Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Guest Author

Tonight's exercise is an essay written from the viewpoint of Molly Dog, my 14 year old golden retriever...

My Neighborhood by Molly Dog
I live in a nice place. I have a yard and a warm home and 5 kitties and two humans.
My humans are Him and Her. I walk them twice a day. We walk around the neighborhood. Everyone knows me! I am Molly. When Him walks me people often yell out "Hello Molly!"
Her lets people pet me. The small humans are sticky and smell good. Sometimes I lick them and they taste sweet, sometimes they taste salty, but they always have a flavor...
The small humans love me best, they hug me and touch me gently with their small hands. Sometimes they kiss my nose. The very smallest will giggle and point and say "Goggy". Sometimes they seem scared but I just sit down and try to look angelic. Her tells them I am a "good dog" and will not hurt them. Her helps them to not be scared.
Nice people live in our neighborhood. The humans with gray hair give me treats and tell me I am pretty. The one human with the little boy always tells me to 'hang in there old gal! '
OK, Mister! I will!
Sometimes there are yummy things to eat on the street. Especially on the corner where the BarBQ hut is. But Her takes them out of my mouth. Him never notices and I just crunch away!
Other "goggies" live around here too. Samson is a big red fluffer chowdog who bounces when I walk by. He lives with Freedom the french poodle and Jewel a jack russell, (hmm maybe she is a jill russell! )
Then there is Bo, he is a big boxer and and he woofs loudly! I always say "Hello Bo" and pee at his fence corner. We pee-mail each other daily...
Riley lives next door to me. She sings opera. She is a beagle. One day Her tried to walk me and Riley at the SAME TIME. That was funny for Her. I did not like it. Riley runs and tugs mumma one way while I want to go the other way. So I growl at Riley and mumma gets the idea that walking two of us at once is NOT RIGHT.
Another beagle in our neighborhood is Jake. He is my boyfriend. We met over pig ears from Jake's human. I have another boyfriend also named Jake who is a CAT! It makes it easier when all my boyfriends have the same name.
The things I love about my neighborhood are that it has wonderful smells, wonderful humans and other dogs. But best of all, everyone knows me and says, "Hello, Molly"...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reflections on a cat named Higgy

Higgy was my first senior rescue/adoption. He was a 12 year old cat when I brought him home. I had him in my life for 4 years. Given the chance to do it over, I wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe to have had him all his life. Higgy was a fierce warrior cat. He was strong and brave and quite unlike any other animal I have ever known. He was one of my finest teachers. I love him still...

“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

By: Mary Oliver


As some of you know, I have a cat named “Higgy”. He was rescued as an adult cat who had led a hard life. He is now 16 years old, in kidney failure, has high blood pressure, a heart murmur and BB’s scattered throughout his body. He has survived several surgeries to remove his thyroid glands. He takes pills twice a day and every night I administer fluids under the skin to help with his kidney function. He is both fragile and fierce. By all rights he should not be alive. Nor should he really even trust a human. But he goes on...
Because of his medical condition I am more aware of his mortality than that of my other three cats. For the few minutes every night that I sit with Higgy and treat him, I am aware that his time on earth is finite. His life will end one day. I could start grieving now, sometimes I am tempted to, and sometimes I do, but I must choose to celebrate instead. Knowing, really knowing that I won’t have Higgy forever causes me to marvel at our time together. Every day, for at least five minutes I am fully, totally, immersed in Life. It is in my lap, under my hands, purring and gazing at me with a look of love and trust that breaks my heart wide open and lets gratitude flood my soul. Higgy reminds me that Life is incredibly precious and I revel in the joy of Creation. He makes me realize if I can feel this unconditional love from a cat, then what love must God have for the world and me. The moments I spend in love with Higgy are a blessing that I claim daily.



Monday through Friday I get up a little before 6 am, and feed 4 cats. After they have eaten, I watch as my oldest one “Higgy” climbs up onto his cushion in the chair at the dining room window. This is the Eastern window and it catches the first ray of sunlight and Higgy manages to get a 2 or 3-hour nap in his own personal sunbeam.
It struck me one December morning watching Higgy as he sat looking out at the still dark sky, that he was a lesson in faith. Rain or shine he knows that the light will come if he is patient and waits long enough. It may take hours or days or even a week, but eventually the sun shines again and he is grateful for the warmth as he dozes content in the sureness of Light.


Higgy has since passed from this life to his next. His last illness was relatively brief – only a matter of weeks. He really only had one or two bad days. He got to sit in his sunbeam, drink a lot of tuna water, and have his face washed daily by Mo.
The thing I feared most was that I would not know when it was time to euthanize him. I was afraid I would hold on too long. Because of our incredible bond, that fear was never realized. In a glance, he told me when it was time. And I was able to let him go. While he was alive, I felt like I held a piece of God in my hands. Knowing that his death was imminent made me aware that Life was never more precious and real than when I gave him his treatments. Higgy’s death and dying became a sacred journey for me. In the last few weeks I would sit in our prayer room with him, listening to him purr. In the stillness, there was a peace that defied all rational thought. There was a presence I can only believe was the Holy Spirit. I felt surrounded by love. After his death, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude - for Higgy’s life, for the lessons he taught me, for the incarnation of God in all creation. I realize Higgy was never truly mine; he was and is now God’s. I had him in my life for four years. Four years that was more joy filled than sorrow filled. He was a funny old man, “Higgy the Pooh, silly old cat” we used to say to him. But the gifts he granted us were untold. I love him and always will. When the time came, I felt like I was imbued with the Grace of God, and I could grant him a peaceful passage. He is now on a beautiful journey, one where he will never know hunger, or pain, or fear again. He has become part of the light. I will hold him in my heart forever.

Water

A few Sundays ago, I sat in church on the Feast of the Baptism and listened to an awesome sermon given by a deacon. He was talking about John baptizing the masses: how each person came to the river, dirty, covered in sin, laying bare their humanity, to be immersed in the pool, to be cleansed by the water. Finally at the end of the line was the Christ. Jesus came to the river, pure, divine, only to be immersed in the pool where all the sins and humanity were swirling and settling. When he arose from the water, he was no longer pure, he was soaked in mankind's sins, cloaked in our humanity. It was then, said the deacon, that he became both fully human and divine.
That image has stayed with me now for weeks. I see Jesus rising out of the water, walking toward the shore trailing a cloak woven through with dark and somber colors, images from a Hieronymus Bosch painting dragging the weight of the world behind him for all eternity...

Baptism makes sense to me as I think about the healing quality of water; about how the sound of rain calms me. The gentle drops cleansing the earth, nourishing life, feeding seeds and shoots and saplings. The water seeping into the soil, the smell of damp and woods and flowers drifting through the windows on a summer night.
I love the power of a thunderstorm, surging across the valley at the Retreat Center, the wind whipping the trees into a frenzy, the grass in the meadow blowing flat as the wind and rain rush up the hill. The smell of ozone in the air as lighting splits the dark and thunder rolls across the hills.
I remember a summer that was filled with hateful words and angry tears, harshness day after day in the heat of a South Carolina summer that was finally cooled and cleansed as my love and I danced in the rain while musicians gamely played on despite the heavy cool drops that fell like forgiving tears upon us.
There is healing too in tears, water from our soul that drains away the aching in our hearts, the pain that wrenches us awake at night longing for lost loves, elusive dreams, crushed hopes...
I think about a mother bathing an infant and years later that infant, now grown, bathing her mother, childlike and incapacitated with age.
I think of people pulling one another from flood waters, saving strangers, lifting them from the roiling rivers of despair and taking them to shelter, safety, salvation.
I think of my own baptism, how my oldest brother, a preacher, led me to the middle of a running stream and held me in his arms as he lowered me beneath the surface, never wavering, never faltering, holding me and washing me free of my sins, uniting me in faith with my ancestors, with a communion of saints, with a world larger than my tiny hometown; uniting me with the divine, showering me with humanity, linking my life, my love, my faith forever in the cool clear water on a starry night.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

More poetry from the past...

Spring
by M P J

I knew that spring had come
when I saw the redbuds bloom.
I rushed home from school
Racing across greening grass
No hat, no mittens, coat unbuttoned
Flapping in the warm breeze.
In the distance I saw my father
striding in the wake of mule and plow.
I trailed behind him
stretching my legs to match his steps.
Around me waves of sod broke,
Tides of clay and earth swirled about me.
I bent and picked up a fossil shell
and listened for the sound
of a long ago, forgotten sea.
Later when no one was watching
I flung myself face down on the dirt
I breathed in the clean dark scent
and scooped handfuls of black rich soil
letting it run between my fingers like time.
As I lay there I could feel
the last coolness of winter beneath me
while the sun warmed my back.
On the way home hand in hand with Daddy
We cut through the orchard
where snowy petals showered upon our heads
and bees buzzed a symphony of song.
If I promised not to tell Mamma
He’d let me slip off my shoes and wiggle
my toes in the tender new grass.
Later at night I would go to sleep
Bathed and clean
My window open to the lilac wind of spring.

More poetry from the past...


I was looking through my past work, and this sort of summed up the feeling of vastness and humbleness I felt when in Colorado. The sky was so beautiful, the mountains so huge and I was so small in the world...











Glimpse
by MPJ


The earth shuddered
the skies swirled
in arcing
celestial patterns.

I fell to the ground
awe stricken
as the heavens danced
and Time ceased to be
Wisdom and knowledge
poured forth
and in an instant
I sought
and lost it all.

The universe was righted.
I stood
a mortal speck
in the vastness
of God.

Time & Memory

Time is such an illusion. I know just yesterday I was a teenager and today I am a middle aged woman...
There are moments when waking up I am sure that I am just starting my life, and everything is ahead of me only to realize that no, I am fast approaching 50 and am on my third career.
Where did the hours go? I remember sitting with my older neighbors and listening to them talk about the olden days and how quickly time flies, while I, about 7 years old thought time was interminable. That the days of summer boredom just dragged on forever...
Now I understand.
Time and memory are fickle.
There are some days I cannot remember whether I ate breakfast or not, but I can clearly recall the moment I got shot by a BB gun by my older brother.
Or when I want to remember a particularly fine day in detail, I find I cannot, but for some reason I can not forget inane things like hours spent running light cues over and over for the same show in some dark dingy theater.
Then there are some days in which I want to freeze a moment, make it last forever, hold it in my heart and never forget it... I don't know how though.
I fear that I lose some of the best days while ordinary events crowd in and take space I want to reserve for the momentous, the sacred, the secret and the special.
I want to remember every moment from this past summer when I was in Colorado with my family. I want to remember the laughter, the tears, the love that surrounded us; the love that loomed larger than the mountains that left me gasping for my breath.
I want to remember the look on my brother's face when we saw each other after 2 years of being apart. I want to know how my nephew so suddenly grew into a man. I want to slow time, to capture it and hold on... I want to remember every moment, every person, every breath... because in truth it is all sacred and momentous and special. But I can't. I don't know how. But I will keep on trying.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

College lesson learned.

Once I was kissed by a married man.
I was young and in college and so very naive. I had a highly esteemed professor for several classes. He had published several books, was tenured and somewhat old (or so it seemed to me then).
He was in a habit of inviting students to his home for lively discussions over simple meals or potlucks. We would all bring a dish or chip in together for takeout and spend many hours around the fire laughing and talking sitting at the feet of a great man...
I, having lost my father to cancer in my teens, started to look to him as a father figure. He seemed so wise and venerable. I was fascinated by all he said. He had seen so much, been so many places, and just knew about life. Sometimes his younger wife would join us when she was in town. She too was a professor but was teaching in another state for a year as a guest lecturer. She had been his protege and he had left his first wife for her. Somehow he made it seem wildly romantic and not so injurious to wife #1.
One night after most of the others had left, I remained with one of my friends, a male student, to clean up. We had planned on walking home, but Professor decided it would be best to drive us home due to the late hour. He dropped my friend off first and then asked me about my friend.
"What's your relationship?" he wanted to know. Were we dating?
"No," I told him, " we are friends, that's all".
At this point we had arrived at my apartment. The professor pulled over and parked and proceeded to ask me more about my friend. "Are you enamored of him?" he asked. I remember sitting there thinking that was such a quaint and sweet word, as I turned to answer, the professor leaned over and kissed me. It was not a fatherly kiss.
I was so shocked that I froze for a moment. But as he started to put his arms around me and pull me closer, I pushed away and said, "No, wait, you're married".
"Yes," he said, "but she's so far away and I am so lonely..."
I remember mumbling something about needing to get up early, opening the car door, and bolting into my apartment where I locked the door and ignored the knocking and attempts to talk to me.
The next time I saw him in class, he acted as if nothing had happened and then weeks later, apologized, stating I misunderstood his intentions... He was just expressing "fatherly affection".
Somehow I semi~believed him and told myself that I was special to him and I had just misunderstood the kiss.
I believed that for years, never telling anyone that he had kissed me, never telling myself the truth either.
Many years down the road, after I had moved to NY, married and was looking for a new career, I visited my college. I made an appointment to meet with him as he was nearing retirement. I took some of my current writing projects along so he could see what I was doing with my life. I was excited because I still believed I was special, I still needed his validation, and after all, he had kissed me so I must have been a very special student for him as a married man to let his moral compass slip for an instant.
When I arrived at his office, he came out to greet me and stopped in confusion. He looked at me and confessed he thought I was someone else. He had gotten me confused with another student. He hadn't remembered me at all.
I mustered up as much grace as possible, talked to him for a while until he finally remembered me (maybe) and then left.
When I parted from him, I left behind years of illusions. He was not a great man after all. He was just a man. I was not a special student of his and I suspect not the only student he had ever kissed. I left behind the need for a father figure, the need for this man's validation and most of all I left behind the shame of thinking that somehow I did something wrong, to have been kissed by a married man...

NYC Memory

One night I went on a date with a struggling actor and we went to see "Maurice", a Merchant Ivory FILM (as opposed to a run of the mill movie...).
This sweet young man sat through an artsy film about gay men in turn of the century England (as best as I can recall) and held my hand.
Later we walked and talked; we spent hours walking the city streets, passing by people who surely must have looked at us and seen 2 young people in the first stages of love. I just remember laughing and talking and wondering where he had been all my life...
Later, in Brooklyn, after a long subway ride, he asked to come up to sew his dangling coat button back on before heading home. We sat in the tiny kitchen, finally surrounded by warmth and light, while I threaded a needle and then neatly sewed his button on tightly and securely.
That coat is long gone, but the young man, now a little grayer and many miles and many years later sits across from me in the evenings still talking and laughing.
And to this day, every time I see a dangling coat button, I smile...

Kids

This week working with my kids has been such a joy. I have been leading a group after school where we teach social skills and do arts and crafts. We work on the basics, "introduce yourself", "start a conversation", "how to shake hands" and then we play some energy expending games before moving on to crafts.
This week we did Zoo animals to burn off some of the "its a cold day & we are stuck inside" energy. The kids and I ran back and forth in the cafeteria as trumpeting elephants, waddling penguins and mewing kittens. It was fun and loud and chaotic. My co-leader walked in as we were growling tigers expecting to find us sedately sitting in a circle... OOPS. We finally did sit and eventually calmed down...
One of the most touching moments was when our youngest child accidentally got bonked in the eye by an elbow and the bonker apologized profusely and another child asked "Are you OK, lil' buddy?" demonstrating to me that they were starting to bond and feel empathy for one another.
I get the pleasure of watching these kids be open and trusting while learning to be friends. They are the kids who are socially awkward, who have "labels", children many people would discount. My agency works with them not only to help them just survive but also live and prosper in the world we all inhabit. We are giving them tools for survival and growth. I know what I am doing is just a drop in the bucket and that I cannot combat all the negativity they will face, but maybe the seeds we are planting will take root and grow. Maybe it will be enough for at least one of them not to give up hope, for one of them to realize they are beautiful and brave and so very wondrous...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More poetry from a while ago...

Winter
by Martha Parks Johnson

The first snow would fall
in the secret of night.
I’d wake to find
A wonderland of white ice.
My breath would lightly
frost the window
and I would hug my quilt tight
as Daddy stirred the sleeping
embers of fire
into waking blaze.

Later bundled in his old Pea jacket
in boots a size too large
I would step the first step
into the hushed wilderness.
I would wander throughout
the field discovering tracks
of squirrel and fox,
pausing to see
the tiny chit chit scratching
of chickadee and wren.

In the orchard
trees arched against
the aching whiteness,
stark and gnarled like an
old man’s hand upon his cane.
The cedars feathery and green
defiant in their vividness
danced along fence rows
as I clapped with delight
startling the jays and grackles
into flight , dark specters
against the jewel blue of sky.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Mailman's Obituary

Almost 30 years ago I lost my best friend to drugs. No, he didn’t die, he just wandered off into smoke-filled rooms of people smoking pot while I stood outside the circle and wondered why he needed to escape his life and thus me so badly.
He was a rare bird, not destined to live in the small cage of a town we grew up in back in the 1960’s. He was too urbane, too worldly, just too much. Plus his dad was the mailman and I fancied, they knew all our secrets.
Then just a day or two ago, I saw his dad’s obituary. The mailman had died, survived by his son, his daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. The mailman’s son had somehow embraced normalcy while I wandered the canyons of New York seeking the artist’s life. Now, decades later, I was home again, back in the world he had never left.
I sat and played the time game, the one where “when his dad was my age, he was doing this…” and I realized the man who so terrified us, the mailman, was only 37 when we were randy teenagers, 10 years my junior at this point. He, who had struck such fear into me, had been a young man then. Of course he did not seem young to us, working a job, with a wife and two sons, serving at church, taking care of his elderly widowed mother, he seemed old even then.
All the paper said was “he died at home”. Leaving his death, much like his life a mystery to me. Other snippets "served in the Korean war”, “based in Okinawa Japan”, “charter member” swirl in black and white, providing only glimpses into his 73 years. I read the paragraph trying to glean from it who this man was, why I feared him so much, and why it appears, at least to the casual glance, his son became him.

****SNOWDAY****

Today is a snow day. A totally unexpected snow day. I went to bed under a full moon, with just a few clouds scuttling across the sky. One or two stars peeked through the bare branches of the mulberry tree as I waited for Molly dog to finish her late night sniff 'n' squat.
Then early this morning, whilst still snuggled deep under the covers, Bob walks in and tells me, "You have a snow day..." I think I am dreaming.
So five minutes later, I ask him if I heard correctly. " Yes" he says. Then to further confirm, my phone rings, it's my coworker calling to announce "It's a snow day!"
I arise, make coffee, find wooly socks and shoes, my glasses and put on my jacket and Molly dog and I go for a walk.

Is there anything more breathtaking than a world of pristine whiteness? Of unbroken blankets of snow, with black branches etched against it?
As we walk, the snow crunches under my feet, Molly's breath huff huff huffs white clouds along our path, and the faraway bark and bay of the neighbor's beagle after the first morning squirrel breaks the silence of the new morn.
I spot tiny squirrel prints skittering helter skelter on the sidewalk, followed somewhat closely by cat feet...
My street has only a few tire prints in the road, almost everyone is still sleeping.
I smell woodsmoke, someone is awake and has their fireplace going. I walk on knowing that when I arrive home, coffee will be waiting...

Monday, January 21, 2008

The power of a mother

This last fall I was ill. So sick I ended up in the emergency room, with an IV and lots of morphine coursing through my veins. I had serious pain, unlike any I had before. And all I wanted was my momma. It didn't matter that my husband of 20 years was there by my side. Or that friends were just a phone call away and would come over in an instant. Or that I am a middle aged woman whose mother had been dead over 20 years... I wanted her. I wanted my momma to be there, to hold my hand, to tell me everything was going to be okay. To wink at me and smile her smile. To kiss me on the forehead after smoothing my hair back. I really wanted to be a child again who could be held and rocked on her mother's lap...

I have several children on my caseload who are in foster care. They had been removed from their mothers because of abuse, neglect and trauma. What these children have lived through would scar the best and brightest of us irreparably. They have deep, deep wounds. Their mothers have beat them, starved them, exposed them to drugs, violence and horrors I will not recount here. The children both fear and love their mothers. Yet at Christmas they all asked me if they could go home. Home to their moms. It didn't matter that they were warm, fed, safe, and with people who could take care of their every need. They felt the call of a shared body. They wanted the person who had carried them in their womb for 9 months. The person whose blood sustained them, nurtured them, fed them. They wanted the person who for better or worse was their mother.

I have never had the desire to have children that some women have. I have been content with my decision not to have children. I feel at times that not ever having children has left me ill prepared for my current line of work. I don't know how to parent, I don't what parents go through when their child acts out, runs away, treads on that last nerve. I kept thinking I was handicapped.
Then today in my supervision session, my supervisor told me that I was meant to be here. To do this job. He said he could see that I loved it. And that love would carry me through and help me do my job.
I realized that if I had had children, I may be in a different place in my life, a different job. That maybe my not being a parent will bring something different to the table. Maybe something useful. Maybe its okay that I am not a mom. All my kids have mothers already, maybe they need me to be something else...

Teddy: In honor of MLK Jr.

I was five
When I first rode the bus
From Detroit
To the south
A brown bag with a change of clothes
a cold biscuit in my pocket
sitting in the back
pierced by strangers’ stares
I sat as my mama told me to
Still, quiet, my head held high

First day of school
Straining to understand
The strange southern tongue
Scared of the laughing girls
And leering boys
I rode the bus way ‘cross town
To the black school
Used books and broken desks waiting
For me, scared, but my head held high

I rode the bus to Selma
Where I marched til my feet were burning
Like the fire in my heart
The blood in my veins
For justice
I rode that bus to Selma
With my head held high

I rode the bus cross town
To the job that paid me slave wages
A hundred years past slavery’s end
Kowtowing to the white folks
Watching the boys that raped me
Dance with their pretty wives
Who looked through me
In my maids dress serving
Fancy eats
With my head held high

I rode the bus to Eastern State
The loony bin, crazy house,
Asylum
My heart was broken,
My spirit wounded
My body tired and my mind so very sad
But still, my head held high

Now I ride the bus to Frankfort
Where I tell the truth
Where I have my say
And they dare not set me down
Because all these years
I did not falter
I did not quit
I survived it all
With my head held high

Your Heart is My Home

In the early morning hours
I wake
and draw nearer to you.
You lie still
your breath gentle and sweet
in a sighing, soughing, snore.
It is still dark,
cold and quiet.
Somewhere the dawn is breaking,
but not here,
not yet.
It is still the time of dreams and death.
I am afraid and touch your cheek
for reassurance that you
are near.
I press against you
stealing a bit of your warmth,
your strength,
your calm certitude,
for my own.
It is in the darkness
that I am weak,
in the night that
I lie scared,
with all the monsters
of my world
dancing in my head.
Your arms are my refuge,
my comfort,
my one safe harbor.
Your heart is my home.

Ghosts

Memories surface
breaking through
dreams
reality
like fish feeding
at morning light
Who are these
shadows
of loves past
friends forgotten
who knock against
my dreaming door?
Visits from long dead
family
with words of wisdom
that melt upon waking
like frost in the sun
I want to hold on
to tether them to me
for one more day
one more moment
one more chance
To say
I am sorry
I love you
I won't forget...

But I wake
and they slip away
vanishing to a netherworld
of fantasy and frost
where longing
meets love
to give them substance
once more.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Empty

I am empty,
bereft of hope,
dream destroyed.
Moments ago
I felt so alive,
rich,
full of life,
pregnant with possibility.
But one thin blue line
took it all away.

Cage of Bone

Here in this cage of bone,
the first sound may have been
laughter;
Booming around
rocking my world
a giddy roller coaster ride
in darkest warmth.
Or perhaps initially
it was the rhythm of a shared pulse
hers linked with mine.
We breathed and lived
as one - not quite two
but soon.

I hope the first sound
wasn’t crying,
deep mournful breaths
fueling sobs and hiccups,
jarring me
agitating the sea
to tempest fury.

I cannot remember when
I first heard Life beckoning
Waking me
arousing my senses
Luring me to its siren song…

But it called,
Pushing through
the muffled layers
of flesh and bone and fluid
Parting my life
from hers.

Creating desire
within me
to follow the song
to not only see
but hear
and taste
and feel
the world
out on my own.

Perhaps
I did not hear with my ear.
Perhaps
I heard with my heart.

The first initial sound
must have been
the Breath of God
gently breathing
Life into my
Soul.

Darkness

As a child I was terrified of the dark. I never knew what lurked just beyond my reach. Those unknown terrors would keep me awake and alert for hours, before finally exhausted, I fell asleep. If I had just a tiny amount of light, I was okay; a nightlight, a door cracked so that light from another room shone in faintly, or even a flashlight I could flick on when the terror became too overwhelming.
As an adult, I have conquered my fear of the darkened room, but this image of a frightened child desperate for a pinprick of light often surfaces in my life. There are times when the emotional darkness is so overwhelming that I can’t sleep, I stay alert and afraid of that which is beyond my reach. My adult “darkness” may be worry, depression, grief, anger or fear. I may envision monsters of poverty, shame, loss, or death stealing the life I love. I long for a pinpoint of light…
For me, faith is that pinpoint of light. Knowing that “this too shall pass” gives me the strength to move forward, to let go of the fear and finally relax and rest. Knowing that God is there in that darkness, not outside of it, but truly in the darkness with me is often enough. Just a little bit a light, a little bit of hope, a pinprick of faith is sometimes all we need to know that the darkness is not winning…

Cold #2

My first year in NYC I was woefully unprepared for winter. I, in all innocence, never knew it could be colder than KY.
I had arrived in September with a toolbox, suitcase and $200, ready to pursue my dreams of becoming the best lighting designer the world had ever known...
Then reality set in.
Life in a tiny 2 room apartment with 2 other roommates started to become unbearable. So I moved to an all female boarding house run by an order of nuns. Curfew was at eleven pm. If I wasn't in by then I was locked out for the night. So I spent many a night sleeping in the green rooms of theaters; the unheated green rooms of theaters. I learned that packing blankets and scenic drapes make good quilts.
I also learned that what suffices for a winter coat in Bowling Green KY, does not cut it in NYC. I had a mustard gold 3/4 length vintage 50's coat I wore all through college. I may as well have worn a sweater in NYC for all the warmth it provided.
I quickly learned to layer. Long underwear, a t-shirt, a flannel shirt, tights under jeans, 2 pairs of socks, a hooded sweatshirt, then my ridiculous Lucy Ricardo/Ethel Mertz coat with gloves and a scarf. I looked on par w/ the homeless people on the streets. But I stayed relatively frost bite free.
Finally, my family sent me my older brothers hooded wool peacoat. What a blessing! It was lined, thick, had a wonderful hood and deep pockets. and it zipped so tightly the wind couldn't blow in and creep between my shirt and jeans.
That spring (at least on the calendar!) I worked industrials on the piers on the Hudson River. I have never been so cold. The dank and chill settled in the marrow of my bones. I would walk home in the canyons of skyscrapers, the wind blowing so hard I had to lean into it to move forward. The air would freeze my nose hairs and tears would run freely making my eyelashes freeze and stick together if I closed my eyes for too long. I stayed perpetually chapped.
I would get on the subway and gratefully squeeze between strangers just to get warm. Often I would nod off lulled by the rhythm of the train and the warmth of the bodies pressed against me, only to awaken when one stranger stood up to be replaced by another...
I also did not own winter boots when I first lived in NYC. No need in KY, it rarely snows and so I didn't think to pack any. Then of course I couldn't afford to buy any initially. ($200 doesn't last long in NY, even back in 1983). So I would walk 20 blocks in my sneakers through snow and slush and then spend the day working in wet, cold shoes that slowly dried, only to get wet and cold again on the walk home.
Along with the physical cold, I experienced the spiritual cold. I had a falling out with the 2 roommates (necessitating the move to the nun driven boarding house) I broke up with my first NYC boyfriend who turned out to be a distant self absorbed actor, and I couldn't afford to go home to family. So no comfort, no fire, either temporal or spiritual. This was the first time in my life I could not get warm. I had never felt so chilled, so lonely, and so very, very cold.

Cold #1

Cold 1:
When I was a child we lived in an old house built about the time of the Civil War. It had electricity but no central heat, no running water, no indoor plumbing. We used wood and coal stoves to heat the main rooms (kitchen, living room, parents bedroom) all the rest of the house was cold.
We would heat water on the stove for baths in the big galvanized tub that my mother would pull up next to the stove. I remember watching her pour kettle after kettle into the tub as I stood shivering, wrapped in a blanket waiting until the tub was full enough to jump in and take a quick bath.
The front of me facing the stove would be roasting while the back of me would be freezing.
After drying off, and slipping into a flannel gown and socks I would race to my bedroom and wiggle under the 3 quilts, 2 blankets and 1 cotton sheet I required to fall asleep toasty warm. I didn't mind sleeping in a really cold room as long as there were enough quilts to pile heavy and warmth making on top of me. There was something delicious about sticking just my nose out, breathing cold fresh air while the bed slowly warmed around me. If I got too hot, I would just scoot to another section on the sheets, feeling their crisp cottony coolness drain the heat away.
I can still remember the feeling of sinking deep into the well of my feather bed, freshly fluffed and puffed by my momma. I remember her fluffing the covers over me, smoothing back my hair and kissing me on the forehead. Despite the ice clicking against the glass window panes, the wind howling through the trees and the cold air, I felt warm, safe and loved.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Borrowed from http://waiterrant.net/

I love this guy's blog. He is a NYC waiter, former seminarian, soon to be published writer. Way Cool!

“God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us.”
The guy who said that was a Lutheran pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was executed by the Nazi’s for trying to assassinate Hitler. This man knew Evil up close and personal. But he still cherished his faith in God and his belief in the goodness of the world. How did he do that in the face of such monstrosity?
Because he realized that God was not all powerful. He knew God wouldn’t swoop down and save him from his jailors. He understood there’s no division of sacred and profane, any secular and divine. He saw there’s only one reality and he believed that reality was God. And from within that insight he wrestled with the mystery of suffering.
God, Bonhoeffer would say, suffers with us. He shares in our pain. If you’ve ever been to a child’s funeral you know the only thing you can do is cry. God is like that person weeping in the funeral parlor. It was God who was pulverized when the Towers fell, it was God who burned in the Nazi’s ovens, and it was God who drowned in that nursing home in New Orleans.
That’s a hard lesson to learn. Maybe it’s not an answer at all. But the older I get the more this explanation makes sense. It is the only way I can wrap my mind around children dying and old ladies drowning.
But within Bonhoeffer’s words lies a challenge. Since God doesn’t come down in a blizzard of special effects to bail us out – we have to help each other. We recognize the suffering of others and are moved to relieve it. We can’t coop ourselves up in our apartments, churches, and mosques wishing all the bad things will go away. There’s no room for childish magical thinking. We have to act. The rescuers of 9/11 and the Gulf Coast understood this without all the fancy theological reflection. Bonhoeffer would say when we help each other that is God helping us. The human heart is moved by weakness not by strength. It is our brokenness, not power, that binds us together. Perhaps our weakness will be our salvation. Maybe that is how God “can be with us and help us.” Who knows? I’m only a waiter.

http://waiterrant.net/

Meher Baba

This really spoke to me. I want to attain this level of consciousness. Cool.


To love God in the most practical way is to love our fellow beings. If we feel for others in the same way as we feel for our own dear ones, we love God.
If, instead of seeing faults in others, we look within ourselves, we are loving God.
If, instead of robbing others to help ourselves, we rob ourselves to help others, we are loving God.
If we suffer in the sufferings of others and feel happy in the happiness of others, we are loving God.
If, instead of worrying over our own misfortunes, we think ourselves more fortunate than many many others, we are loving God.
If we endure our lot with patience and contentment, accepting it as His Will, we are loving God.
If we understand and feel that the greatest act of devotion and worship to God is not to hurt or harm any of His beings, we are loving God.
To love God as He ought to be loved, we must live for God and die for God, knowing that the goal of life is to Love God, and find Him as our own self.

THE PATH OF LOVE, p. 109
Copyright 1986 Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust

Thursday, January 17, 2008

YOGA

I have finally started doing yoga again. At a gym. With about 10 other people. The class is taught in the dark (?) w/ music louder than the instructor who wears her aerobic class headset and microphone.
I have always had yoga taught by former dancers. This is very different. More athletic. More sweat and jump yoga. No incense and bells. hmmm
I will get used to it. But I miss the warm ambient lighting, the Nag Champa incense and the tingsha bells.