls, there is no one can get there now, will you do this?”

“This” was pick up morphine from the Pharmacy in Ronkonkoma and drive west at rush hour to Oyster Bay on the north shore.  There was a baby there dying at home, 2 days old. Her parents had asked only for some morphine to ease her labored breathing in her final hours.

I used the shortcuts to avoid the Long Island Expressway, snaking through the side roads and finally onto the Oyster Bay Expressway to where it nearly ends on the sand. Turning off the final exit, I found the gateposts of the community. This was a grand old North Shore neighborhood built when Wall Street folk began to wander off Park Avenue and onto Long Island fairways. Green islands of manicured grass swept upward to meet sculptured shrubbery, leading the eye, and the invited foot to the imposing front entries.

I found the address and pulled into the wide driveway.  Holding the medicine in my hand, I said a prayer for this family, for this baby, for myself to be helpful, and as unobtrusive as possible.  My heart was beating in my ears as I walked up to the dark wood door.  I looked for the name on the bag.  Her name was Autumn. Her birthday was yesterday. I rang the bell and kept my tears in check.

An older man, the grandfather I thought, threw open the door.  He greeted me with practiced affability and a hearty laugh, his words somehow tumbling through a clenched jaw.

“Come in, Come in please!”

I stared at the man, perplexed by the manic hospitality.

“Have I had come to the wrong door?” I thought.

The ice hit the side of his glass, the crystal jingled like the ringing of a tiny bell. I wondered if I was being mistaken for a cocktail party guest.  Sensing my confusion, and taking no chances that I would abandon his doorway, he reached out to pull me into the foyer. The quick movement spilled his neat Scotch down his wrinkled suit pants, and onto the marble floor.  He watched somberly as the amber liquid sought equilibrium. He seemed so grateful to have an alternate place for his attention.

“Come in, come in! Would you like a drink?”

I thought then, “Certainly I am in the wrong house.”

I looked beyond him, across the foyer, up the single marble step and into the living room. The expansive space ran across the front of the house facing north to Long Island Sound. Early evening light radiated through the long windows lending a warm late September glow to the pale carpeting. The shadows were lengthening; daylight was waning, and no one had thought to turn on a lamp. Tossed on the long green sectional were hastily discarded jackets, and a new diaper bag.  Mother and baby sat in a wingchair covered in mauve brocade. Dad stood behind the chair with one hand on his wife’s shoulder and his eyes on his daughter.

I imagined the other woman in the room was the grandmother. She sat in a matching wingchair, heels together and hands folded in her lap. She was so still, I wondered if she was saving the air in the room for her granddaughter.  Her eyes couldn’t leave that tiny body.

I understood now the terror of this Grandfather. The grief in that room was vast and raw. He couldn’t find his way into the room. The intimacy was too much. I could hear her strained breathing from where we stood in the entry and I remembered my task. I reached out and gave him the medicine. He stared into my face, unseeing, frozen in place.

“What is her name?” I asked the Grandfather.

“Autumn, her name is Autumn.” He said.  His face relaxed, his eyes filled with tears.

“Is there anything else you need?” I asked quietly.

The Mom looked up then, softly she said with a smile, “No, we are fine.”

48a97514de0710e707c34ad992dd96eeIn the young woman’s face, I caught a glimpse a 15th century painting of Madonna and child. She smiled at her daughter, talked to her, held her.  This was her child’s life, and she would not miss a second. Whatever would come later, she was here for her, now. By the time the Grandfather had reached the top of the marble step, I was quietly closing the door behind me.

I had too many emotions to drive amidst prosaic commuters.  I had just witnessed “love” in its most pure state. I was ungrounded and profoundly grateful for my healthy children. I drove the three minutes to the beach, and parked my car in the empty lot. I walked across the boardwalk, past the closed snack bar, and out on the sand.

As I watched, the sun dropped into the western horizon.  A sail boat moved across the water toward the harbor. The long shadow of the mast on the water reminded me; this was the Autumn Equinox. Down the beach to the East, there was a jogger, the slight woman ran easily along the shoreline.

From behind her, seemingly from out of the water rose a huge ball of orange.  At first I thought the brightness of the sun was echoing on my retinas. I looked to the left and there was the sun setting, looked to the right and a harvest full moon was rising at the same time. It appeared I was standing on a different planet. The jogger, a woman near my age, came to where I was standing, breathing heavily from her long run down the beach.

We looked at the sun, the moon and each other, grateful that there was another human to witness. It was comforting to have validation. We stood silently until the sun dipped below the horizon, the moon rose and the moment passed into memory. There was a wordless wave and she was off down the beach, and I was back to car and home.

I had a message from the Hospice office when I got home. “Autumn passed peacefully.”   I can only guess how many lives were touched  Autumn, a tiny ethereal being who never touched the Earth. The date has magical proportions for me.  It remains a day to wonder, to appreciate, to imagine:

 What kind of spirit comes into the world for only two days and leaves with the sun and the moon as her companions?

 

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