Peeking Behind the Gossamer Curtain

Three years ago on this day, on a silent clear night in northern New York, we stood quietly around the suddenly still body of our amazing Mother. She died there in the wee hours, in a gentle handoff from the physical folk to the ethereal extended family. It seemed to me then that she somehow exhaled herself into the next realm. Her arrival was planned, practiced and practical; her fragile body was beginning to deteriorate. Once she could no longer walk in the woods or kayak the edges of water, it was time to move out.

Her Spirit died into the next world while the moon was overhead. Her earthly remains left her 14th story “tree house” for the last time in the mid-afternoon of that same day. Lovingly tended by her daughters, just as our Grandmothers would have done, she appeared little changed.  It seemed she was just finding her new abilities, illuminated, but just so much happier. Dressed in her favorite gown, itself a shiny beige veteran of two grandchildren’s weddings, with warm socks, she held tightly curled fern fronds and flowers from a Spring that hadn’t yet arrived.  She had gone on: “To my next adventure.”

It was our job as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, neighbors and friends to wave good-bye, preferably smiling. If you couldn’t muster that, no worries, she was going anyway. In her last gaze I think she saw all, understood all, felt all, everything that everyone did was all- O.K. in her book. Had she been alive, she would have taken just the tiniest nibble from those ferns, …just because they were so beautiful.

Fernpainting

Fern Carol Martell 2010

“I am ready for my next adventure”

These were the words she used to explain why she was ready to die, and why she would go willingly. I believe she was still smiling when her “earth skin” was slipped into the plain pine box of her own choosing. It was Amish plain pine, freshly sanded and unfinished. By necessity it stood overnight in a funeral home surrounded by gilded guilt and the heavy décor of regretful sadness.

Her casket; if you would call it that, stood proud and simple. Had she still been there she would have remarked about the grain of the wood, caressed it with her hand, her long arthritic fingers seeking the lifeforce, reminiscent of ET’s heart touching scene. Wood grains were a passion with her! She would have found the rough place I remember seeing. That sticky knot that made me wonder if this pine box was still planks when she died?

I remember we opened the dark shades in the “room of sadness.” We opened the top of her box to tuck in bits of memory; tiny flowers and the secret missives from her favorite fans. I recall a flash of future déjà Vu that I would recall that exact moment in the future, which is today.

“My Angels Were Here”

My Mom was unusual in that she welcomed death into her life with curiosity, anticipation and a smile. While others may choose to clutch and cling to their life with the last drug and surgery, she opened the door to the next life with intention. She made her path clear of medical interventions, she asked for comfort and respect, and not much else.

She entertained the angels of transit into the next life quite regularly. She left notes to this effect, found later tucked into “must read” books and under cushions that we would move, “after.” I imagine she offered her visitors a keen interest in the subject of afterlife, and a cup of herbal tea. They seemed to stop in frequently, in her dreams, and at the edge of sleep; appearing from behind what she described as “gossamer curtains.” Those words always accompanied by a graceful arm movement that denoted her feeling the fabric and a subtle sense of the sound of bells.

They came to gently welcome her to her new existence, we mused. It was not unusual in the months before she passed to see her eyes shine in anticipation for her path, and in compassion for ours, as it was revealed. She kept it mostly to herself except when my path crossed theirs at her front door and the mystical mist still lingered about her.

Three years later I have grown skin back over the wound of loss. This is not a victim place, it is the work of grieving. Grief is love that echoes back at us when its target can’t be found. It takes a bit of time before we can scratch out the old address for our loved ones and forward our thoughts to:

Mom, Your Next Adventure, Somewhere in the Ethers, 87503

Now I can look at her transformation with appropriate joy. I can appreciate what a renegade she was; a consummate explorer in the unknown realms. Or did she know exactly where she was going because she had already been there?

Whatever the case, from my current position of safety and observation I can ask:

Where is it written that death must be faced with fear and pain, angst and anguish? At the end of a life, one could choose acceptance. I believe there is another paradigm that exists in parallel to the no hope “Grim Reaper” cheat death scenario. I want to take the Angel option; beautiful beings providing whatever you need for a sweet transition “Into your next adventure.”

Loving conductors, great music and sweet peace? Interested? Ask them.

I think my Mother works there, her name is Gloria.

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, 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. Traveling outside my physical form, 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, very sick, with an “illness.” She was physically weak, but trying very hard to communicate with me through a sort of telepathy.  The images were like single pieces of a puzzle, each with a word attached. Unable to transmit the whole story, 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 whatever it was that I came to do in this very 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/

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

 

Caregivers and Other Heroes

I saw her first in silhouette, the bright sun from the third-floor western window etched a crisp black image of a faceless woman on my retina.

She leaned forward stiffly, bending to the oversized recliner in the corner of the dim room. The chair’s resident was lost to the shadows. She turned to look into the hallway, just as I looked through the open door. A tiny flash of recognition and a flush of emotions shot up my spine.

Hope“I have seen this before,” I thought.

I looked away quickly, waved cheerily to another resident and moved on up the corridor. I had a “planned” conversation at the end of the hall, I would go there first. That is what we do isn’t it? Put the recognized task firmly in our path, effectively blocking from view any unexpected possibilities that might crop up. A “plea” could be followed by “needs,” bringing forth evocative emotions; always better to stay “on the path” for efficiency’s sake.

“I will stop on the way back, a little later.”

But “later” wouldn’t do. Time is mutable in the cosmos of the fragile, frail and elderly. Appointments are secondary to bodily functions and short term memory. The only real time to manifest anything is “right now.” I barely felt it; just a small shutter. Then as awkwardly as a stiff brake applied to rusty track, I eased to a stop. Rich images of my own experience oozed from of the cracks in my demeanor. Something about the figure moving against the bright light had elicited a memory.

It was a summer evening, a cabin in the Adirondacks, multiple generations were gathering on couch and floor to watch “family movies.” There it was! My elders illuminated in silhouette, crossing the projector beam, crisp black images against the brilliant white screen. They were unmistakable in form and movement, reaching out for the arm of a chair in the inky blackness. I was a child then, as was the technology of watching the past. These were short, silent wonders of physical film. The movie camera my Mother piloted had a sound; a mechanical “whir” that elicited good behavior and hastily assembled, always smiling family cliques. Film feels different from our avalanche of IPhone personal documentaries and excessive disc space. On film, time is short, images are precious, life is a temporary condition.

I heard the brittle film creaking dryly around the gears and sprockets of our 1960’s movie projector. We watched long departed family in mid-century vignettes, wrapped in golden patina, roll by on 35 mm. celluloid.  There I am at three. There is my great grandmother, and my parents looking happy and fresh. But 50-year-old film is tenuous, as people are impermanent. Unexpectedly, the precious film would rip, sending the take-up reel flapping as a single frozen image melted before our eyes. In the space of a breath, our elder’s elders were gone.

Endymion

Endymion George Frederick Watts http://www.georgefredericwatts.org

Back in this continuum, I had stopped dead in my tracks in the busy hallway.  A strong scent of desperation reached out to me, I stood there blocking the path. Something tense and taut in the faceless woman’s posture had caught me deeply in my solar plexus. In my belly, there was an echo of the anger, fear, and impossible deep sadness of ambiguous loss.  I heard her then,

“My husband is right here in front of me, and yet my Husband is gone.”

This was a cocktail of grief almost too strong to be understood by anyone not of this tribe. I had intended to pass the unfamiliar room. I could return later, maybe. Something in the scene sought more than a bookmark and a cursory promise. Some ethereal wisp of this woman met me face to face in the hallway. She spoke to my soul again.

“I am here,” she said, “I am still here.”

Such is the destiny of Caregivers.  They give all they have; pouring heart and soul, optimistic intention, and endless time into their fragile loved ones. And for most, the end of this Hero’s Journey finds their own hands empty. I hope their hearts are as full as those who have passed gently into the next world under their care and comfort.

  “Long Term Care or Health Care Center are the current alias for “Nursing Home”.  I think the newer terminology is an accurate assessment.  Extreme medical interventions at the end of life, create “Terms” of residency that are so much “Longer,” than ever before.  Death can be elusive for those who haven’t made their “end of life” choices prior to an emergency. For the people who live and work here, “Nursing Home” hails from another era. The “real nurses,” those who chose this profession to care for the sick, lament the lack the time for giving “real nursing care” to their residents. And for anyone who lives here: make no mistake! Long term care surely isn’t “Home.”

Professional caregivers are saddled with mountains of paperwork, onerous regulation, and workplaces that are perennially short- staffed. Not surprising that caregiving positions go unfilled. In this locale, a CNA, the backbone of “hands on care,” might start at $11.00.

She, (they are predominantly women), will care for as many people as necessary. There is no “I will pick this up tomorrow,” in this field. These hardworking caregivers cannot drop a confused resident in the drawer for another day. Every need must be filled- Now. Short staffed might mean 15 people to toilet, feed, put to bed, medicate in an 8-hour shift. This is Long Term Care, (LTC) such as it is in 2017.

I have a love-hate relationship with these facilities.  I love the people; I hate the concept of sick elderly as commodities. I hate the low pay for the people doing heartbreaking, back-bending work of caring for our family members. How can it be that so little financial resource is engaged in the actual “hands on” care of our precious elders? These choices were made for them by illness or circumstance. Many residents have complicated medical needs beyond the scope of home care.  Many are just too frail for the outside world. They cannot go home. These are folks of “the corridors.” They are all here: the optimistic, the compliant, the fighters and those that have gone on to different realms while leaving their bodies here.

Finding myself blocking this particular corridor, I stepped aside. The aid passed by with the complicated apparatus of physical impairment and a weak smile. I was not “unwelcome” here, but I was sometimes an impediment to efficiency. Stepping up to the room, I saw the resident of this long-term care, “half room.” This room held two residents, thoughtfully separated by a wall that extended halfway to the door.  You may hear your neighbor, and all that he experiences, but seeing them is avoided, unless coming or going to the shared bathroom.

Love-and-Death-2

The silhouetted woman looked up as I knocked on the open door. No longer looking like a Facebook profile with no photo, she had a face when I entered the room; a worried, fragile, thoughtful face.  This side of 70, trim and neat, she wore a plaid blouse tucked into pressed jeans, and carefully combed hair. She welcomed me,

“Come in. Please come in. Thank you for stopping.”

I made a mental note: Always Stop. Sometimes the real beauty is in the basics.

I introduced myself as volunteer, interested, and willing to listen. She waved her hand toward the low bed with the blue blanket and I sat next to her, opposite a tall man with gentle grey eyes.  It was her husband in the recliner. He was looking comfortable and well-tended, but lacking the measure of ease that can be a byproduct of some kinds of confusion.

“He is doing what he has to do,” I thought.

He seemed acutely aware of her circumstances; frustration, overwhelm and sadness. Forty years of communication doesn’t fade quickly. I wonder if he knows already how it will end, and that there is nothing he can do to change this scenario. He smiles, at her, at me, at everyone who enters the room. She introduced me and I shook his hand. Realizing no sound made it through the space between us, I showed him my tag and he read my name.  He seemed to find pleasure in using the words.

“When they know he can’t hear, people don’t bother to talk to him,” she said. “He has almost no hearing and his hearing aids are missing again, for the third time!”

She described multiple visits to area hearing experts, trials of expensive equipment and his final acceptance of his deafness. Acceptance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The frustration in her voice made the words tremble, but his gaze never changed. I realized then; direct communication with this gentleman, has been rerouted through his wife. She had fought the battles.  She had intervened.  She was here day after day, interpreting the world for him.  I wondered where “she the person, the professional,” was in this plan?  Where had she gone, and could she ever come back?

“I am a nurse, I took care of him at home for 8 years, until I couldn’t physically do it anymore.”

I tried to imagine this small woman negotiating even the most standard activities of daily living with this man at twice her weight, head and shoulders above her in height. There had been multiple medical issues, across 15 years, it had been a slow decline.  She had lost family members and close friends, most recently a sibling. She recounted the death of a parent during childhood and I suggested that this was a great deal of grieving to be carrying.

“What I grieve the most is our conversations.  I miss eating breakfast with him and talking. I come here every day for his lunchtime so we can share a meal together.” Describing her trip in from their rural home an hour away had been treacherous a few times this winter, “I waited too long to go and got caught in it!” she said. 

Proudly, I thought. She had conquered her fear of driving alone to their rural home in the dead of winter.

TimeI wondered if the taut tension in her slight body was the result of a few too many white knuckled trips home. She smiled with a nervous laugh, and I saw just a piece of “her” wink back at me.

I wondered what she would be like without three layers of worry and the awareness that she was saying goodbye to her life’s partner in grueling slow motion. She talked about their close two-person family, and her immersion in a productive career; creating current nursing guidelines for facilities such as this one.

After years of struggling at home alone with his physical care, she is here.  She moves daily between “home” and “Health Care Center.” It appears that she is soaking up the last sweetness of her lifetime relationship, while she can. She is a maelstrom of emotions, and yet there is no other place she would rather be than here; at his side. Such is the way of Grace. The best caregivers understand how tenuous and temporary is their precious and nearly impossible to bear burden.

And this is only one bed, in one room, in one facility in a small corner of New York.

 

The-Dweller-WithinIn 2014 there were 1.7 million beds in Long Term Care facilities in the US.  Projection for 2050?

25 million.

Who will be there to care for these people?https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_038.pdf

I like to imagine that those who have gone before, use our experiences in the” here and now,” to encourage, teach, and even give the occasional “heads up” about what lies ahead on tour life path.  They encourage us to be thoughtful and care deeply for the people around us. We will be “that” soon enough. This experience raises questions for me, and indeed all of us! If I’m a bit “off,” and you have been asked to make decisions for me; this is your reference material.

BWOwl“Our bodies were not designed to go on forever. If I am badly broken, don’t fix me.  I have already had an extraordinary life! Save the bionic parts and the fancy interventions for the children. From the beginning of time people got old and died, usually at home. I imagine a gentle process where my world gets smaller, and I get slower until I wind down like a clock and just stop. I can imagine it might look messy and sad from the outside, but don’t be concerned. The Fall doesn’t look like the Spring or the Summer, it is a wonderful season in its own right. No worries, it will all come out just fine.”

On this day, I took the elevator at the end of the corridor.

I returned to my car in bright sunshine. I was left to wonder at that brand of courage, love, tenacity maybe all three that I witnessed in this couple. I backed my car out of the space, took a long last look at the building, and experienced a rush of gratitude and appreciation for the relationships, the good health and the ease in my life.

“I can go home.”

Thank you for the experience, I am grateful.  I wish gentle passings for us all.

All paintings by:

George Frederic Watts (23 February 1817 – 1 July 1904; sometimes spelled “George Frederick Watts”) was a popular English Victorian painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works, such as Hope and Love and Life. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic cycle called the “House of Life”, in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language (From Wikipedia).

http://www.georgefredericwatts.org

 

 

 

 

Listen Deeply and You Will See the Feeling

three_flags

Three Flags by Jasper Johns, 1958, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

One day last week, my email received delivery of a random real estate listing. Trulia, the real estate website, resurrected my email from the basket on the shelf called “unsubscribe.” For this listing, and only this listing, I became “active” once again.  What is true for internet is true for the ethers: We can hide, but we never really disappear. Just for a moment, I hesitated to tweak my dormant real estate perusal habit but the copy was tantalizing:

“Mid-century home, custom built in 1955 for “Famous Scientist,” (not his real name) who worked on the Manhattan Project. A remarkable, one of a kind home, tucked away on a circular drive on 4 acres wooded lot.”

I could have deleted it.  I’m not looking for a house, but where is the fun in going only where you’ve planned? Peering into the few unfocused images of the listing I saw an “impression” of the backyard from the sun porch on a summer day. Purple Coneflowers shown in full bloom with just the hint of two square bee hives tucked under the trees. Another photo taken at oblique angle offered a taste of a warm welcoming kitchen; handmade wood cabinets, shining cottage hardware next to the bright window over the sink.

standinginpool-copy

Yes, there is nothing more intriguing than a house with history, with the clear stamp of the sensibilities and soul of the previous owners.  How previous, is sometimes the most interesting part.

No need to buy a house in order to interact with its history. Sometimes it is enough to walk through, just a “meet and greet” for whatever reason. My predilection for homes in flux is not unlike my Mother’s affection for walking through Garden centers long after her own herbs and flowers were a sweet memory. We come to enjoy, we come to support, we come to give love, because we can.

I googled the original owner and found a respected career of science and leadership. Amidst the curt, contained Academic language, I sensed there was more. What it was like to come home, to pick up life and career, after helping to create the first Atom bomb? What does changing the world feel like on a personal level? How does a man with such a big history come to live in such a small house, surrounded by nature as it must have been in 1955? Was the world different then? Were the rules clearer? The enemies more distinct? Or was that the only perspective at the time, to fight darkness with darkness, destruction with destruction.  We will never know.

“Open House” Saturday, no showings before Saturday morning.”

We were headed out of town for the weekend. I would drive by soon, “just out of curiosity.” Thinking that was the end of it, I returned to my conscious task of moving all the digital history I chose to keep, from limping old computer, to the new sleek model. Along the way, my last decade flashed by; pictures, music, my own written reflections streaked through my day. It was a day of memory and ghosts and happy sad thoughts.

Well of course our plans changed, one door closed, another opened, invisible walls slid to the side and Saturday afternoon was available after all.  Thankfully there is more to our lives than only ourselves.“We will stop there between the chowder festival, and a walk with the dogs, just for fun.”

carolsingkids-copy

Rounding the curve, there were a dozen cars pulled off into the greasy snowbanks of this mismatched early 1960’s neighborhood. Unmatched pairs of curiosity seekers stepped carefully across the ice coating the narrow gravel ellipse that was “the circular drive.” The scene was unexpectedly eerie. A moving shadow of a wildly overgrown Rhododendron played on the front bricks. Ambitious White Pines of all ages pushed up everywhere; through rock walls and driveway edges. Their sweeping branches leaned in; precariously close to the bedroom windows, creating soft snare drum rhythms on the single panes.  Years of shed needles shut out groundcover, dampening new life as efficiently as algae chokes a pond. No doubt, there was deep sadness here.

As a gardener, I knew there hadn’t been one here in quite some time. The robust had prevailed, the diminutive had faltered.

The memory of ivy and vinca maintained their presence guardedly in the cracks of the brick face and between the rock walls.  Two of the largest of the sticky White Pines had been hurriedly chopped in the handful of days between advertisement and open house. Their hacked-up stumps still oozed golden sap on this chilly winter day. The small branches and woodchips that were their remains, splayed out across the dirt driveway as if a wily wizard had “shazamed” them in the moment before we pulled up. Always be wary of quick fixes and fresh paint, they tell the problem, if not the story.

Passing through the multi-paned front door there was a sense of desperate confusion. The ecstatic realtor was holding court, beaming her pleasure at the bewildering excitement of this bargain crazed crowd. Handing out cards and cookies she seemed completely unaware of the storm forming around her. Small knots of people huddled in the huge great room. Windows filled an entire wall to the southwest, and yet it was dark and dank.

drinkfromhose-copy

I heard snippets of wistful conversations about the patina of the floors, the built-in book shelves, the brick fireplace. A luxurious and graceful mature Spider plant squatted casually at the end of the long pine mantel holding the sole bit of life in this cold room.  I wondered where it had come from, and how soon it would get to go home. Scented candles burned on windowsills, an attempt to discount the heavy, throat closing aura of mold, damp, and viscous stillness. I stepped back into the wordless part of my brain, seeking direction.

Being careful not to touch anything inside the house seemed paramount. Unclear on why we were here, I stepped outside, to get a breath, to get some perspective. There were several couples out in the trees, one man looked back at the house, gesturing his amazing ideas, imagining an HGTV dream of reclamation and redemption. “The roots of this loss are everywhere,” I wanted to shout to them, “The pain is too much, let the trees take care of it, they know how.”

Standing outside on the pieces of slate that had been a patio, I regained my senses and noted the floating rungs of a wooden staircase leading precariously up to the nearly flat roof of the living room.  It had no supports, nothing linked it to ground. “He must have visited Loretto Chapel,” I thought, remembering the church in Santa Fe with Ripley’s credentials and a spiral staircase that curls to the balcony totally without support.  The story goes; it was built for the nuns to sing in the balcony by none other than who else: an itinerant carpenter.

This lesser accomplishment had been marked off limits by an insignificant strip of yellow Caution tape.  It had been tied there and pulled off by some light-footed optimist.  All at once I realized, “This is a New Mexico house.” The large open rooms, a kitchen only as big as it has to be, windows that look out on open space, and a stairway to the roof for star viewing. Is this some of what he brought back from Los Alamos?  Having lived in New Mexico and its opposite, New York, it seemed obvious.

“Yes,” I thought. “I miss that too.”

Wanting to complete the journey ASAP, we galloped through the empty rooms, newly painted and unoccupied.  The biggest bedroom had a beautiful window, seemed a nice place to watch the snow fall from bed. The closet held nothing except a week’s worth of professionally ironed dress shirts. The office was murky; the presence of briefcase and folders was unexpected and confusing. I barely crossed the threshold, and didn’t linger. I imagined the unconscious occupant moving quickly between the three necessary rooms, office, bedroom and kitchen. He would keep close to the wall, avoiding a look into the living room, and then, with a quick sprint, out the door. I wondered where they had stashed the furniture and how anyone could stay here, even temporarily.

It was a quick tour, it was just too much to stand in for very long. I had renewed gratitude for my cozy home, and my physical ability to stand in the sun. Back in the car, we returned to our reality and decided upon our dog walk trail “de Jour.”  We would walk on the track bed turned bicycle path, starting from the Lock 7 on the Mohawk and going south along the river. It was a bit farther than we needed to drive, but walking by water is always a good idea. I hadn’t been on this part of the trail for many years.

Down the hill and across the Mohawk, the dogs in the back seat were ecstatic.

Our old Toyota, still sporting New Mexico tags turned left to River Road skirting the vast riverfront property that is Knolls Atomic Laboratory. I remembered then, the short biography about the scientist who came home from Los Alamos after the war and settled here to work the rest of his life at Knolls. As we entered the roundabout by KAPL I realized our mission.

rauschenburg

Buffalo II, 1964 Rauschenburg, Robert

We parked the car, the dogs sprinted up the incline. Once reached, the path was straight flat and continued endlessly out of view.  We walked past ice covered ponds, water roaring through rusty culverts, and  frosted vegetable fields, harvested this time of year by the hungry wild things.  We walked 2 miles south heading towards Vischer Ferry, where just around the corner, water from upstate New York hills flowed into the Mohawk River, and onto the deep moving currents of the sea-bound Hudson.

I had just read a book about the old Celtic thoughts on the specific attributes of trees.  They are all unique in their attributes and abilities to be used for medicine and hold the integrity of the land. As we walked they waved, the birches, the alders and especially the water soaked Willows.  We were walking with the current, “in the flow.” We reached a small building at a beautiful curve of the river and took stock of our place and time. It was after 4 when we decided to turn back to the car. The going back was harder, the day was colder and even the pup was dragging when we finally saw the poles that marked the parking lot. It was a full day.

I am reminded this day in February that research and inquiry go in both directions. I watched a TED talk this week from an impassioned Astro Archeologist.  She finds the relics of human past from satellite images worked with algorithms.  Her contention is that we have awareness of only a 1/1000 of a single percentage of human experience that rests hidden from view under our feet. “It is time to turn the pyramids upside down…” she said. From the heavens, they look for the very subtle impressions in the earth that indicate the map of human history (https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_parcak_help_discover_ancient_ruins_before_it_s_too_late?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread)

I took this as a personal AHA! Moment.  There was something about that image of looking at our planet, our lives, our past, from an “other side of the atmosphere” point of view. It cleared my myopia and I laughed out loud. No need to wonder if those folks we choose to “research” or remember aren’t peering right back at us with equal interest. Do relationships and interactions transcend physicality?  Of course they do. I write these words and I hear the deep chuckle, “If only you knew, if only you know.”

Arrien, Angeles, 2007, The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom, audio

Parcak, Sarah, https://www.globalxplorer.org)/

Three Flags by Jasper Johns, 1958, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Buffalo II Rauschenberg, Robert, 1964

Let Yourself Grow!

Winter Landscape at Sunset

antonsnow

Winter Landscape at Sunset, Anton Mauve (Dutch,  c.1885-87.)

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”

— Albert Einstein

This week in mid December the thermometer at the wide window of my western exposure has reported -7 to 44F. Standing close to the fire in the woodstove, I watched the “outside life” slide slowly into the quiet whispers of winter. In just a few hours, the last leaves caught in the wire fence, tufts of emerald green grass, and stiff stalks of Kale disappeared beneath brilliant white snow edged in hard grey ice. The sky darkened, the wind blew. The Poplar communities huddled together, the white Birches leaned and dipped, carrying pencil thin snow loads in silence, until wind or sun relieved them of the burden.

The spare plainness of organic form on light, black branches on white snow, wiped away any subtlety or shading. The four elements of life shouted out their truth; the earth is quiet, the water still, time in the light is short! Sporting illusions are meant for gentler, longer days. Epiphanies come fast and furious in this stark landscape. Ice isn’t gentle, and cold has no conscience.

We are not separate from what we like to call “Nature.” Bring on your fancy down jacket, and the heat tape, we are that which we call Nature, and she is us. Skate if you wish across frozen natural truths, you will eventually come home to the thin ice of Earth born mortality.

I have already accepted the mantra:

Whatever works for a tree, works for me.

edvardmunch1915winterlandscape

Winter Landscape, Edvard Munch 1915

These are my gentle alignments that come to pass on a quiet walk in the overgrown backfield on a snowy December afternoon. The frosty air clears my sinuses. I watch as the dogs push warm noses into mysterious snow mounds. They look up at me with fantastically funny white beards and a comic’s straight man face, “What? What’s so funny?” New snow is a dog’s miracle.

Extraneous thoughts drain out of my head like the watery mucus from my running nose. It’s very bright, very clear.

“A bonus!” I think.

The snow adds so much light to a dark day. I am grateful for the reflected light that fills my eyes in the days of long slow darkness. I have left my backpack full of, “I need to,” over there, leaning against the side of the barn. When words stop, senses come out of hibernation.

Stepping back, there is a crunch of boot on fresh snow. A tall elegant Truth strolls by me, donned in ice-encrusted branches with hoarfrost festoons on curled brown leaves. I follow the crooked finger with my eyes, walking across downed Goldenrod and winding grapevines to the rear tree line where I see the Dogwood relative splayed out across the fence. The still attached leaves had taken on ice and snow and the weight was too much. The cold caused brittle, the wind blew, and the graceful tree was snapped in half. In a tenuous fracture, she was broken from the weight of water and ice encasing the leaves that clung to her branches; a casualty of the natural progression of cold and wet at the entrance of winter.

Standing in the hour of sunlight of the afternoon of just pre-solstice December, it came to me. In this light it was crystal clear. It is our inability to let go of our leaves at the end of a season that causes human beings so much angst, and yes, agony. It is our inability to accept that seasons come and go, wind happens, all things have a natural ending as well as beginning. It is just all grist for the mill. To argue this changes nothing. To cling to the past is to be weakened, taken down, cracked open in the cold leveler that is winter.

I heard it clearly out there.

“Let it go already! Give it up! Move on, forgive,

 Let yourself Grow!”

The anger, the hurts, disappointments, the stuff, the sadness, let it all go. Toss it onto the great sacred compost heap of human experience. Let the leaves of past seasons become the rich indiscriminate fertilizer of collective wisdom.

Out in the field, my crunchy truthful friend spoke.

“No need to understand the whys, drop the leaves on the ground and walk away.”

 

davidgrossmanwinterdayending

Winter Day Ending David Grossman

In the past week at this Northern latitude, mountainous grey thunderclouds have tumbled across our upper landscape. It has snowed, rained, precipitated in shapes that only the far Northwest Native people would recognize as separate entities. We have been blown about by winds capable of moving massive arctic fronts across our entire continent. We have been frozen solid, thawed, wet and flooded all in the same afternoon.

These are powerful forces and yet the trees, for the most part, stand strong in the wind, despite the cold, despite the short days. All the while, in the dark ground, the roots stretch out, growing thicker and stronger, reaching out to new depths.

 

Tomorrow will be a short dark day, the next the darkest yet, the Solstice of 2016. I intend to enjoy this time. I wish you Safe passage and Much Growth this blessed Winter season.

 

Magic Beings and Other Myths

“Everything seemed possible, when I looked through they eyes of a child. 
And every once in a while; I remember, 
I still have the chance to be that wild.”
― Nikki Rowe

buildingI have a theory about travel to an unfamiliar place. Dropping unprepared into another culture is therapeutic.

When nothing is familiar and communication isn’t easy, other resources drop into place, forgotten resources. Get vulnerable and our precious procedures for being a competent adult in the world go tumbling, never to be aligned exactly in the same order again. Seems to me that on these occasions childhood wisdom comes flying out from hidden recesses.

These previously discarded possibilities are scattered about my feet like bright marbles on a wet floor. In a scramble for equilibrium, I might make a grab for this flotsam before they hit the light of day, before I have to acknowledge their existence. But here in my “adult deprivation state,” devoid of proper purpose, language and regular food, the child is faster. A single idea explodes into a 100 yellow butterflies, and I am along for the ride.

I believe in magic, I know it exists. Yes, there is a piece of bright color behind those ferns and overgrown vines in the back corner of my psyche, and right there in the center of my brain. There is a meter tall door painted in outrageous Vermillion where my inner child waits in sneakers and play clothes for an opportunity to learn about the world, from the beginning, again. This trip I have found my psyche falling back to the innocent and open part of my life when I didn’t have all the answers, but I had lots of questions.

“Why do they do that? Can I go there? Can I touch that? Why not?

What is that smell?”

Yes, this phenomenon has revealed itself this past week. I believe my inner child has been encouraged to giggle by our temporary residence in a foreign hotel with American name. “Adventure” with a safe and familiar place to snooze. I think this bears a remarkable similarity to childhood.

Everything is done for you.

 People who “have to” pick up after you; make your bed, do your laundry, fold your towels. Food is cooked for you. Sometimes you don’t like it, but you have to eat it anyway, because that’s what they have. If you are in Japan all of these tasks have an order, a ritual, a meaning. You don’t now what it is, but you can guess what it isn’t from the gentle polite corrections. Next time you do it their way.

There is written language all around you but you can only read faces.

 Directions for how to make things work, street names, ingredients in food; these require a translator, as a child requires an adult. Childhood stratagem: watch others, figure it out, and ask for help. You will make mistakes and it doesn’t matter if you are polite and willing to take instruction.

Sound familiar?

The plot of this adventure was already written when I set out to explore an area of Nagoya that doesn’t see many American tourists. There is a large Buddhist temple in the center of this community, surrounded by a warren of small shopping streets. Jerusalem-esque with a Japanese sensibility. This temple doesn’t have the esoteric rarified feel of Kyoto; it seems to be more a working person’s temple in a working person’s neighborhood.

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Cutting through an edgy neighborhood, and rounding a shabby corner, the temple gate appeared before me. The bright Vermillion and black buildings, the open square, flower offerings at quiet alters, it was all here. Without the anonymity of the hoards of tourists as in Kyoto, I was feeling exposed. I watched what others did, albeit Japanese others. Walk up the center? Or the side, bow? No bow? I had a sense of who was a “regular” and who was, like me, was coming to see a beautiful 16th century, partially reconstructed Buddhist temple, and maybe do a bit of shopping afterward.

I followed a young “hip” couple up the steep steps. I had hoped the chanting I heard was real monks at their devotions, but as I passed through the temple doorway I realized it was emanating from a 20th century loudspeaker, tucked under the intentionally scary,  protective spirit carved from wood living on the end of the exposed rafter. I entered, hesitating from the quick shift from bright sun to dim interior.

From this vantage point, I could see of the golden Buddha, the offerings of fruit on the alter, the delicate golden filigree that descended from some unknown place above. I stood for a few moments taking in the environment, saying a prayer, taking in the sensations of the smooth wood, burning incense, the chanting and the peace. I put some coins in the box. I watched as a young man reached to ring the bell, pulling on the rope as thick as my arm. I would never pull it myself, but I was happy that someone was, as it’s purpose is to call in the residing sacred being to listen to your prayers.

The man had less enthusiasm than that task required, and the bell only made a weak “Umph,” as if it had been poked in the belly while sleeping. Feeling conspicuous, I followed a petite elderly woman down the stairs and went to stand in the shade of the temple bell building.

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My intentions completed, I passed under the bright Torii gate, and turned right at the next street. Back into the mundane world, the street was mostly empty of people, being an earlier time than the shops would open. I stopped to check my position in the universe via GPS and looked up to see with some surprise what was directly in front of me.

A green space, two huge Gingko trees standing behind a gate made of thick wooden posts, a small building, just right there off the street but somehow appearing far way. I could see a light burning inside, a glow even in the morning sunlight. The sign held names carved in wood in complicated Japanese characters, edged in black, benefactors I guessed and paper prayers tied to a rack.

I realized that I was standing in front of a Shinto Shrine. I stood in front of the washing place, a rectangular concrete water holder with ladles for washing your hands before entering the sacred shrine space. The color of the moss on the rock side was beautiful emerald green. Countless times this rough rock has received the discarded water as people purified their hands, mouth, before continuing with what ever task compelled them to come to this place.

I took a picture with my phone being mindful of standing to the side, as I had read on Google. I took a picture of only the place of “pre-purification,”feeling the shrine was too intimate a space to be photographed by a stranger. The sign, strangely in both Japanese and English told of the entities “enshrined” here for over 800 years; three Goddesses and an ancient Emperor. I don’t know how long I stood there. It was peaceful.

Over my shoulder I heard, spoken in English, heavily accented with soft Japanese,

“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”

Turning I saw an elderly gentleman with an umbrella.

“Of course! “ I said. He tilted his head and walked over to me.

“Why do white people, Americans, like to see our shrines?   Why do you want to see them? What do they mean to you?”

waterplace

I told him about being in a busy city all week and finding the quiet, the peacefulness, and the beauty of these places. We talked about our trip to Kyoto, and their trip to Monument Valley in Utah where he went on a tour in a dusty dry April. We talked about animism and the Shinto love of nature as divinity. We talked about belief systems that are shared across the world.

He told me about the shrine and the temple his family has supported for generations, the festivals where their three generations of men and women do rituals to sustain those places. He said they hold both Shinto, native to Japan, and Buddhism that came later. These kept his family and his life….”Good.” We tried to find words in common for vast concepts and succeeded in finding connection. He said, “I haven’t spoken English in a long time, it takes time to find the words, but it is good to do this….”

It was then that I remembered the stone under my feet and the sun on my face, it was time to take leave. We exchanged emails, his being the date of the Equinox in 2009, he suggested we should go visit Nara next time; I would like it very much. His family lived to the south, he mentioned the station stops they would make, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara then home. He asked again,

“Why do you like these places? What do they mean to you?”

I was around the corner and down a bit before I realized the question and understood the magic of meeting an English speaking, learned Buddhist elder with a life-long process of ritual and belief, standing before a shrine, in a nearly closed shopping area in Nagoya Japan, on a Thursday. Only because I was in a child-like state: open and learning did I fulfill my part of the process.

It has been 22 years since I have experienced that method of enquiry; and it took some time to find the experience he referenced, because that’s how it works. I had a painting teacher from Okinawa, a very fine mentor for a Fine Arts degree and a “being true to self” degree. He told us, “Make a mess! Try it out! Take chances!” He never lectured, he only asked questions, in English heavily accented with soft Japanese.

I was young then, just 40, it took a very long time to allow myself to take risks and seek a higher creativity. It took a long time to understand that he wasn’t at all curious about the answers; he wanted me to ask them OF myself.

“Do you like that? Is this a good painting? Are you done with it?”

And I heard again:

“Why do you like these places? Why do you come to see them?”

I know the answer now:

Because sometimes the sacred beings come out as humans and speak to those who ask questions.

Because there is magic in the world.

All photos Carol Martell Nagoya 2016
Nikki Rowe Website
Http://www.goodreads.com/nikkirowe, Www.nikkijadecreations.com

The Really Big Dreamer

The imagination is not a state, it is the human existence itself. -William Blake

On a sunny Florida day in February our ‘round the corner neighbor erected a 10-feet tall wooden cross on their pocket sized front lawn. The towering rood mocked the cheerful “Alleluia” of pink plastic tulips lining church parking lot across Nokomis Avenue. Heavy beams tilted at an angle suggesting the bearing of weight. Red paint smeared and dripped from the bent spikes and onto the lawn. The assemblage was illuminated 24/7 against the dark southern spring evening with red rope lights. This was a serious installation, scaled to intimidate the passersby onto a one-way track of strong emotions: Fear Submission Repentance Anger Intolerance, they are all human flavors. What was missing was “Grace.”

killscreendaily.com killscreendaily.com

When I first saw it standing right there in my temporary ‘hood, a chill of fear washed through my body. “That’s no way to get people to love each other,” I grumbled to myself, wiping sweaty palms on Khaki shorts. I felt bullied. There was more going on than a rapid heart and manipulated anxiety. A wordless wave of recognition swept through in my inner landscape. The first psyche searchers returned  with only garbled bits and thought fragments.

“I have forgotten something important, was it a memory? Was it a task?

No, it was a dream. The far seeing elves of Onus and Obligation were dispatched immediately to the misty corners of my right brain. They mined memories, poked the unprocessed, systematically uncompiling countless bits of dream imagery. Unearthed bushel baskets of half processed emotions stood before soggy cartons of unfinished business.

In this well-guarded corner of my psyche they exposed a dream box marked:

Really Big Dream”.

It was there, on a dusty shelf, towards the back of an unconscious cave labeled:

             “Probably Shouldn’t.”

As it came back into the light, I remembered the dream in Technicolor detail. It was a vision really, and we all have them. The revelation caused a small explosion of nervous sweat that gathered about the hairline at the back of my neck. By this time the alarms had sounded in my stodgy, conscientious, yet cautious left-brain. Verbal abilities coming back on line, this regulator of reason announced, “Your revelation could be another’s blaspheme! “

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/blake-the-night-of-enitharmons-joy-formerly-called-hecate-n05056 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/blake-the-night-of-enitharmons-joy-formerly-called-hecate-n05056

A far distant ancestor unfurled her flag from my DNA to remind, to warn, to encourage. She had such a dream as this one in a far away time. Its beauty was trussed up with stout cord to the memory of toasty toes and the smell of burnt hair. But a dream unspoken is only half dreamt.

In my dream I walked down an empty dirt road and came upon Jesus Christ on the cross. In my dream, he looked exactly like a million crucifixes I have seen; blood, thorns, mutilation, agony, disappointment, pain

… until he looked up with a most beatific smile and said,

 If you take me down and put me back on the ground again we could get something done!”

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/93/a9/c5/93a9c5349eda3e21c43b9d78747dfda1.jpg https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/93/a9/c5/93a9c5349eda3e21c43b9d78747dfda1.jpg

It was a scene plucked right out of Wizard of Oz.

I recall the sensation of illumination; the divine being was rummaging around in my psyche for just the right memory and experience to keep me from ejecting myself out of this modern day Passion Play. Even when the iconic image is deeply embedded in our physical experience and collective mind, there are actions that must come from mortal hands. We must participate; we must step forward in support of divine causes.

So I did. I helped him down off that instrument of torture and he stood beaming with joy, his feet once again on Mother Earth. The rest of the dream was a colorful expression of love and exquisite beauty in all manner of things. Hate, separation, sadness, cruelty all receded like a storm tide: no longer needed.

The high Winds of human conflict and injustice were replaced with gentle waves of acceptance of our ignorance, the offering of wisdom, and endless boundless compassion. Compassion for our lack of evolution, compassion for our wounds. Compassion for our fear. It was beautiful. It was Peaceful. There was no fear.

It was a dream.

In dreamtime, all thoughts are acceptable and miracles are within reach. It’s when the dream drops into the circumspect atmosphere of my “self-conscious” conscious that the bonfire of potentiality is extinguished.

I suppose it is my humanity that shuts down this unreasonable magnificence. Communing with Divinities, and experiencing “Really Big Dreams” must be trimmed to a more manageable size.

There were no rules, no judgments about my worthiness.

It was a dream.

After all, who am I to question 2000 years of belief and dogma intended to explain why we aren’t all personally responsible for creating a loving and just world in this magnificent magical world?

Am I to imagine that I can report,

“We have all been fearfully frozen long enough! Let’s get back to he business of loving and learning see what we really have “under the hood!”

The possibility and potency of this high-octane dream was quite overwhelming. I wrote it down and put it away, for a year, and then another. The first year I was in a transitional place. My parents were now gone from this life, but there was still childhood furniture in my psyche. Rocking the Religion boat felt risky. It has been yet another year and the dream remains untold.

A dream unspoken is only half dreamt.

This dream was about love and acceptance, peace on earth, honoring and acknowledging a divine being. Not so controversial, but I still put it away. Is it easier to express negativity, like a bloody cross, than love and compassion?


    This is the Wizard of Oz paradox.

Hope and pray for something extraordinary.

Receive that gift, (wisher beware: true change is like getting a puppy)

Immediately upon receiving your prayer/wish we then deny its beauty and holler to go home where it’s “safe.”

And all that we, “Send me over the rainbow type” folks, actually require for our safety and sanity in this new reality is a bucket of water, and a wish.

    You will have to figure that one out yourself.


Found on ngv.vic.gov.auFound on ngv.vic.gov.au
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/7d/3c/7f/7d3c7fa0245da4f11e794840f243b67b.jpg https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/7d/3c/7f/7d3c7fa0245da4f11e794840f243b67b.jpg

What if Christ, Allah, Buddha are all walking around somewhere? Or everywhere? Or even… together? What if they ARE that child, that old man, that smelly street person?

And wait, where’s the divine women? With rare exception on this planet it requires male and female. Her voice is here, can you hear it?

I can’t imagine that our best shot at peace, beauty, and love was 1000s of years ago.

“Keep your eyes peeled” we used to say, they must be here someplace.

William Blake Biography

 Born: November 28, 1757
London, England
Died: August 12, 1827
London, England

English poet, engraver, and painter

Read more: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Be-Br/Blake-William.html#ixzz3ojtUhTdv

http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/

http://www.philipcoppens.com/blake.html

I Am Sure

http://c300221.r21.cf1.rackcdn.com/michelangelo-the-delphic-sibyl-c-1509-fresco-1349572131_org.jpg
http://c300221.r21.cf1.rackcdn.com/michelangelo-the-delphic-sibyl-c-1509-fresco-1349572131_org.jpg

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 is used for entertainment? I was enraged that images of such horror create fear that is 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. 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.

“CriminalMinds” 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 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.

Believe in yourself and deny the bête noire his nightly meal of innocence.

The planets aligned, the earth shook and we all returned to center by gazing into our iPhone faces. Flood and 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 how far we have come down this path. Our constant connection to “electronic senses” mainlines a relentless stimuli of anger, fear, sorrow and “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 to change everything.

The Goddess Showed Up Today

http://jungcurrents.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Norse-arthur-rackham-odin.jpg

Arthur Rackham

The Goddess showed up today in an Empress gown, as did the ecstatic Fool, and the Devil with his beguiling face. The Motley crew of truth rode in on their magnificent horses; Fearless, Freedom and Fun. The trio showed up in full form, squeezing themselves into our tiny nomadic living room through a doorway half their size.

Power of Horse and Archetype permeated the narrow living space so completely that there was no breath to breathe, but their own. They stood heaving their barrel chests, lungs pushing ribs in a rasping pant. Sweaty withers twitched, frothy from their swift charge across rolling green hills and shadowy deep valleys of my still mysterious unconscious. I was there, but unaware. I remained bent over the photos on an ipad, lost in my own soliloquy. I didn’t note their grand entrance or the ringing in my ear.

I was there, but unaware.

Scraping hooves laid deep grooves in the thin linoleum. Nostrils the size of my fist, billowed steamy breath rising to the ceiling. Their collective prana gathered into swirling black thunderheads that roared their own mission through the small, unheated space. Fueled by infinite possibility, the clouds towered upward, ricocheting off the low ceiling, condensing against the cold windows. Mist from the breath of hallucinations purified the atmosphere of worry with sacred rain.

I was there but unaware.  

While our heroes stomped impatient frustration, I remained hunkered down on the small polyester clad dinette. My shoulders bent by the weight of “What if, is it possible, and maybe we shouldn’t”. Trying to create the future without dreaming it first is a wrench. I was there but unaware.

Le Char d'Apollon (Chariot of Apollo), ca. 1910

Le Char d’Apollon (Chariot of Apollo), ca. 1910

Fearless, being the closest, leaned forward with the Devil of Humanness on his back. He stretched his bony finger at a spot between my eyebrows. Water ran down his hand, dripping on my computer.

“Move on!” He bellowed. The words rang with crystal clarity, banging a direct hit on the closed door of my solar plexus. The phrase from Sondheim’s song, finally heard and understood. “The choice may be mistaken, the choosing is not!”

“Move On!!” they roared.

“The door is open, the dirt is dark, so go already!”

I remembered the mission, finally linking action with intention. The blessed Aha! Moment. Is it Illumination or illusion? Some might question my counsel. I would not. They have led me too many times in and out of dark pathless places to doubt their motives. An Archetype’s only agenda is truth.

I am here and I am listening.

Call in the Valkyries

womaninwavesFor two days it had been blue grey drizzle, punctuated by periodic deluges that slapped at the windows, sending the dogs under the table. The unexpected monsoon shook loose the dead leaves from my live oak and washed them across the lawn into rusty mounds. My potted tomatoes split across their plump half ripe bellies, unable to refuse more water than they could hold.

Without appointments on these days, this discerning being chose to “hole” up at home. I donned socks, curled in a chair, and attended to my extraordinarily patient paperwork. I created dreams of a tidy weather tight home in the North; smugly green and beautiful in it’s efficiency. Our home would be steadfast beacon of comfortable living with minimal planetary impact.

I am allowed the luxury of imagined living in “other places” by virtue of my big brain human-being status. This, and the prevailing postulate of my species: Humans have the right to dominate over all other life forms. This philosophy allows great latitude in our dealings with all other nonhuman cohabitants of the planet, and it’s so convenient! Omnipotence feels great as long as one hums loud enough to drown out everything but ourselves.

do·min·ion noun

sovereignty; control.

“man’s attempt to establish dominion over nature”

supremacyascendancydominancedominationsuperiority,predominancepreeminencehegemonyauthoritymasterycontrol,commandpowerswayrulegovernmentjurisdictionsovereignty,

“at the time the Spartans had dominion over Athens”         (Vocabulary.com)

It was still early, we found only two cars at the beach lot. A deserted beach was surprising on this bright morning in February, at the apex of the Southern Emigration season. It was snowing heavArthur Rackhamily for the second day in the Northern tundra. On this day in southwestern Florida, the sky was an exquisitely clear robin’s egg blue. The southeast winds pushed hard across the face of the Gulf. The waveforms pulsed endlessly, rhythmic heartbeats of a restless goddess radiating throughout her domain. Amphitrite doesn’t miss anything in this; her personal providence. It may be frozen someplace else, but the blood is flowing here, pounding really; pounding in our ears.

I felt it, even before I saw the refuse. I felt the moan under the waves and the scream in the wind. The water was milky, churned up and opaque. The wind didn’t create this howl; the wind was mourning the losses.

Offshore the sand dredger stood anchored above their next prey. Working day and night for weeks, they had plunged the impossibly huge mouth of the vacuum into the belly of the Gulf. Grabbing all, suffocating all, moving the sand with the empathy of a Giant’s foot on an anthill. It was pumped up to plump up the pricey beachfront that had of late, looked wan and gangly. The hanging roots of the beach grass lay exposed to the sun. The dune barely stood; sliced open by wave and wind.

Seize-The-Despoiler-Rescue-The-Gold-Help-Us-Help-Us-Woe-Woe,-Illustration-From-The-Rhinegold-And-The-Valkyrie,-1910The expensive condos at the legal edge of the dune are winter home to beings with ownership sensibilities and the “wherewithal” to protect their investment. The privilege of living close to a barrier beach had not taught them to see. These condo folk have “dominion,” and a pretty short life span. What chance do a millions mollusks and a some unconscious crustaceans have in the face of such obvious entitlement?

As long as “gravity” holds out on this planet, sand and water will ebb and flow, swirl and sway. They are in perpetual dance; forever and for all time. It’s a perpetual call and response with these two, the mediums of elemental architects.

Form + energy /time=natural forms

We walked amidst deep piles of small shells, small mountains of amorphic sponges drying in the wind, a sea cucumber, even a dead raccoon lay eyeless and rolling at the edge of the angry waves. A red sand dollar just recently alive in a nearby aquatic suburb lay drawn and quartered across the sand. The red color suggested the color of blood. Insinuating, if only in my soul; what if this was a human body? What if we were ripped from our comfy chairs and supermarket parking lots and sprayed out into the universe for some “higher purpose?” Suddenly this clear windy day at the edge of the sea became an apocalypse.

valkyries

On this day, life at the edge of the sea was about domination, disrespect and death. This wasn’t a hunt for lunch, protection of young, or survival. What gives us the right to destroy so much?

Call for the Valkyries, there be heroes here. Although not human ones. Valkyries are the mythic women who carry swords they never use, who chose the heroes that will die in the man-made battles, women who scoop up those that will live forever. They are the place where good and evil are not clearly distinguishable, they are the same.

Bring them to Valhalla; it’s not safe here

All artwork by Arthur Rackham (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Rackham)

 All artwork by Arthur Rackham Images from http://www.1st-art-gallery.com
Born 19 September 1867
LewishamKent, England
Died 6 September 1939 (aged 71)
LimpsfieldSurrey, England
Nationality English
Known for Children’s literature

The Journey

sunset

The Journey

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,

 though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,

 though the whole house began to tremble

and you felt the old tug at your ankles.

“Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,

though their melancholy was terrible.

 It was already late enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

 But little by little, as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,

 and there was a new voice

which you slowly recognized as your own,

 that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do,

determined to save the only life you could save. 

                                                Mary Oliver

 

I found this poem again today amidst the flotsam that is my cache of Resource Files. Under that name, I save bits of sacredness according to me, in image and words. Usually relevant to a specific time or place; some feel like lifeboats in a rough sea.

I looked into these files today looking for a landmark or lighthouse to find a path through these foggy times.

We have said goodbye to three parents, one per year and just when it seemed we were done, my Stepmother has died quietly this week. She exited this life unexpectedly and without witness of any of those whose lives were so altered with her entrance.

I was a sophomore in High School when my parent’s expectation of “until death do you part” fell to more modern moirés.  The explosion of divorces that rolled in with the 1970’s took most by surprise; our family was no exception.

It took a decade or so, but I did eventually recognize there was no “wicked stepmother” here.  She was pleasant and pretty, and anxious to please… please our father anyway. Theirs was a loving relationship steeped in a small town world and strict Baptist beliefs. It was a relationship that didn’t have enough space for everyone.wreath

Had another searcher gathered them, my Resource Files would have a physical dimension. This poem might be hand copied, lay in a file folder, held with a paper clip, topped with a post-it note inscribed with the date and source. The precise lines of the yellow legal pad would be ignored completely by the scrawling familiar hand.  The words would turn to cover even the vertical margin spaces.

In another time, these unfermented ideas and inspirations might be shoved into a thick book; tactile and heavy, holding faint odors of dark closets and seldom used hats. The words on the page tightly pressed to their brethren, waiting to be read again someday, by those who would find them, at just the right time.

But this is my life. It is 2014 and my inspirations are stored in a tidy, imagined file box named Apollo who lives in the upper right corner of my sleek silver MAC, a hand me down from the professional computer cowboy in the next room.

The thoughts on paper pages and the emotions expressed there no longer exist except in the liminal space between generations. The space, which right now, feels like the tiny breadth between the living and the dead. It is the map-less uncharted space that prompts this search through my files from the past. I am looking for reminders from my elders-like this poem, to understand how long “limbo” lasts.

For the uninitiated:

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.

During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt.[4] The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.[5] The term has also passed into popular usage, where it is applied much more broadly, undermining its significance to some extent.[6]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality)

 oceanrainbow

And we thought our sense of threshold was unique and personal?

As student of ritual, I am in the whirlpool, the paradox.  I am in the stillness, at the threshold, transitioning to my new status.

I will not be bringing the deep pains of the past with me.  Neither will the old fears fit in our new space.

We do however thank you all for the inspiration, the support and the love.

We will keep that in a safe place.  Blessings and Safe Journeys to all that travel.