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.

Solstice Soul

IMG_4260I haven’t written very much this year. Today I am challenging myself on this point.   Writing is contemplative, painting is contemplative.  I have so few creative products to remember this year.  Have I lived an “unexamined year??”

Here at the last hours of the solar year called 2019, I am contemplating how quickly we have arrived at 2020. And once again Mary Oliver’s words spin around in my head. She died this year in January.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Think of how many people have read this and taken it to heart?

Revisiting my personal 2019 via electronic notes and images, I can review the “doing and undoing,” putting together and dismantling, that is the standard for most built on a biological platform.

I practice this type of shamanic dismemberment as a life skill, it is my soul’s work this time around.  This year I have enjoyed travel to unexplored places in my mind, and meditations from different parts of the world, in different parts of the world.

I have rummaged around in my cryptic sometimes illegible journals, scanned my anecdotal narratives from desktop folders with quirky names like:

“Things that go bump” or “If I could say anything.”

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 These are the seeds of writings that haven’t germinated, yet. There is time, or there isn’t?.  No need to be concerned, it will sort itself out. In the spirit of those “end of year” reviews, I am offering some images that have brought me the most joy.

Events that bring anything else will be jettisoned shortly.

I hope you will take a few moments, or a day! to remember your heart expanding events of this year. Reach into the memory. Write it down. Harvest what you have sown this year.

And for those hard sad, disappointing times, write these too.  Write them in detail, letting the emotions of each bubble up and finally be exhaled.  Allow the emotions to get out of your body in whatever bodily function that suites.

When you are done, keep the list that you would like to manifest next year,

and shred or better yet-burn the other.

It has been a rich year. I am grateful for my freedom from hunger, illness and poverty. I am grateful for my family and friends who love and support us.  My intentions for next year?

More space for love, less attention to convention. May the Wild woman roost in my comfy chair permanently.

May we make a peaceful world in this lifetime.   Thank you for reading yet again.

Solstice is deep within and dark without

Sit quietly, let it work on you

Circles of Life

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The steel gray clouds deepened in response to the waning December sun. Splats of icy rain fell on the 624 pale green acres of Arlington National Cemetery.  Marble monuments stood, a silent foil for the prattle and posturing of Washington DC, just across the Potomac. On December 15, 2018, the supporters of a project called “Wreaths Across America” appeared at the edges of Arlington National Cemetery throughout the day to lay wreaths, to pay respects, to remember and remind that we are all related.

Many people, thousands of people, their numbers estimated between 44,000-57,000 came out in a cold rain to lay circles of Maine Balsam against the smooth cold marble of a quarter million head stones. There it is; the painful irony: the circle of life, in winter resistant evergreen, tied with a bright red bow leaning on the finality of death in carved marble.

Two young women had heard the request for volunteers to lay wreaths on all the graves at Arlington. The National Cemetery is part of their “hood,” an unexpected swath of green amidst shiny high rise buildings and the multi lanes of the 395 corridor. They had come in an UBER from the apartment just 6 miles away to a drop off point at the edge of the access road.

They and the thousands of others trudged in on foot, a fitting way to honor a soldier. They waited an hour or so to reach the back of the tractor trailers holding fresh green wreaths of Maine Balsam. As they waited, they watched, and they felt. The instructions given were simple: choose any stone, and say the name of the person engraved there out loud and lay the wreath. Looking out over the sea of white stones, more than 400,000, is it possible to understand the enormity of the loss?

But in communion with one stone, one name, the abstract became concrete, imagined heroes became flesh and blood, soul and spirit. They stood and watched as those around them completed this ritual. Life is never more real than when it is hedged by death.

The temporal imperatives of urban DC were rinsed away by the mid December rain. The heavy drops beat cadence on umbrellas and plastic ponchos. Rivulets of water ran in the faces of those focused on the task of acknowledging heartbreak and hardship. The women watched the others.  Military men and women in uniform came to a fallen friend, an elderly Mother pushed her walker awkwardly down the row, children in their best Christmas outfits standing quietly beside bent elders; these were quilted together on this grey day by the far away wail of a bagpipe. The vignettes were endless.

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Soon enough they had their wreaths and they found themselves standing amongst the graves of soldiers. In the dates and the names they found tiny pieces of story; those who died young, those who died in action, those that died of their injuries years later, and many that died after a lifetime of carrying traumatic memory that most of us will never experience, they were all there.

Spouses are here too, their names engraved on the back of the stone as if to “lean in” on each other when the going got hard. Entwined lives that began with crisp starched collars, sharp creases, pride and courage ending as all humanness does; ashes to ashes dust to dust. Marble is hard, cold and unforgiving. It’s chiseled meaning will hold strong in this place for a very long time.

So, what happens when you add a wreath? What happens when 44,000 or so living humans offer compassion and gratitude to hundreds of thousands of warriors?

The women told this story. She walked amongst the rows with the first wreath and came to him quickly.  He had died very young in the 1970’s. Saying his name, she felt gratitude for his service and told him without words that he is remembered.  She continued to walk, taking in the names, the people, feeling the strength of her own emotions.  She walked until she found a family name engraved in marble. The name of her great great grandmother’s family of ten children who wandered across the US across 5 generations.

Knowing that he was of our tribe was enough.  She said his name, offered gratitude and took a picture of his grave and that of his wife of many years. The picture that she sent me opened a door of beautiful possibility.  His beloved wife was born on the birthdate of the woman’s great grandmother and died on the birthdate of her grandchild. His name was Evan, hers was Eva.  Sounds like family to me

So, I ask again, “What happens when 44,000 or so living humans offer compassion and gratitude to those who have died?”

Some might say what’s the purpose in this kind of enquiry? What’s the purpose in imagining that we could even guess at that answer? The purpose is central to what propelled 44,000 people out of their armchairs and Christmas shopping frenzy to serve the needs of those that will never say thank you.

I think they hear us and I believe it helps us all.

May we seek peace.

https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

 

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/

Choose Your Resources Wisely

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

“You came to the right place,”

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

We are always in the right place,”

The young woman spoke fervently, passionately. Her words caught on the wind, tumbling across the top of the water. Her arm movements animated her story and the old women with the wrinkles smiled a quiet smile. We passed unseen.

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

 “Be brave! Be strong! Live! Live!”

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

“Look at the sea, She lives there,

and She knows how it works,”

was my silent reassurance.

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

“I am ready now

I am ready now Baby”

March 19, 2018

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

Godspeed!

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

 

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

Photos: Carol Martell, Honeymoon State Park, Dunedin Florida

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

 

Autumn

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

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

Madonna, child, and a cat

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come in, Come in please!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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.

osu2

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.

sideshrine

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

Death is Generous

Life has Always Been Temporary
chagallmarcFigurinesurgrandsocle

Chagall, Marc La Danse 1967

We weren’t surprised by the early morning email announcing her passing on a cold gray day in northern New Jersey. She was the last survivor of six Elders from the port side of our ship of life.

Although I shared no DNA with this woman, she was woven into my life tapestry through marriage and the golden threads of shared family. The depth of our response, was at first as imperceptible as a minor tremor in an area not prone to earthquakes; it was unexpectedly shaking. We knew how deeply the actions of others and the echoes of choices had impacted these lives. We heard the small whisper in each of our ears, “Family,” it said to me. My partner heard something private, and imperative. We pulled the winter wear out of Florida storage, to bring the only thing we had to give; ourselves.

I had met her only several times. A tiny woman with brilliant smile, her personality radiated literally without boundaries. She was legendary in her ability to bestow friendship on anyone and everyone within reach of her voice, her arms, her heart. With my limited personal experience I am unclear if she was the honeybee, or the flower. I would guess probably both. She lived some hard, soul breaking times. These may have been written on her heart but not on her face. Those that earned the WWII survivorship have a different understanding of fear, heartbreak, courage.

Death is generous
Life has always been temporary

She died smiling in her 97th winter. Her soul mate had gone on ahead. Her mind, compromised by the faulty pathways of Alzheimers had been a mystery to her family for many months. She had floated on the wings of “nearly here,” held and protected by loving hands. There were no “if only” or “what ifs” left in her life. Even those left to cry knew there was no more to be squeezed out of her lifetime.

blueViolinist

Chagall, Marc Blue Violinist 1947

When a well-loved woman passes smiling in her 97th year, there is reason to celebrate. Her family knew who she was and what she wanted, they requested joy to attend her ceremony and joy appeared. It was my rare experience that day to witness a family in evolution. Three generations attended their personal emanations, all holographs of a single life: mother, grandmother, great grandmother, stepmother, aunt, friend.

They attended her physical passing of soul to spirit by sharing her story and wearing her smile. Around the table, old friends and youthful faces talked story. Her story, as they knew it to be. They reached back into baskets of memory to bring forth a perfect rose of a tale, gifting everyone with their treasure.

Neighbors, friends, family human and canine sat in this spell, cast by those we couldn’t see. For those of us with less “skin in the game” it was clear; the living folk were only the first tier, layers of generations, ancestors, friends, even beloved pets came to dance her home. Their names studded the conversations like a 4th grade roll call. Speak their name in story, and you will be shortly sharing a chair.

Death is Generous

Life has always been temporary

What is it about that space? What is the pristine clarity of the territory surrounding graduation from soul to spirit? When we of different realms can still touch each other, unsolvable problems melt like a March snowman. Insurmountable issues fall away, the unforgivable is swept out like so many dead leaves cleared off the unused patio. When the door into the next world opens, we all get to breathe deeper and sing louder. For a time.

In the dissolution of houses and estates, lies the absolute liquidation of worry and expectations. Common elements are rejoined in a new way; wiping away hurts, demanding that walls come down-forever. As lava slides down the mountain in Hawaii consuming all in her path, so it is with death. It’s hard to connect with pain that no longer exists, nearly impossible to link with that which has been healed.

As long as the food trays and the friends hold out, we all get to stand outside the material world. Yes we stand, plate in hand, fielding raw emotions that run free on wild horses. Emotions too long harnessed by distance, therapies, drugs and leaking body fluids, emotions that surface in a moment. Emotions that will continue to show themselves unexpectedly across another lifetime; our own.

Right now we can enjoy the euphoria. It precedes the dark windy place that is profound sadness. The lonely thin trail on the high windy ridge that is grieving. No need to look for this, it will find you.

Death is generous

Life has always been temporary

Found on indulgy.com

Chagall, Marc Heavenly Dream 1967

What is the “grace” of death? What is the music playing just down the hall and just beyond our ability to hear? When we silence our lives and turn our faces to a soul in transition do we too move closer to transcendence? In the presence of death we are kinder, wiser, more forgiving. We speak more carefully, as if suddenly aware of our words and their impact. Habitual motives of self-protection and separateness stand out in the sharp delineation like a cardinal on the snow. Suddenly it seems, there is another choice.

I wonder if the great angelic beings that come to lead us home sprinkle some “Dust of the Divine” about? Or is our loved one is standing right there and we are, as children are being “the best we can be?” Whatever the mechanics of the situation, I believe this is a huge opportunity to dip your toe into bliss.

If it’s possible to put all aside, to listen more deeply, feel more open, show more love, because someone is gone from this life?

“Why would we do anything less, anytime?”

 

To Molly- Thank you for letting me share your family, may your smile warm them always, may your dance give them joy

 

CHAGALL Marc,

LA DANSE, Sotheby’s, London

http://www.artvalue.com

Blue Violinist 1947 ackermansfineart.com

Heavenly Dream 1967  Found on indulgy.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

The Trust

I looked for this today. It was a file, named The Trust,” waiting patiently on my virtual desktop.  Good thing it’s virtual. The location of the laptop where it lives has been as mutable and mercurial as the air sign of Gemini in a stiff wind. These past weeks I have been in constant interaction with the concrete and friendly entity known as my Dad’s Trust. While some might regard this legacy to be an untouchable resource, I take my lead from Dolly Levi.

Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow. “

We have been doing a LOT of encouraging around here.

I wonder if the abrupt movement of “saved to spent” has been the origin of my recent dreams? In this week’s highlights, I saw Dad etherically ease dropping on a “not so quiet” gathering of his four daughters. Sitting silently, forearms on thighs, he cleared his fingernails with a small penknife. He listened, nodding occasionally; he smiled some, and sighed more.

It was a 3D dream space where we acted out thoughts and stifled emotions while simultaneously witnessing the event. Behind closed eyes in the early morning I reviewed the dream; it seemed like a Psychodrama gone Schizoid. I think maybe it is just my Spirit remembering the task of my life is to live it as no one else can.

But that’s the end of the story this is the beginning.

The Trust” and so it goes:

“Today is June 13 2014.

I am in Flying Star, (pricey coffee house in Santa Fe) reading the packet from Marilyn, trusty Trustee from The Bank. I crawl through the pages, not comprehending the details, but discerning the worry for the future in the “cover every contingency” investment strategy. I can feel him pouring over the Wall Street Journal, stock analysis, and last year’s numbers. Pages of numbers in columns, pie charts and percents all described in unemotional numbers; the reason and residue of my Dad’s life work. Inside this package there is love, there is pride, there is intellectual fun I think, I hope; I think he really enjoyed the game. “

“I can imagine he puts these questions into prayers and asks for guidance because that’s who he is in this life.

I see him lost in thought, concentrating, an unseeing gaze out a long frozen window. In the quiet of his upstairs office room he sits at the giant oak desk, its finish rubbed silky smooth from his flannel shirted elbows. He is there, leaning into see the numbers on the monitor when he learned the mysteries and miracles of the Internet. He removes his glasses, cleans the lens, rubs the sore places on his nose where the too tight glasses rest and digests what he has seen on the screen.”

“We can recall that shortly after his death this desk had to be cut in half by his mourning son in law before it could leave that room. As if it was too burdened with the time and energy of spirit spent there, it had to be halved before mere mortals could remove it. Had the wood itself had soaked up the mysterious emotions of our father? His intentions and feelings were rarely witnessed nakedly, until he was dying.

We can remember further back when another son in law did his daily work on that desk. Despite the dying in the next room, he needed to make a living. He supported our family between quiet requests for help that could only be answered by another man. Miracles happen in these times. Foes become allies. Propriety slinks away to less imperatives places. There is only room for love and laughter anything else seems to be pushed back beyond view. Fear pounds at the door, but if one can stay in the second, there are quiet opportunities to realize the incredible beauty of a life in metamorphosis. We are witnesses, yes, but the view is blindingly beautiful. Sometimes the scene is too raw and ready for those of us expecting to stay a while longer in the land of the living.”

But let’s get back to the desk.

It was surrounded by crayon drawings, photos, school pictures, clay creatures from children, grand children, and great-grandchildren. It was an environment really. I hope it was a reflection of Karl’s heart. It was the land where his children prevailed. We honored him, we threw love at him in seasonal missives and over-taped construction paper constructs.

“On a sad day in April, he gave these back. He demanded the privilege of an elder at the end of life. He wanted all of his precious bits to be returned to their givers. When the quiet flurry of removal was done, his walls were bare and we held our offerings in our hands. I remembered that day with these papers spread in front of me on a brilliant day in Santa Fe.

Hands wrapped around my teapot of Jasmine tea for warmth, I remembered what I had put away for a time when I hoped it wasn’t too sad to recall.

“Images of the creaky desk chair with over worn cushion. His wife’s warm and fuzzy decorating paradigm was abandoned at the doorsill of his office. This room was our Dad condensed. So long missing, so long missed. A desk the size of an average kitchen table. Snow was falling outside the window for the 4th cold month. Failing physical health; worry about last days, unthinkable dependence… Strife in the family; steps and sisters, old wounds rising up like the bubbles in his ginger ale. Red plastic bowls to hide any blood. Exiting his home in the strong arms of two medics in a hammock too reminiscent of a body bag. His cry of surprise or pain when he found himself on the stairs. That giant man saying, “It’s all right Honey.” It would never occur to refer to my Dad as “Honey” but he calmed, relaxed and closed his eyes. So much easier with strangers.

I can’t find the part of me that knows if he ever really looked at us again. My head thinks that’s when it was safe to apply himself to getting out of his body.

He had felt responsible for so long what did it take to have the faith that everyone would be OK if he left?

Thoughts on this day:

It is Friday the 13th, from the ancient calendar it is the day to honor Minerva. There is a full moon tonight and most importantly this is the day that my father will be released forever from this burden.

I spoke directly to him then.

“Our hands and minds are capable Dad. We will all be fine. Know that your life’s work will be held, or paid, or spread around. Most of all…deeply appreciated.

We will all create possibility to all issue; present and future. There will be four completely different ways, all good.

Seems a good reflection of your investment strategy, but it is our own expression.

Go ahead now Dad to whatever you dreamed of, or prayed about sitting at that big oak desk. You are free now, no more worries about scarcity or disability.”

Be free Dad, you are loved

It is our job now

Thank You My Friend

For as long as I sit at this desk, I will see the place where we put your body back into the earth just this morning. This is the longest day.

Time has stretched out like shiny taffy, pulled until it came to an end and “snap” you were gone. I need to remember on this loneliest of days, how many times we celebrated your exquisite integrity and your command of the language of unconditional love. I need to remember your companionship as a gift, your faithful heart as an example.

Eleven years ago we found you, my mystical guru of devotion and discernment. You were waiting there, at a City of Albuquerque annual adoption event, calculated to propel hundreds of stray dogs and puppies out of shelters, and into adoptive homes. The plan is simple: every adoptable shelter resident in the city is transported to the Fairgrounds, add  radio stations and sponsors, and see what happens.

On that day, we wandered through the cages. We past Pits and Rotties, through the “toys”, too tender and tiny for rural New Mexico, and away from the baying Hounds. There was discernible desperation in these long nose faces. The dogs had a handle on what was at stake, they seemed to know their clock was ticking.BearBWright

Our daughter spotted him; black muzzle, tiny ears, almost past a puppy with matted fur reminiscent of an old used bath mat. His card said “Stray-found downtown.” He was an “inner city” dog. Where he was headed in the breed pool was anyone’s guess. She saw his magic and skipped to the head of the “Do we really want a dog?” line by presenting him to her Dad, with leash, and the casual suggestion that he take him outside for a “get to know you walk.” Then and only then, did she find me pondering a Pomeranian once owned by an infamous animal hoarder, a single Pom, from a Pom family of 50. I was taking “rescue” too literally.

By the time we reached them Bear was calm, and Dad was smitten.

Of course he also had a touch of Parvo, but we didn’t know that yet. Dad looked as if he had reclaimed a soul part named, “My Dog Loves Me,” approximately age 10; his face was dazzling. The pup, soon to be named Bear, due to his uncanny resemblance to a Grizzly cub, offered me a ”heart to heart” communiqué. It translated into an intention somewhere between Star Trek’s salt monster, “I am for you..!” and “We need to do this Mom.”

And so we did, we made an interspecies partnership for the promotion of higher consciousness through living in the present with as much unconditional love as he could model. The timing was perfect. Our children had embarked on their own adventures and we were Midlife adults carrying substantial backpacks of leftover Nuture.

Bear’s gloriously inclusive heart developed over time and ripened with maturity. Mac, an unexpected and initially unwelcome addition developed into an unflagging devotee of the infallible Alpha-ness of Bear. Mac’s selfless love of his fearless leader has no human counterpart. It is an egoless canine adaptation that strengthens everyone in the pack. Bear recognized one ultimate Alpha-Dad and his alternate-Mom.

A particularly notable aspect of Bear’s prodigious relationship skills was his ability to discern the potential for discord or danger. His signature move was to come between any newcomer and his “family”, of which he used a very loose and comprehensive definition. All children, everyone’s children are family, as are people attached to, or smiling at “His People.”

Bear’s creed of Serve and Protect was elegantly simple based on his awareness of his own great power.

There was no need for scary growling, no show of force. He did nothing overt to raise the awareness of the detainee. Most never recognized, that the Bear Block was essentially a character analysis. His wagging tail would erroneously signal friendly canine acceptance.  He would stand as an impenetrable roadblock across any incoming legs, when he found their owners lacking.

For those of us under his protection, we looked for his opinion; we respected his opinion. If he went back for the second pet, all was well. Occasionally there was a over the shoulder look, a wide mouth pant and uneasy eyes that asked, “This guy is lying, deceitful, dangerous or inebriated, what do you want me to do with him Mom?”

For eleven years I have had the privilege of being in Bear’s family as he is in mine. We buried him today, in a hole we dug ourselves, in a gentle green yard that we call home, in a blanket that smelled like us.

I have nothing better to give you then my love and gratitude. Wait for us there, we will come after a while.

For my Family, you know who you are

In Search of…..What? In Search of Who..? Revisited

redonwoodsThe Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I am accustomed to tending my own garden of Psyche daily. I work each morning as a medieval monk tending the medicinal herb garden. It’s solitary work. Strong medicines need quiet voices and patient hands. In this garden of “Know thyself,” and it’s corollary “Know Everyone Else”, the Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I seek the smallest of keys, the softest of voices whose demands create heaven or hell here on earth. I am a devotee of the siren called Relationship. Without relationship, love is lost, if love is lost; all is lost. The answers to the “good life” quest are all right there, floating in the rich soup of interrelatedness. It is appropriate then, to find myself here.  Queries of life should be answered in the field, library research is far too easy, far too clean.  It is a shock to witness the deep clouds of aged aloneness that are all around me.  Their solitary presence as palpable as the gnat that floats in my coffee, right under my nose.

Why do so many fragile elders live out such lonely endings to their “Well-lived” Lives?

These are the superfluous thoughts that I ponder in my garden. In Florida, the hearing is hard and time runs short-endlessly. Thoughts are cheap; connection requires deep attention and careful listening. If I wish to hear them, I will. Once heard, I will have to listen, and I already know the sound is deafening.

Deva

MysticalconversationredonIndo-European, Sanskrit word for God, originally thought of as feminine. The modern word Goddess has changed connotations to represent a lesser form of divinity. Deva had the meaning we typically think of as the word God today, however God was thought to be the Great Mother.

In Buddhism Devas are highly evolved beings who inhabit different levels of existence. Devas are commonly associated with great beauty and bliss.

Modern New Age versions of Deva’s are thought of similarly to angels, nature spirits, or fairies.
Pronounced Day-va.

 

Is there anybody there?

In the heat of August, our 1960’s era Florida ‘hood seemed nearly abandoned. Air conditioning and cicadas hummed in unison, shades pulled against the relentless sun; we are all hunkered down in our separate oasis. In gentler October, I came to discern the fainter life force: there are many more people here than meet the eye. Empty carport and weekly mowing does not necessarily denote a Michigan snowbird’s empty winter escape. Is it a clever vacation timer changing channels in the late night TV glow across the street? Or is there a gnarled hand on a sticky remobecomingRedonte picking endlessly at the arm of a single recliner in that darkened room?  When I look at the blank face of that picture window, I wonder what looks back at me.

By November, my own lack of critical agenda mixed with the timeless energies and endless ebbing of those in 30-year retirements. Only then did I begin to hear them. I accepted the possibility that hearts too fragile to be “out and about” lived amongst us; close by and yet unseen. Yes, some of our neighbors have been here a very, very long time. Current wisdom calls this “Aging in place.” With enough resources one can stay home until you die, sometimes alone, sometimes leaving another alone for the first time in many years.  Sadness and fear are the concrete reinforcement of loneliness, once hardened, it must be hard to get free.

How can I help and why don’t I want to?

An opportunity to interact with a silent neighbor arrived via Postal indiscretion. West became East and switched mail brought an impromptu visit from a frail neighbor. I didn’t recognize the Deva in the background right away. She stood no taller than my chin.  Her razor sharp blue eyes shimmered above the optimistic swash of pink cheeks. Our visitor knocked on the door with authority belying her tiny stature. I was surprised by the friendly face; she took that in stride; she needed to sit down. Lowering herself into the nearest chair, she announced herself and her mission. Panting a bit, she noted my painting of wings on the wall nearby and identified herself as a fellow painter and designer.

Had I not been wearing my Florida Fairy foiling earmuffs, I would have identified her immediately as one of the “nature folk” or “faerie people.” Diminutive in size but powerful in Spirit, these beings are part of mythology worldwide.  Mythology means “replaced by a different idea,” it doesn’t mean “extinct.” It has been my experience that occasionally one of these Folk will drop into our amplitude to whisper in our ear

oldangelRedonor whack us up the back of the knees while screeching “WAKE UP!” directly into our hearts. She had appeared at our doorstep having trekked down a half block on slippered feet to deliver a bulk rate package gone amiss.

“He” was just out of the hospital that very afternoon from a hernia operation. The timing of this sortie was just so untimely. I was so taken by this elf in my living room and the stream of wordless language flowing out of her that I forgot myself and offered her whatever help I could.

“Oh no, we’re fine. He just isn’t feeling very well.” She said. Another sign of the Wee Folk; reverse hyperbole.

Then I heard the Deva, “She wants you to come with her…”

I walked her home, offering first to drive the span of four driveways and a street. She reminded too much of the gentle gray doves we see splayed out on the road because they just won’t hurry. She told me of his stomach pains and his surgery, her cancer and her painting, “He” was installed on the couch when we got back. There would have been surprise on his face as we walked in together, but it would have taken too much strength. He was saving what he had to speak gently to his partner.

Haunted

He told me he came here for the small airport; he was a pilot then. She said they bought the house for the pool; so much fun for his grandchildren. He said, “They are grown now, haven’t been here in such a long time, but they used to like to come.”

There were ghosts of good times watching them; the reapers of regret piling their sheaves high. I sat and listened.  I learned about life and longing and love. I called on every angel I knew to help them, and to help me know how to leave this house without bundles of baggage that I didn’t pack.

She showed me the pool; vacuum bubbling away on its appointed rounds. When had someone had last jumped into that clear water? Was there ever sand on the floor and food in the fridge? When was there last a child sleeping in the three empty guest rooms with sheets on the beds? My silent questions were sucked into flocked walls and thick carpet and left unanswered. The density in the room dared me to stay longer.

“No food, no wine, no fun!”

She waved at the artwork layered on bookshelves and the cases of small cans of liquid diet stacked in the Formica kitchen. Paints were laid out on a card table in the sun. “Do you paint now?” I asked. She said smiling, “Not inDeathRedon a long time, my back hurts too much.”

I asked if it was hard to not eat food anymore, cancer had taken that too. “No food, no wine, no fun!” she said.

I sat for a while in their living room taking in the dire straits in this home. Health completely gone, mobility quickly disappearing, they were collectively a ship with ravaged sails facing an oncoming storm. I looked for despair but couldn’t find it, neither could I feel anger. It did seem that sadness took up the best part of the couch. The professional part of me asked, “How long could these two support each other and their own disabilities?”

The partner part of me knew the real answer: until “Death do they part”, and probably beyond.

I walked home with my bundle of information in a language I didn’t understand. It was heavy and bulky, it smelled a bit rancid. I resented carrying it home, but I did. I put it in my studio room under an unfinished painting. I hoped they would talk between themselves and get back to me on its meaning.

twoinboat

Well they did. It came to me in the form of a recommended article from a dear old friend from my ancient past. A fellow sojourner in the early days of our “We can do more.” The basic theme was: ideas in the Ether, stay in the ether, unless they are processed via focus and form into concretized products. She wrapped love around that article and sent it out. This my friend, is the product of that bundle. Thank you

To our silent neighbors all around

I know you are there, I hear you and I send you love

Addendum

January 20,2016

I revisited this story written when we lived in Venice Florida

Our tiny sweet lady’s husband died shortly after this was written, she followed, just a bit later.  One of the children moved into all those empty bedrooms with a shiny clean pool.

Our “across the street” invisible TV watching gentleman also died that winter while we were away for a weekend. Turns out he did have family. Shortly after, I was holding the hose on some parched Gardenias when I saw a young man move away from the foul voices of the “house emptying crew. ” He moved behind the dumpster to sit on the back bumper of an old van.  Out of sight of the the others, he bent over and sobbed a river of tears into his hands, shoulders heaving; it was a heartbreaking scene.

All that sadness, anger, depression, whatever the emotions that existed in that living room must have been still there. There’s always someone in each family who chooses, or is chosen to hold that basket. The house had been foreclosed upon, those that went in didn’t stay long inside. The living conditions inside were just that bad.

I said a prayer for this sad boy and I thought our tiny neighbor from the wee folk was right there next to me. When we were done, she looked up at me with a look that told me, “You don’t understand now…but you will.” She patted my arm, gave a little wink and walked back up the street to her old house.  I was happy to see a bit of Spring in her step now.

The younger 60’s hippie neighbors to the left of him also left quickly, they did it with a rented truck and a friend’s pickup.  We followed a bit later, selling most everything we had gathered there to a “picker” with a turkey vulture mentality.  On Ground Hog day we will set off to revisit old territory. Thank you Florida for the good lessons well learned.

All paintings by Odilon Redon

http://www.odilon-redon.org

http://terrainwalker.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/native-american-little-people/

Color Me Yellow and Sing Me a Song

closeupred

If you believe your life is random and separate, read no further

Move along down your uncertain path, unencumbered by mystery

Pay no attention to the music that underscores your life

It will only confuse and befuddle an only ME

 This life I have chosen a fine concerto written for the key of WE

Optimistically performed in the chaff of a corn field, on a stormy day in October

A melody of connection sent out on the wind, set free by design

Not a prudent choice, but mine to make, this time ‘round

We imagine the perfect phrases from a polished instrument

A clear tune moving through time- forward and back, illuminating the revered

Human egos and the flotsam of strong currents render their divine melody

Be lost to whirling winds, gnawing teeth, and inattention

I am not a mid age woman with a crow on my head

I am actor and audience in the Opera of matter, movement, and miracle

The symphony of connection is a birthright, a codex to be savored; one life at a time

Perfect phrases from a polished instrument we can all hear

 

watergap

 

We took a ride to see the leaves in October.

We went to celebrate our harvest of good health with the glorious colors of autumn.

We went in search of apples, cider doughnuts, blue skies and red Maples.

We went with a sense of immediacy; defendable to those living close to the earth, or those not long for this world. “Hurry let’s go, before they are gone….”

It is one of the miracles of impermanency that in their last glorious days, any leaf, on any tree, will individuate with glowing authenticity. Even as it drifts back to its Earthly origin a single leaf shouts out “This is who I am and this was my experience here, let me sing my song and shout my colors. Let me share this with you!”

yellowroad

 

We took to the road to witness our world as luminous, by the leaves made numinous

North out of Florida, through Georgia and into the mountains, we journeyed heavy of tire, but light of heart in the roving ranchette that is Minerva. Having spent many months in a forced retirement community known as “Storage,” Minerva was ready to rumble. The quest to savor and sample the glorious days of Harvest is an ancient tradition in my family. Three generations wandering country roads on a Sunday afternoon after church. Our elders named the trees, read the colors for weather omen, happily radiating us with multi- generational layers of earthly experience.

“Remember the Nor’easters last year that took them all down? The ice storm of 58?”

The colors on Kodachrome forever preserved in my mind. Musty sweaters and piles of squash, an over ripe apple, the last yellow jacket; sounds and smells illuminated by the Halleluiah chorus of falling leaves in sun bright colors, these images live in my soul.

Life isn’t a sure thing. Learn from the imperative of the “Beautiful Day.” Go now!

 

The Leaves were honored in countless tributes in October.

We saw them. Red Maples and rusty Oaks, Hickory and Beech standing against a clear blue sky swept clear of humidity. After the brilliant but monochromatic gold of New Mexico, then multi-textured, perpetual green of Florida, I thought I would weep at the beauty. I think my brain hadn’t processed color and light at this magnitude for a very long time. I drank in the colors by the gallon. My ancestors wiped pie sticky fingers on worn aprons, and smiled.

The leaves sang their colors simultaneously. A vast chorus, all singing a different song. They had been the subtle back up musicians of green; anonymous and safe. These individuals in their last days were accorded all due respect as they announced their own demise. Remember the childhood celebration of the single leaf? The favored one plucked out from thousands by a small hand. It’s beauty enshrined between ironed wax paper and hung in the window.


 Individuation is a philosophical, spiritual and mystical experience (Jung, 1989b, p. 294). It is the goal of                   our psychological development and in metaphysical terms amounts to God’s incarnation (Jung, 1989b,                         p. 157). Individuation is the central concept and purpose of Jung’s Analytical Psychology (Jung, 1989a, p. 209


single leaves

So much diversity; clear and brilliant as they prepare to fall and rejoin the ultimate unity. All is exposed in the autumn of life; nature and nurture, character and cultivation. Attached and entwined, the scarlet poison ivy insinuates itself into the heights crawling its way up on the bark of trees. The woody grapevines and their clever corkscrew wrappers; we can see their trickiness clearly in October. The artifice of expansion is useless in Fall. Drop the yearning; a leaf life is but one season long. Better to go out singing.

In what was once a wall of analogous green, each different species is shouting out their identity, “Look at me! I am not a Maple or an Oak. I am a Beech and my essence is yellow!” Each leaf differentiating their experience from the thousand on the same branch. A fungus here and caterpillar there, a sunny spot or shady struggle, its time for the finale. As a leaf, in the bright short days of October, is this the best time to self actualize? Or the only time?

This magnificent display of innate creativity just before returning to dust, is it a last ditch dump of all the glory you came with, but never used?

Are you really any wiser or more beautiful than the “Greenies” of July? Or are they just too engorged with tomorrows to create extraordinary colors today?

Or is it the grace of clarity that arrives when we realize we are leaves and not the tree.

Happy Harvest

 

multicolr


A self-actualizer is a person who is living creatively and fully using his or her potentials.

 “What a Woman can do, she must do”

http://psychology.about.com/od/

theoriesofpersonality/a/hierarchyneeds_2.htm


Fly with Me

 

Air travel is wonderful. 

In a culture that demands space and privacy, the security process alone is therapeutic. There you are, standing barefooted and beltless, questioning what is a jacket and what is your shirt. On the queue amongst strangers, we are all in the same state of affairs. We are travelers adrift in search of sanity in safety. There is eye contact, shared experience, and compassion for the one chosen to play a “bad guy” that morning. Vulnerability is a powerful tool in community building. But that’s the adult perspective. For kids, it’s a horse of a different color.

Traveling with children on a plane can be hilarious. Especially if you are not their parent, and seated a few rows back. I have not yet had a plane trip that was not improved by a few rows of kids, swaggering down the aisle their bulging backpacks of snacks and excitement, whacking any unsuspecting passenger foolish enough to not recognize the size of their joy.  Nothing more giddy and gleeful than “kids on vacation.” It is beyond a good mood, it reeks of unlimited access to parents, relaxed rules and excess ice cream.  I could be biased.  I’m fond of travel myself.

The atmosphere is contagious.  Those who are not kids, or active duty parents, should always have the good sense to breathe in this air of anticipation, and enjoy the view.  I think traveling adults behave better in the presence of traveling children. They smile more, complain less or they move much further back. Who could ignore the sticky face cherub that pops over the top of the seat with the “Is this great or what” smile? Suddenly, it IS great; we are flying!  Those are clouds out there and the buildings are tiny. Talk about empowerment for the not so silent minority!

Most kids address their day with a sense of adventure. Give these cosmonauts a ride in the sky and their worldview has just exploded. We may find it cramped and uncomfortable in 16D.  These mini explorers spend all their road trips strapped into tight seats in the back row.  The view is so much better from the sky, and your parents pay more attention.

On a recent trip from Florida to New Mexico we were seated in front of a pint size philosopher with the comedic timing of a Borscht belt comedian. I wrote this down. Nothing ever made up by an adult can top a child’s raw experience. As the plane eased out of the gate at Tampa, preparing for the runway, his voice could be heard over the engines.

“Are we there yet??” We left the runway on laughter, even the sincerely cranky enjoyed that classic.

A few minutes later swooping over Tampa bay at a rakish angle. “Sometimes I get scared Dad. Dad?  Did you hear me? Sometimes I get scared!”  Dad, it turned out was a combat veteran; I’ll bet he understood that very well.

“Dad, you have something up your nose.  What IS that up your nose??  We were in the aisles.

“Where’s our hotel Dad, is that Texas? Calla, Calla we’re in Texas!  Dad everything in Texas is so small!  Where’s our hotel Dad, is it that box?” (Circling Houston)

Diagonally we have a small, but fully cognizant being. Impossibly skinny legs in purple knit leggings sticking out from under a flowered ruffled mini dress shaped like a bell. Two pig tails of different lengths, wrapped in rubber bands, sticking out at revolutionary angles.  It appeared as if she had done her own trim recently. She was succinct and cool. Eye contact, appraisal, approval and back to her iPad.  A few bumps, a few mini rolls, and we are all stapled in for the duration, she took it all in stride. Stock Photo by Sean Lockewww.digitalplanetdesign.com

The toddler next door began a sleep song as plaintive and intricate as a Robin’s end of day parable.  She repeated the song in its entirety; same tone, same cadence, same vocables, three or four times before she sang herself to sleep. She created her own song and was singing it for herself. Awesome self-soothing, wish I could be as self aware. How much do we really understand about being a child? And why do we rush to make them adults with sad eyes and nervous hands? Maybe some research into the basis of their wisdom might serve better. Maybe we could sit in the back seat more often.

sky

Children and angels are of the same fabric

They’ve forgotten their guile and

 Left their façade at home

Don’t even try to keep them

From standing too close and looking too deep

They can see you anyway.

Maybe the sea is heaven, Maybe heaven is the Sea

What is a beach? What is the sea? Do I reflect her or does she reflect me?

 

SeaGodsWe went down to the beach early this morning. It is a miracle to have unlimited access to “the beach” in the heat of a Florida summer. Few things feel better than immersion in sun warmed salt water. The Gulf is that; a bowl of gathered water and suspended “stuff” all assimilating into the Atlantic Ocean and beyond. Despite the human need to name and claim, it is not of Mexico, nor of the United States. It is the cupped hands held under the spigot of North America’s rain. Water from the sky holding by force of attraction all the flavors and flotsam of each place and experience on the journey.

The same water that existed on Earth millions of years ago is still here.

But did you know it is all the same water? We are a closed system here on planet Earth, a giant terrarium. Water moves around, as water vapor, liquid water, and ice. Water is a shape shifter, changing its form as conditions dictate. Never lost, only changed.

“Although some matter, such as meteors from outer space, are captured by Earth, very little of the Earth’s substances escape into outer space. This is certainly true about water. Therefore the same water that existed on Earth millions of years ago is still here. The global water cycle dictates that the same water is continually being recycled all around the globe.”

http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/oceanography/ocean-earth-system/ocean-water-cycle/whaleshark7So there I sat on the nearly uninhabited beach, sun drowsy and half immersed at the edge of the water in a yellow beach chair, communing with the fishes. From a suggestion of an unknown source, I began imagining that I could dissolve into that water, let my molecules float across oceans, and still be conscious. I envisioned drifting without fear through Amphitrite and Poseidon’s domain. And what is the beauty of being dissolved? No concern for fear, or pain, or survival, water always survives. Weightless and worry free; “going with the flow,” in the most literal sense.

I wonder if this is what physical death feels like?

I imagined the behemoth polka-dotted whale shark; the vacuum mouth, filter feeder seen here recently. She swept me up but I passed right through her; no harm done. I wondered about visioning such peace at the time of death, on the anniversary of my birth 59 some years ago. Life is just so tricky.

I think I will call it “Aqua Therapy.” Becoming suspended in the Sea is the perfect solution for the raw chafe of human beings and the pesky nymphs of modern living. Too many electronics? Too many miles? Too many words? Go sink in, soak up the magical medium of life on this planet. Mystical, mercurial changer of shape and form, carrier of life and death, water is the ultimate denominator of life here on the Blue planet. She is the ultimate balancer as well.

Is it an accident of creation or invention that all things electronic can’t survive a simple swim? What does it say about our constant E-companions? TVs, phones, pads and pods are all neutralized by our mother liquid. Yet we are that, a structured cclosedsystemontainer of dissolved minerals. We are that: a very elaborate canteen of fluid and form holding tiny beings, vast communities of differentiated cells, infinitesimal chains holding all human memory.

Maya, Maia, Me

Maybe it was the color of the sky, or the warm gentleness of the water. As the chair sunk into the deep shell sand of the shallows, I contemplated the impermanence of my temporary liquid neighborhood. The tiniest of fish moved rhythmically towards beach, back and forth with the breath of the waves. The edge of water and sand renegotiated with each wave, endless infinite shuffling of inhabitants amidst water, wind or predator.

What came next was a “what if” epiphany. For a moment there was a swirl of illumination. We protect ourselves a lot. We focus without pause on the survival of a body that will not survive… no matter what. We always look up to others and out to belief systems in search of our meaning of life, and our “after life” address. Separating death and life with definite parameters, – like having a human body.

What if heaven is like the sea? What if heaven is the sea? What if we are heaven?

In a Google search for an attractive “Water system” illustration I found this; exploding all facts and theories thus far in place on what water can do, what water can be, where water came from.

Deep Underground, Oceans Of Water May Be Trapped In A Crystal ‘Sponge’

by L. CAROL RITCHIE

June 15, 2014 3:27 PM ET

Science teachers may have to add a whole new layer to the water cycle. Scientists have discovered evidence of a vast reservoir of water hiding up to 400 miles beneath the surface.

“The discovery could transform our understanding of how the planet was formed, suggesting that Earth’s water may have come from within, rather than from collisions with large, icy comets.”

The water is trapped in a blue mineral called ringwoodite that sits in the mantle, a hot, rocky layer between the Earth’s crust and outer core. That means the water is not the familiar liquid, vapor or ice, but a fourth, mineral form. We reported earlier this year on a rare diamond containing a microscopic piece of ringwoodite that bolstered evidence for the vast wet zone.

It is likely the largest reservoir of water on the planet, and could be the source of the oceans’ liquid. The study was published in the journal Science.

The study is also remarkable for the discovery that melting and movement of rock occurs in a layer of the mantle known as the transition zone, between the upper and lower mantles, the Guardian reports. Most melting was thought to occur at much shallower depths.

“Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” said Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University, co-author of the study.

“I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades,” he said.

The study relied on seismometers across the U.S. and lab experiments simulating rocks under high pressure, says Nature World News.

“Ringwoodite here is key,” it notes. “Its crystal-like structure makes it act like a sponge and draw in hydrogen and trap water.” It could be a vast amount of water, says the Guardian. “If just 1 percent of the weight of mantle rock located in the transition zone was water it would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans, Jacobsen said.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/06/15/322246690/deep-below-oceans-of-water-may-be-trapped-in-a-crystal-sponge

Nice to meet you ringwoodite.

And where do we go from here?

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Maya, Maia, Mothers

Mothers

Not all women are Mothers

Not all Mothers are women

Being a Mother is an identity, a job, a wish, a life’s work, a calling.

Blessed Mother, Mother Teresa, Maia, Brigid, Florence Nightingale, Mother Goose, June Cleaver, Mother Nature.

These are the icons, the heroes, the giants in the care taking game.  We can admire, imitate, even emulate, but these are at best two dimensional. They radiate, but do they participate? What is a real blood and bone Mother anyways?

The standard Hallmark Mother’s Day archetype embodies unconditional love, and impermeable safety. She is an ever-smiling font of wisdom and unselfish acts. All children know that their Mother is more complex than this cardboard cutout.

Real time Mom is a dynamic entity.  Her emotions and parental interactions impact her offspring for a lifetime.  A really great Mother is not just what she puts into the world. She is equally formed by what the world puts in her.  The “real deal;” the penultimate “keeper of the caring”, has lumps and bumps, scars and fears. She comes fully loaded with plenty of buttons to push.  She is permeable and malleable and as dangerous as a female Grizzly with cubs.

In search of “Mother” the verb

Some Mothers nurture and hold precious and sacred those in their care.  Needs are anticipated, cries answered, and for all time, “Watch me Mom!”  is a redundant request.  For the rest of your life, someone is watching and that person’s name is Mom.

Other Mothers devour their young, feeding on their life force until they are no longer strong enough to leave her willingly. Some women conceive in tragedy, give birth and have nothing to offer their children beyond hunger, fear, and the agony of abandonment.

Enter here, the Mothers who will scoop up those lost babies, and hold them tight forever. From the dark world of lost souls comes a gift so precious that a Mother is born from the longing heart of the child given over to her care.  Why does this salvation matter to the rest of us? A lifetime of love will be deposited into the universe and we will all benefit. Like a good rain in the desert, we all benefit.

So who inspired this celebration of the Perfect Mom?

Ann Jarvis from West Virginia was that Mom.  She pushed and persuaded until wartime medics gave equal care to both Yankee and Confederate wounded in her town. No small feat in the midst of the Civil War.

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30659/founder-mothers-day-later-fought-have-it-abolished

Her daughter Anna, wished to honor her Mother’s lifetime of work for peace. Anna relentlessly haunted officials to make a “Mothers Day.”  That they did, and Mother’s Day quickly became a sensationally successful capitalist vehicle.

Anna was very vocal about how she expected her Mother’s altruism to be honored. Following years of protests against the appropriation of the beauty and power of Mother Love by materialistic endeavors, particularly the floral industry, Anna was deemed “crazy.” She later died penniless in a mental asylum.  No doubt sharing this indignity with other women of the era who couldn’t behave nicely.

Seems a wise choice not to tangle with a Mother, or a daughter

Any Woman really,

We ARE all a force of Nature.