A Letter to My Grandchildren about 9/11

Seventeen years ago, on September 11, 2001, before you were born and just a week after your parIMG_1057ents were married, there was an assault on our country in New York City and Washington. Assault means: a sudden attack. This assault that most people call “9/11” now, was the most terrible thing that I had ever experienced. It felt very threatening because our family was involved, and it was “close to home.

We lived on Long Island then and your Grandfather, “HP” worked in New York City. On this Monday Morning of September, 2001, he took the Long Island Railroad, walked to Midtown, and began his day at his desk on the 35th floor.  At the same time, a plane was taken over by men with weapons, and it crashed into the tallest building in NYC.  A second plane flew into the second “World Trade Center” Tower. Another plane was taken over and crashed in Pennsylvania.  Another flew into the side of the Pentagon, in Washington DC.IMG_1048 If you ever wondered why we stand in the long lines at the airport called “Security,” it is because of what was learned from this event. Putting all our things in a scanner, taking off shoes, emptying our pockets is what you have always done to fly on a plane.  When I was a kid, we had no seat belts in cars and babies rode on someone’s lap!  Sounds crazy! We learned the hard way to keep children safe in cars.  Airlines and governments all over the world learned how to keep passengers safe in planes after the 9/11 attack.

 

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Your grandfather watched this attack from his office in NYC.  He and yes, maybe a million others got down out of their tall buildings and walked home through the streets of Manhattan.  He and his coworkers walked across a bridge, found a ride, and walked some more. Your Aunt and I drove through the streets in Queens until we found him standing across the street from where we parked to look at a map. No GPS in those days and the roads were closed for the Emergency helpers.

We drove home feeling grateful that we were all together, knowing that we were very, very blessed. That evening we went to the beach at Smith’s Point Park to stand with hundreds of other Long Island residents. We watched the smoke rise, told our stories, and said prayers for all the hurt people. That experience will always be with him; it will be with all of us.IMG_1052

When you see the sad and angry people talking about 9/11 with hateful words remember that their hearts were broken by this event.  They were very scared, and shocked that anything like that could happen right here where we live. Some people have stayed in this “fight” place, they want to continue to hate ideas, cultures and groups of people.  That won’t help us have a peaceful life or a peaceful country. And it’s hard to learn when you’re shouting.

On this 9/11, I am sitting at the 32nd floor window, looking out at the Hudson River on a foggy September 12, 2018. This building is a half block away from what used to be called “Ground Zero,” the place where these huge buildings stood.  HP and I went to a party at the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center once.  It was so foggy we couldn’t see anything, just like today.IMG_1054

From my window, we can see the 2 powerful beams of light directed to the heavens each year to remember the people who died.  From way up here on this high floor, we can see hundreds of small shiny things flying through the beams. It looked a lot like a porch light on a warm dark night.  Turn it on, and all the bugs appear! These were too big to be bugs.  Turns out, they are migrating birds, mostly Warblers from Canada that are called to the light. They circle in the light in great loops and figure eights, hundreds at a time. They make a particular sound when they find this place. I wonder what it is they are saying to one another? Or are they calling out to us?IMG_1053

 

This year we stood with thousands of people speaking many different languages in the place where the destruction happened 17 years ago.  We listened to the bagpipes played by New York City Firemen; who lost many friends, family and coworkers.  Right around the corner, I found something different. I found it in a mural done about children that inspired me to write this letter.

Three things I would like my grandkids to know:

# 1.  Life goes on, no matter what.

No matter what happens, the sun comes up and brings a new day.

#2.  Learn from whatever happens to you.

Take the emotions and use them as fuel for the fire of learning about how powerful YOU are. Help someone, be true to yourself, make a difference.

#3.  People hurt people.

It is a not their race, religion or even their country, it is an individual that choses to harm. Individuals can make bad, sometimes vicious choices.

Despise their actions and create the opposite in your life.

Never Forget

the potential for the world to live in

PEACE

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All photos, Carol Martell from the

“One World, Our Children” mural by Chinòn Maria

https://www.lifebelowcanal.com/home/3wj5p7hmma6l76mba5akf5hwtrt879

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Choose Your Resources Wisely

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

“You came to the right place,”

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

We are always in the right place,”

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

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

 “Be brave! Be strong! Live! Live!”

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

“Look at the sea, She lives there,

and She knows how it works,”

was my silent reassurance.

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

“I am ready now

I am ready now Baby”

March 19, 2018

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

Godspeed!

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

 

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

Photos: Carol Martell, Honeymoon State Park, Dunedin Florida

Let Yourself Grow!

Winter Landscape at Sunset

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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.

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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.”

 

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Winter Day Ending David Grossman

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

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

 

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

 

Magic Beings and Other Myths

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is that smell?”

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

Everything is done for you.

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”

Turning I saw an elderly gentleman with an umbrella.

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

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

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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

Peeking Behind the Gossamer Curtain

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

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

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

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Fern Carol Martell 2010

“I am ready for my next adventure”

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

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

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

“My Angels Were Here”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death is Generous

Life has Always Been Temporary
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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.

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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

 

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

redonwoodsThe Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

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

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

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

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

 

Deva

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

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

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

 

Is there anybody there?

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

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

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

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

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

oldangelRedonor whack us up the backs of the knees all the while screeching “WAKE UP” directly into our hearts. She had appeared at our doorstep having trekked down a half block on slippered feet to deliver a bulk rate package gone amiss. “He” was just out of the hospital that very afternoon from a hernia operation. The timing of this sortie was just so untimely. I was so taken by this elf in my living room and the stream of wordless language flowing out of her that I forgot myself and offered her whatever help I could.

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

 

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

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

Haunted

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

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

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

“No food, no wine, no fun!”

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

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

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

 

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

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

twoinboat

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

To our silent neighbors all around

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

Addendum

January 20,2016

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

Our tiny sweet lady’s husband died shortly after this was written, she followed, just a bit later.  I heard this from her neighbor, as she was moved to a “higher level of care.” One of the children moved into all those empty bedrooms with a shiny clean pool. Our “across the street” invisible TV watching gentleman also died that winter while we were away for a weekend. Turns out he did have family. Shortly after, I was holding the hose on some parched Gardenias when I saw a young man move away from the foul tempered house emptying cadre filling a dumpster, to sit on the back bumper of an old van. He bent over out of sight of the the others, and sobbed a river of tears into his hands, shoulders heaving; a heartbreaking scene.

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

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

The younger 60’s hippie neighbors to the left of him also left quickly, they did it with a rented truck and a friend’s pickup.  We followed a bit later, selling most everything we had gathered there to a picker with a turkey vulture mentality.  On Ground Hog day we will set off to revisit old territory with a new view of our life. It will be wonderful to see family, watch the sunset, walk the beach.  Thank you Florida for the good lessons well learned.

All paintings by Odilon Redon

http://www.odilon-redon.org

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