The Muse

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New growth at Kilauea

January 18 2018   Clearwater Florida

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How about here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I keep doing this.”

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

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

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

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

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

bygone /ˈbaɪˌɡɒn/
adjective

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

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

“To thine own self be true”-William Shakespeare

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

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

Photo Credit: Carol Martell, Kilauea Hawaii

 

Master Yourself

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


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Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv Israel

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

“Must be Zeus!” I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is great strength here.

 

 

Autumn

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

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

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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-

 

We are in the Totality!


Tomorrow we will find ourselves standing in the center of the path. Here in Salem Oregon, we are beneath the swath of earth that will experience 100% of the eclipse. We are in the TOTALITY! 

We traveled here to see family. It seemed auspicious to plan a family visit at a time that will be remembered as a singular event by our children and grandchildren. I recall viewing an eclipse through a pinhole box sometime in the 60’s, surrounded by generations of my family. As we left, the hype was minimal in northern New York where the view is not so impressive. Here, the planning for impossible traffic jams and unruly hordes began months ago. At t-minus 25 hours, the streets are empty.

The upcoming solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 has been dubbed, “The Great American Eclipse.” It is a narcissistic view; distinctly American, that the celestial workings of the universe are relevant only as they impact our country. The sun; our source of energy, and the yang or male aspect of our personal and planetary existence, will be blocked by the moon. For 1 min 56 sec, the Yin, or female aspect will occlud the sun’s influence. On Monday morning we will see what ancients saw. At that time most of us will look up at the darkened sky and celebrate our good fortune to live with such surety of survival.

I am reminded of my own personal experience with TOTALITY. It was a decade ago in a different time and place. We took our questions of a personal and community nature “outside.” It was the practice to sit alone in nature, minus creature comforts and without contact with others, for a complete rotation of the sun. Many important understandings came with the flies and the hummingbirds. I will always carry the revelations of this intentional exploration with me. They stripped away the noise, bringing the “meaning of life” down to the elements.

The epiphany happened when the night lived beyond its usual boundaries. In the inky blackness, fear and fatigue altered perception. I remember in my bones the moment when separateness known as ego slipped away. The rustling and the night calls ceased. Everything; animal, wind, breath went still. We all waited.

Until that night, I didn’t know this happened. That dawn, I sat on the ground in community with every other creature and plant as we waited for the return of the sun. We all sat in rapt devotional silence at the darkest part of the night. It had never occurred to me that the arrival of the next day was a question.

Breaking through current human constructs, laying them aside it IS clear. Continuation of life is not a given, it is a gift. The birds and the animals knew enough to sit quietly. Many People around the world sit quietly at sunrise to wait reverently and respectfully to see IF they are granted another day. And it clearly was IF not when. When you seek that space of existence, you are in the TOTALITY.

I look forward to tomorrow morning. I hope it reawakens my sense of gratitude for each day as it dawns. It is a miracle.

Indiscriminate Death

I went to the blue big box store for some hardware and a quick stroll through the green houses filled with flowers.  Standing amidst the colors of summer is like visual music. Humming this tune most clearly, are the precious pollinators; the bees.

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 Unfortunately these particular flowers are potentially loaded with systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids. These added chemicals can bring death home to the hive, riding the notes of sweet pollen. ‘NEONICS” banned in Europe, are used heavily here, present in many, if not most botanicals, from big box stores.  

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/bee-protective-pollinators-and-pesticides/chemicals-implicated

I stopped to watch the bees on a blue Nepeta in full bloom, counting 10 bees on a single plant. The bees were being bees; unconcerned about place and time. Bees really mind their own business. They are focused and totally driven by the needs of the hive.

Those engaged in gathering the means of survival; the creation of more bees, are mature and experienced females.  This is the final job of a multi-career bee. The bee you see gathering nectar is no youngster.  She has already in her life cycle: cleaned the hive, nursed the larvae, guarded the front door and fed and protected the Queen.  These sweet ladies are on their final run.  Gathering is dangerous, and maybe the best task for a bee. She does this work at the end of her life until she dies.  She does this “in community, for the good of all,” but she does this task independently.bee-1322845_1920

The Garden Center folk had just unloaded some fresh carts. These racks of flowers had just arrived from parts unknown, and they came with hitchhikers. I spotted three shiny green bees working alongside our usual yellow and black crew.  They were smaller, hairless and coated in metallic emerald green.  If “Oz” has bees they would look like this. I thought perhaps, they weren’t real bees.

Having a serendipitous moment, I imagined them to be an alien race on reconnaissance. Or could they be some researcher’s cleverly designed mechanical drones seeking answers to our shortage of pollinators. The real bee drones are male and generally don’t carry that level of responsibility. They are pretty much “one trick ponies.” One pirouette in the sky with a new Queen and they are done and dead drones. They have some domestic duties back at the hive. but are the first to be exited when the pollen pickings get slim. Google identified these green newcomers as Green Orchid Bees from somewhere “South of the Border.”

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I turned the corner, moving finally toward Hardware. Just two aisles removed from the Summer kaleidoscope of Mums and Marigolds stood a shelf four tiers high and twenty feet long. Any product commanding that amount of shelf space in a big box store is a moneymaker. The shelves were completely filled with red, white and blue plastic containers, four deep.  They were arranged in precise rows seemingly at attention, with  weapon-esque sprayers strapped to their sides,  all ready to dispense some twisted human justice.

What I saw was a conquering army poised to attack.  Concentrated poison promising insect free, lifeless gardens standing right here in amongst the plants. Plants that need insects to pollinate their flowers.  I began to feel a pattern forming. I begin to feel sick.

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I walked the length of the aisle, twice, looking at each container.  There was a theme: an illustration of the potential “damage”, chewed leaf, aphid covered rose, thin grass etc.  A superimposed grossly magnified insect portrait of the perpetrator of this disaster was front and center. The truth was told in tiny print on the back of the label. This elixir is willing and able to kill everything it touches, every kind of bug, indiscriminately.

What about those who prey upon those, who prey upon them? We can assume that birds, frogs, dogs, cats, children might also be at risk with improper use, wet weather or unexpected wind. The pictures on the bottles are not the enemy, it is us.

 

Aphids on Roses have never ruined a life. Angry words, resentful thoughts, these can shrivel an adult, and a child won’t fair as well. (see Be Careful They will Hear You

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I was face to face with the masters of our universe.  The mightier purveyors of Indiscriminate death and maniacal manipulation. These products are created from the depths of impossibly deep pockets with no international borders. These are the products of behemoth industries, soon to be a single industry. These potent killers are on store shelves everywhere, deadly poisons in user friendly packages.

 

macro-photos-6A metaphor for the smiling well-groomed folk that occupy the media arena. Throw some anger and hate out into the world like meat to hungry dogs.  See how we tear at it, anxious to feel the burn of anger.  Keep spraying the country with fear and anger.

I stood in the Big Box store and took in the schizophrenic rantings of the chemical trade. “Fertilizer and weed killer in one application.”  Yes, this company makes cancer causers, and cancer treatments, pharmaceuticals, sunscreen and Pesticides and pills.  They are indiscriminate in their creation, indiscriminate in their killing.  And we are willing participants.

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And we, as a culture are indiscriminate in what we choose to spray on our lawns and out of our mouths.  Angry hateful spiteful thoughts are poison in red white and blue wrappers that promise you a better life.

We have all become extremists in our views, no time for discourse, no time for thought.  Repeat what you heard, assume you know what I think, assume your information is correct, and assume you know best.

You can always get out the pesticides for everyone else.

I have assigned myself the task of living with as much integrity as I can dig up or cultivate in my garden. It is a far simpler way to live. I will disconnect from the continuous pollution and poisoning of our emotional environment that is seeking to damage our cultural connective tissue.  When it is acceptable to celebrate hate, it is time for the rest of us to generate something different.

Wake up and stop spreading poison. It is impossible to know who the enemy is…

“If we continue to spread poison only those who created it will survive”

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Be Careful They Will Hear you

Indiscriminate Life

A long time ago we lived in suburban harmony with our elderly neighbors.

Their children had long since gone and rarely visited. Well into their eighties, they were hardy and self-reliant. Their life was quiet and orderly; it had been a long time since children slammed their door or laughed too loudly at their dinner table.

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In contrast, our side of the fence was much more interesting. The couple deeply enjoyed the neighborhood’s comings and goings.  They watched all they could from their corner perch with avid, but polite, gusto.  With the practiced observation of retired teachers, they watched the kid’s bus stop antics, where the cat chose to sun himself, how many people were here when we were away for the weekend. They missed nothing.  Our shared boundary was a mere 15 feet from my frequently open kitchen bay window.  It was not so much a barrier to sound, as a loudspeaker. If you had something personal to say, better to say it in the other room.

Occasionally, the scrutiny would become too intense for teenage tastes. The front door would close, the oversized backpack would clunk on the table with a deep sigh and a complaint about “being watched!”  To which I always replied,

“Be careful, they will hear you.”

I couldn’t imagine the hurt and embarrassment were they to discover that their attentions made the children uncomfortable.  Children are too close to the beginning, to understand what life feels like, near the end.

It took a few years, and some more advanced spiritual seeking to realize this statement; which became a cheerfully maligned family mantra, was Truth on so many levels. When cruel or critical words are said, even in jest, the subject does hear them, across miles, across time, across lifetimes.  Another’s criticisms can gnaw at our free will and our soul, whittling us down to a manageable size.  Usually just slightly smaller than that of the critical observer.

And it gnaws at the soul of the speaker too, poison is indiscriminate.

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My neighbors never commented on words overheard. These octogenarians were of the generation that understood the power of language; they grew up on radio.  They practiced respect, and what I believe they would have called: “propriety.”  They held opinions far removed from mine yet we could share them, and still remain in community.

My patch of green earth is far removed from the rhetoric and doublespeak that surrounds us like a plague. I have opted out of this sport of trashing and bashing because it doesn’t much matter who you are for or against, no one is listening. Endless regurgitation of facts of fiction far removed from context, are meaningless and divisive.

I suspect that is the point.  Fear and anger are the opiate of the masses.  Keep us busy fighting amongst ourselves and we will miss the markers of a society in decline. Maybe our culture has reached a turning point, and maybe that point has passed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”

Turning I saw an elderly gentleman with an umbrella.

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

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

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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

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 its 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 their parents on stroller adventures, skipped up the narrow walks. A petulant two year old with tilted helmet sprawled out in his father’s bicycle basket.  Silently we watched as the scenes rolled by our window. Was it something in the quality of the light? The deep angles of mid October deepened the shadows. We stopped talking about what we saw and observed in silence. 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

Weaving the Life You Choose

There are life events so laced with apparent coincidence, so rich with metaphor that it seems impossible these machinations of time and space are merely the operations of “Chance.” There are times when the dark deep ground of psyche is fecund with potential.  If here we stand, completely prepared for soft new growth from an open heart, the quiet voices of spirit are heard not as a whisper, but as the booming voice of the Great Mystery. Not so much-“Go here! Stand there! Do that! Say this!” as, “Here is your opportunity, the door is open!”  Choose or don’t choose the path of freedom.

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Hans Holbein wikiart.org

This magnificent story is about a soul journey, magical helpers, and divine intervention. It reeks of love and forgiveness, humbleness and great courage, most important, the conscious choosing of a better life; the one you choose. It is intoxicating, even if you can’t hear it quite yet, can’t quite believe it is possible. All that is required is to drop all your accumulated psychic baggage on the ground…and walk away. Your hurts, their fears, all of our interrelated injury dumped there on the ground like spent coffee grounds. Good for the garden and that’s about it. Imagine the freedom. Imagine the freedom.

A good place to begin this story might be an incredibly beautiful place; visceral magnificence well beyond that which we would ever allow ourselves. A beautiful wise woman, of no age in particular, sits spinning the elements of time and place into the delicate, brilliant threads of possibility. Singing her song, tapping toe to tree root, her hands spin golden threads that drift into spiral curves, moving in and out of ethers and eons, linking body to soul, soul to spirit, spirit to spirit. Open your hearts and see,” she sings. “Open your hearts and see…”

On very rare days our wise being will leave her most bonny perch to follow the slender rails of her own creation. Her mission? To personally direct a heart repair of immense possibility. She travels, as we all do, following the cord blindly, moving gently hand over hand with great patience into the dark murkiness of the physical plane. Navigating by felt sense alone, she searches for the place where the cord has become frayed by fear, torn by rough treatment, or cut by abandonment.

On a very rare day, the missing puzzle pieces of soul loss can be found and exchanged. Pieces of power ripped away by trauma can be returned gratefully. Spirit, soul and body can align again. Seismic ripples echoing fore and aft through past generations and on into the future. All are offered the opportunity to be whole, with just one pivotal action.

http-::www.umilta.net:spinvirgin2

This is the story of a very rare day. The story begins with two womenfrom disparate places, cultures, and life expectations to meet 5 years ago in a tension filled waiting room on the 3rd floor of Children Youth and Families Division, (CYFD) in Albuquerque, NM. Having been there I can tell you this is a place of exquisite pain. If emotions were color these walls would be blood red.

“Tummy Mom” had lost her two toddler boys to CYFD amidst the flotsam of a drug-infested life. She herself had been a Foster child. Her childhood and teenage years spent moving from strange family to group home, and back again. Secure loving family with responsible parents? Not for this woman. She would have more children, but only one will ever call her “Mom.”

The other woman, “Forever Mom,” based her college studies and life expectations around the care and teaching of children, circled by a happy marriage and loving family. A perfect child was not the goal, she longed for a whole child, to be loved and cherished; challenges welcomed, she already had the skill set.

Her longing and these little boys were mirror images; there was no path but forward. No cure for this ache than to love unconditionally. Loving your Foster children is an act of extreme faith. In this arena, battling lions would be more welcome than the overworked social workers, tired attorneys, woes and whims of the court system, and real life choices of “birth parents” that rule your families’ destiny. A foster parent walks the sharp edge of “what if” until adoption day.

The two boys were placed with the Foster Mom and Dad. Two years later their sister followed. She skipped the preliminary neglect, and went straight into love and safety with her brothers. The terrorizing years between their arrival and final adoption for brothers and sister were spent addressing the strange effects of the poisons of cocaine, street life and never-ending trauma on tiny brains and bodies.

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Fast forward to Thursday. Our Forever family is realizing their dream to leave New Mexico for the green trees and extended family of Oregon. It is a leap of faith, an act of courage to pull up a decade of roots. The house is rented, possessions sold, boxes packed. In 8 days the moving truck will come and they will leave New Mexico, forever. Psychotherapy for the oldest child has been cancelled this day. He has been working diligently on freeing himself from the behaviors and fears elicited by traumatic memory; this boy is a veteran.

The middle child has had a blood test today seeking answers to maladies from his tenuous in utero experience. He wears the badge of courage, wrapped twice around his narrow arm is a flashy fluorescent band-aid. The daughter; confident butterfly, Deva of interpersonal relationships, stands unknowing to the drama about to unfold. Mom has decided to use up the credit at the local Mother’s Consignment store, and on this day entered with all three children on a mission to find a fun T-shirt for the trip. Corralling this after-school pack requires a continuous role call, she calls to them across the small shop.

In a dressing room in the back of the store another woman hears the names of children seen only in her mind’s eye. In a panic, she hides there. She has had another child, a little girl. She is, and has been throughout this pregnancy, clean from drugs and alcohol. She is in a relationship with a man who comes with family resources and stability. She is safe, she is happy. She steps out of the dressing room intentionally and comes eye to eye with our Forever Mom standing behind her three children. Through the telepathy of social media, Forever Mom knows about the new baby girl and new scenario. She recognizes the woman despite her plump “Mom body” and change of wardrobe. Forever Mom mouths, “Don’t say anything!”

The woman nods, standing there, unable to remove her gaze from her lost children’s faces, she mouths back, “Thank you, I am so grateful…”

Our wise woman from the ethers has found the frayed edges where the thread of connection was torn apart. Using her own spit and a few hairs she mends this place. “It is done. There is only this window and none other. There is only this moment and none other, Open your hearts and see,” she sings. “Open your hearts and see…”

With her heart pounding in her ears, the forever Mom gathered her children and purchases and headed for the door. Once settled safely back in the minivan she stopped. A voice in her heart said,

“Wait, wait, think about this! There is only this day and no other….!”

She looked at her oldest son. She has heard his pain as he talked to his therapist about his “tummy mom.” She had seen and felt the agony of an abandoned child. He was angry AT her, scared OF her. But was she that “tall mean woman” he remembered? She turned to him and said, “Do you want to meet ….? She is in there, in the store.”

After a quick moment he decided. “I just want to see her,” he said. His brother decided he wanted to see too, and of course sister was up for meeting anyone, as long as Mom was there. He held on tight to Mom’s hand as they walked back into the store. The birth Mother spoke to each child, never coming close, but taking in how beautiful they are, seeing the love they wore. She was grateful, she said again.

The two women spoke to each other with tears in her eyes. What they said is private, what they did changed enemies into allies forever. What those children saw wasn’t anger, blame, anguish or fear. They saw two women who are Mothers hug each other. Two adversaries for life’s most precious gift decided in an instant to make a different life for themselves, for their children. Imagine their implicit infant memories shuffled, filed, deleted, replaced with “in the moment” information; updated “Mother” avatars for children whose infancy was a very frightening place.

They discovered that they were moving into new lives on the same day, one to a new life in Oregon, the other to an apartment with baby and partner in a safe part of town. Anger, fear, resentment were left like so much sticky trash on the floor of the store. No longer needed, no longer wanted.   This isn’t an “as if it never happened fairy tale.” All involved are far more powerful than their innocent first drafts. They were healed enough, safe enough, resilient enough, to chose love, and they did!! That’s the miracle.

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Leave it to the wise woman to weave the possibilities across time and space. Leave it to her to create a chance meeting in a “now or never” time frame. It has always been “ours” to make it happen. Can you have the courage to do something profoundly different? Give up your “victim status,” and stand in the storm until the storm leaves and the world is a different place!

Blessings on both women, they chose love of the children. You have modeled it well; they will never forget the peace.

“Open your hearts and see…”

 

I share this beautiful story of great love

For those that grieve lost children, for those that love these children, for those that welcome the lost child to their forever home joyfully.

I send gratitude for those who spend long days in service to all members of this adoption tribe. You who face heartbreak so raw that you tear off pieces of your own soul to patch and mend these shattered hearts,

I want to tell you, sometimes it works, it is worth it, and we thank you.

 

 

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

 

Know in Your Bones-Solstice 2015

Harvest Moon George Innes 1891

“Harvest Moon,” by George Inness

Here we are in the land of real winter.

Four p.m. and the sun is setting over my field of dried Goldenrod. The plant kingdom outside my window is playing the Madrigal of “darkness into light.” Having read the darkening days, the plants have surrendered into the season, dropping down into the underworld to rest and recover after three busy Quarters of generativity. I have watched green turn to brown, leaf into root, the spirit of each moving out of the light, away from the touch of cold. To the square cell folk, darkness means relief for a while, of the burden of “growing and expanding.” Yes, green things are dying all around us. December in the north end of the Northern Hemisphere is all about dying back, dying into the whole.

“In nature, darkness is neither good nor bad but simply a neutral condition in which things rest, take root and grow.”

Thom Cavalli, author of Alchemical Psychology

It would seem such a tragic loss, but we know in our bones that the light will come again. I wonder as I watch, “What did we as humans loose when we forgot how to sit in the dark?”

Everything that dies “out there” isn’t abandoned or lost. It is cheerfully chewed on, mopped up, and fully consumed by the hungry creatures of the single cell set. When the light comes back, when the air is warm, when last years achievements have sunk deep into the mud, new growth will appear. We have exempted ourselves from this process. We have no imperative to stay close and warm and dream in the dark. This “quiet time” is healing time. Time and space allows last years hurts to fall away. Was there an ill-conceived branch or a vole-decimated root? No worries! Dream a new dream. All will be used. Ever see a plant landfill?

What if we had this much resolve to utilize our own emotional flotsam? What if we were positive that after a quiet dark time of reflection, our painful emotional escapades would feed our present life with the great vitality of a rich fertilizer? The key here is to know in our bones that the light will come again.

Could it be that healing hurt and tragedy, allowing joy to regenerate us, requires time and the acceptance? If we want to fertilize our psyche with the richness of the experience we call “life,” then we need to acknowledge a time called Winter. We require seasons to process the growing and the healing. My intention for a full lived life would look like this:

“I have used all my tools at least once, I have been on both sides of almost all the major relationship quandaries and have reached the end of my life holding lots of love and not much else.”

I think a bit of naptime might be good for our culture. An improvement certainly over the frazzled, out of sorts, 24 hour a day tantrum that is our Americonsumer Christmas. Never met a 2 year old who didn’t feel so much better after a nap.

Home at Montclair George Innes

Home at Montclair by George Innes

So here we find ourselves knocking at the Solstice door once again. Not so much dark as…quiet presence in stasis. My “well lived life” scenario in the dark times of the year might be:

“I will work a shorter day, sleep more, sit by a fire and allow the rhythms of the season to rock my psyche into balance until the light comes back.”

All made possible because…

We know in our bones that the light will come again.

We all crave alignment to something more ancient than our own most recent manifestation. Nature is beyond the teacher, nature is how it works. Is there a time when we will cease to need the dark in order to describe the light?

That’s a question for the spring!

Wishing everyone a blessed return of Light in whatever form you find most beautiful.

 

 

T.F. Cavalli, Alchemical psychology, Old Recipes for Living in a New World, (New York: Penguin/Putnam, 2002)

George Innes (May 1, 1825 – August 3, 1894) was an influential American landscape painter. His work was influenced, in turn, by that of the old masters, the Hudson River school, the Barbizon school, and, finally, by the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose spiritualism found vivid expression in the work of Inness’ maturity. Often called “the father of American landscape painting,”[1][2][3] Inness is best known for these mature works that not only exemplified the Tonalistmovement but also displayed an original and uniquely American style.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Inness

“Harvest Moon,” by George Inness, oil on canvas, 30 by 44 ½ inches, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., bequest of Mabel Stevens Smithers, The Frances Sydney Smithers Memorial, 1891

“Home at Montclair,” allpaintings.org

 

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!”

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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
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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

I Am Sure

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We are struggling out of a dark time.

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

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

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

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

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

                                                    It’s OK to open the door

                                                   As long as you close it

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

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

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

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

I felt shame in our culture.

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

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

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

I asked the other Washer the name of this atrocity.

“CriminalMinds” she said.

Her eyes moved  quickly back to the screen.

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

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

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

“How can that be on TV?”

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum February 17, 2018

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

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

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