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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leonardo da vinci paintings | Head of Madonna 1508-1515. Chalk on …

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leonardo da vinci paintings | Head of Madonna 1508-1515. Chalk on red-

 

Nanzenji

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The polished black taxi turned at the light, weaving a path down the left side of the boulevard, following the tracings of a shallow river.

A single white water bird stood motionless at it’s center, as if plucked out of the gold leaf of a screen painting from a 10th century palace. The silent driver navigated smoothly up the gentle slope towards the pine green mountains.

The quiet Sunday scene unfolded. Two women sat poised on fragile stools at the edge of the narrow rock canal, focused intently on postcard size sketchbooks. Children taking parents on stroller adventures on the narrow walks, a petulant two year old with tilted helmet sprawled in his father’s bicycle basket scenes rolled by our window. Something in the quality of the light, the deep angles of mid October deepened the shadows. We stopped talking about what we saw and just drank it all in silently. This is Kyoto Japan, and we are going to see Nanzenji Temple.

Even a week ago, I did not know I would be here today.

fullsizerenderThe trip was so hastily planned, I had no time to pack any preconceived notions. No room for worriment in our new lighter, sleeker luggage, still dusty from Tel Aviv. Cautious rumination on potentials and possibilities was just too ponderous for this brief window of opportunity. When an unexpected blessing flies in your window, best not to pick up the fly swatter.

Unforeseen adventures have been thrown down before us like shiny pebbles on a path, daring us to follow; demanding our expansion. It is an unexpected pleasure to find myself right here, breathing on the other side of the world. Without question it is the mysterious workings of the divinities on our behalf, ours is not to plan, ours is to accept the challenge.

The seats of the Toyota “COMFORT” were covered in spotless white knit with tatted lace edges.

The white-gloved driver paused at the traffic light waiting for the grandparents and some children on bicycles to pass. With a grand wide arc of a right turn I was jolted out of my “Zen flute” reverie and reminded of the left side drive when a passing car appeared to sport a toddler driver. Differences, opposites, are disconcerting in habitual behaviors like driving, language, customs, and affectations.

Yesterday we galloped across the Japanese landscape at 180 mph on the bullet train, released from urban Nagoya by the un-breach able Japanese standard; a five day work week.

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The first bullet train was invented in 1964 by Hideo Shima from Tokyo, Japan.Its launch occurred in October and coincided with the Tokyo Olympics. Bullet trains travel up to three times the normal speed of a train.(https://www.reference.com › History › Inventions)

I reserved a tour for Saturday afternoon, a useful practice for understanding “the lay of the land” in unknown territory. After an accidental circumnavigation- twice actually-of the Kyoto train station complex and it’s multilevel shopping areas we located our tour bus and cheerful guide.

Five hours later we tumbled out the left hand door, having completed a very brief acquaintance with three magnificent Buddhist Temples. Time was short, but “Hit and Run” tourism is not what we do. It did however solidify our intention on this, our only day here, that we would to find a quiet spot in nature for personal contemplation. To choose one sacred place to welcome into heart and memory was the task. This is Kyoto Japan; there are 1600 Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines in this ancient city. What began as a choice, became a quest.

When moving north to south the movement of the wind of “un-creation” called “hurricane” changes direction.

Northern hemisphere whirlwinds, be they tornado, hurricane or even “dust devils” spin in a counterclockwise direction. Conversely in the Southern hemisphere, it is clockwise motion that marks a Tropical Cyclone or a Typhoon. I imagine it all balances out on some planetary scale. Otherwise wouldn’t we be moving through the universe like a Catamaran on a breezy day?

I don’t know what reversals of energies might operate on the longitudinal axis. What elemental polarities exist here in the land of the “Rising Sun” that move in the opposite at home. Could it be the frenetic multitasking of the West is an antonym for this culture? There is something different here; a single point focus to the task at hand that seems to generate deep layers of practiced mindfulness.

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In the predawn hours, by the glow of the ipad, I studied the possibilities.

Wading through countless comments and reviews of the “important” temples it became obvious; like faces and cultures, they are all interesting, all beautiful. The survival of these places of worship and understanding across epochs; political upheavals, wars and destruction are a reflection of the devotions of thousands of caretakers, across 100 generations. I choose a Temple, pinned it on my Google map, and went back to sleep.

My plan was to show the taxi driver the map on my phone showing both Japanese characters and English name and address; all potentialities covered. Ditching our overnight bag in a locker, we sprinted the two escalators, across the plaza of a thousand tourists, past the city buses, around the Cube café selling everything with fish in it, and found the Taxi stand. Spotting the curving lines of family cadres waiting for taxis, I assumed I had plenty of time.

注文     単純    バランス

 With the efficiency and speed of a Toyota assembly line, the long queue of impeccably dressed Japanese families on outing were dispatched into cabs. We found ourselves almost next up, phone in hand, glasses on nose and my map point was gone! Believing it to be rude to fumble our directions while others are waiting, we panicked, and stepped out of line. As seems to be the custom here, out of the ethers assistance appears. In a person whose sole function is to alleviate whatever congestion may impact the flow, a young uniformed English-speaking avatar of Japanese hospitality stepped up and asked,

“Can I help you?”

Glasses abandoned, my finger pointed to the green swatch on my map, its center marked with a swastika; the symbol for a Buddhist Temple. Yes, it’s the energy reversal thing. Take the reviled symbol, turn it the other direction and align it flat with heaven and earth, it means “All is well”, a symbol of life to Hopi, Celts, Hindus Jainists and yes, Buddhists.

“We would like to go there, would you tell him please?”

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A smile, a bow and we were installed in our white-seated chariot. We had moved beyond the contained clamor of a thousand weekend escapees from Tokyo and Osaka.

Unlike a New York City or Tel Aviv taxi ride, the car was quiet. Our driver’s musical preferences remained a mystery and his cell phone was silent. He was, in fact, doing only one task; taking us to our destination.

I looked down at the map and finding my glasses in my pocket, I came to realize. We were headed someplace else. We were going to a different Temple, a name I didn’t recall seeing. Nanzenji

It too was situated in a green space at the edge of the mountain, marked by a swastika. For a fleeting moment we considered attempting a change mid route and realized the futility of communication. We also realized all that had transpired for the purpose of rerouting our mission.

Nanzenji was chosen for us, the magic had begun.

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Silently we ascended into quiet neighborhoods standing with shy elegance behind their wood gates and stone walls, gliding directly into the waiting arms of ancient the Holy Cedars, Camphors and graceful Pines on the steep side of the mountain. My heart sunk when I saw the parking lot crowded with tour buses and hustling tourists. But our driver didn’t stop there, he moved upward down a small street, and then a lane. He pulled up at the base of a stone walkway and stopped. Pushing his front seat control, the back door opened and we were deposited on the damp street.

We stepped out of the car and climbed the steep rock step, at the gate between the worlds. The sense of stillness was so dense it seemed we could lean into it and not fall down. It was the sound that entered our awareness first. Before even looking up to our destination, there was the sound. The sound of moving water against cut rock.

As we stood on the veranda of this sacred space I heard a quiet whisper, “ In this place there is no sense to struggle for separateness.” As we turned to climb the hill towards the first gate I heard only their grateful sigh, as souls dropped into the sacred patterns of the water element, each ending this journey and beginning another.

And so began the journey.

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Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

washing clear the traffic of mind and senses

Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

dressed in a sparkling pattern of diamonds

Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

dancing the song as given, singing the mantra

Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

order simplicity balance order simplicity balance

                                                                                                                                                               Cak Kyoto 2016

http://www.nanzen.net/index.html

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.

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

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 humming 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 in the Ethers 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, so 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 “little people.” Diminutive in size but powerful in Spirit, these forgotten folk 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 backs of the knees all the 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, 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 guestrooms 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.” 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

Not sure why I revisited this story written when we lived in Venice Florida in 2014. Possibly because we will drive down that street in the next few weeks and I need to remember the heart of it and not just the face. It was a good chapter, full of family and fun. I discovered I needed to find my roots again. I did pull my intention out of the Ethers, we are back in my homelands for this part of the journey.

Our tiny sweet lady’s husband died shortly after this was written, she followed, just a bit later.  I heard this from her neighbor, as she was moved to a “higher level of care.” 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 tempered house emptying cadre filling a dumpster, to sit on the back bumper of an old van. He bent over out of sight of the the others, and sobbed a river of tears into his hands, shoulders heaving; a heartbreaking scene.

All that sadness, anger, depression, whatever the emotions that existed in that living room were all 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 with a new view of our life. It will be wonderful to see family, watch the sunset, walk the beach.  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