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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

I shut my eyes in order to see. (Paul Gauguin)

Umbrellas and I don’t get along well. I either leave them in the car or under the table at a restaurant. Several years ago, I published a poem on a For a Better World site, AEQAI, maintained by Saad Ghosn. I remembered some of those narrative poetry lines while I was driving today, rain falling, my umbrella in the trunk, my thoughts recalling the many broken people I know. Peace upon all. Without judgment.

THE BROKEN UMBRELLA

I find an old, bent umbrella

in the back of a closet,

and remember a story

about my great aunt,

the one who lived

with my grandmother.

I heard she refused to go to school,

rain or shine, without her umbrella.

Grandma laughed when she told me,

one of those tired adult laughs

I didn’t understand.

She never knew why

her little sister feared rain.

And I wouldn’t dare ask.

 

My great aunt talked about men

as if they were born as sooty coal

covered with flesh.

Genetically messy, crude, loud.

Sports without a soul.

Since I was her only niece,

my aunt sought my ear.

I tolerated her out of pity.

I pictured her as a child

at the turn of the twentieth century.

paired with her umbrella,

two closed slender shapes

surrounded by bullies

who gave fuel to her opinions.

She learned bitterness somewhere,

wore it as a badge of a holy crusade.

 

In the fifties Grandma took in a boarder,

a quiet man who ate corn flakes

doused with warm water.

My aunt latched her door at night,

and moved a bookcase

in front of it.

 

Then one night after Grandma died

I stayed overnight with my aunt,

gave her some company.

I recall her bony frame in dull, plain pajamas,

all femininity pressed out,

as she told me about an uncle,

or was it a cousin?

You won’t believe what he did to me?

By then I was old enough to guess.

But, not old enough to know

the burden of that knowledge wasn’t mine.

I remained silent.

Her secret stayed bound

within flannel and hate.

She died in a nursing home.

Alone.

 

I imagine a new scene as I discard

the useless umbrella from my closet.

What would have happened if

I could have borrowed a few years

of experience from my future,

risked touching the pain in her eyes,

and asked, what happened?

 

My old umbrella’s hollow spiked bones stick out

through torn, split fabric.

I can’t fix it. Yet, strange,

I feel an odd sadness for all things

that no longer have a chance to recover.

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Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open. (John Barrymore)

My grandson, Dakota, and I explore our backyard with his new red plastic truck. It’s large enough for him to sit on it. I’m grateful he realizes I would crush it. A septuagenarian squatting that low and then maneuvering the toy from a bug’s height, would be a sight for the neighbors. I wouldn’t want them to anticipate a 911-call.

“You know you won’t live forever,” he says.

“Yes, I do. That’s why I celebrate time with you, give to others, and love as much as I can.”

He doesn’t answer and continues playing with the truck. We create ramps from National Geographic Magazines. He rolls construction paper and tapes it with heavy tape. My granddaughters’ baby doll bottles in the center maintain firmness.

We let the moments speak for themselves, the challenge to roll or unroll. To go over the ramp with the truck or bypass it. If one tactic doesn’t work, Dakota tries another. My little buddy doesn’t give up easily.

I consider how quickly the notion, not-good-enough, flashes into my mind. I know it was taught to me in childhood. What isn’t good enough? The statement is too generic to be true. Nevertheless, the temptation to just-forget-it rises far too often. For most human critters, both young and old.

My friend, Cathie, calls. She hasn’t seen me at the Y for a while. Either I have been entertaining grandkids or working on my book. She has something to give me.

“When I saw this, all the bright colors,” she says, “I thought of you and just had to get it.”

I plan to meet Cathie. On Friday morning. At ten AM.

She has made a pillow. Cathie is a seamstress. She uses her gift to celebrate other people.

“It’s pre-hugged,” she says, holding the pillow through the plastic bag against her chest.

Since we have both been in the pool, we are soaking wet. A chlorine hug doesn’t negate the love attached to her or her work.

Life isn’t perfect. It never will be. However, with grandchildren like Dakota and friends like Cathie, sweetness is easier to find.

 

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As we grow spiritually, we discover that we are not as separate as we thought we were. We realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. (Richard Rohr)

Can time be weighed?

Does night and day,

progress, failure

illness, health,

compassion, and greed fit

into the final figure?

History. Is each page unbiased?

I wait, and watch as unnamed birds

fly and hide into deciduous branches

where leaves will fall, allow

trees to stand bare, and perhaps,

begin a new cycle.

Life changes

and yet remains unchanged.

 

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 I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war?” (Eve Merriam, poet and writer)

As Ella moves through a dusty playground area, I watch the children’s interactions. Some of the kids are wild, climbing over one another on the slide. They laugh even when their bodies’ positions are obviously uncomfortable.

Other youngsters appear less aggressive. I notice the essence of both peace and war in scaled-down forms.

One bright, talkative little girl tells me the story of a skunk that appeared one evening on one of the softball fields. She is animated yet assures me no one was sprayed. Her spirit speaks peace. Another little girl and her younger brother race against Ella for a bouncy whale and dolphin.

Ella stands too close to the two children. She begs for a turn. I can tell the siblings are determined to maintain a battle over the sea mammals because they gesture to one another as Ella walks away. I lead my granddaughter in another game.

“Ella, I’m swimming, but I’m not very good at it. I need a lifeguard. Will you be my lifeguard?”

I move my arms in an awkward mock swim motion.

“Sure,” she answers.

The distraction works—at least until the two kids are called by their dad to go home. A simple solution. At least for the moment.

Mine. Mine. Mine. A universal problem. Ella also wants to help her grandmother. Play is serious learning. She doesn’t grab the dolphin until at least ten minutes after her antagonists leave.

War. It has lived since ancient times. Now, news travels faster through social media, television, the Internet. Stories appear slanted, tainted, unverified. And violence continues in various forms as TV watchers eat dinner.

Suddenly, I have indigestion.

Shadows. They have multiple meanings. Reflected images born from the sun. Shady areas. Loyal followers. Hidden flaws. Metaphors.

Find the kindest kind of shadow…

Illusive at best. I can only seek the goal I see and love to the best of my ability. Love is war’s antonym.

Attending a protest in front of an ICE facility in my home town was a recent choice for me. You bet I was frightened. However, no one ever said love was going to be easy. Yes, immigration control is necessary. Cruelty, especially against children, is not. Fortunately, the event was as peaceful as it was intended.

Some shadows need more attention than others.

Peace to all.

 

 

 

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One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. (Henry Miller)

Sunday begins with a new look at death. Since most of the members of our church group have passed the mystical, magical, well-lined age of 65, we know we are no longer middle-aged. Mary Grace Manera from Home Funeral Alliance, comes to talk to us about saying our final goodbyes at home. Not a new concept. Before funerals became an industry, final goodbyes were held at home. No concrete linings. No embalming. In another century Grandma could be buried in the backyard next to the marigolds.

Burial without a funeral director is possible in most states except Indiana. The Art of Natural Death Care, a vimeo, shows how this can legally be accomplished.

My husband and I already have faced our mortality. We sealed the green burial deal over pizza at Spring Grove Cemetery.

This afternoon I bury my plans to write for hours. Family is in town. My granddaughters want me to join the party. I realize the headache I had this morning has disappeared. And I am grateful for this moment. Gray. Rain in the air. Wash spinning in the dryer. Blood running through my veins. I am alive and appreciated by people I love.

Life is far from perfect. I fear for the current government, for the tolerance of greed, dishonesty, cruelty to people from other races and nations, especially the children. I can’t run from what is wrong; I fight against it. Yet, I continue to care for the people who see the world differently—far more difficult than facing mortality.

How do I see reality? What do I choose to focus upon and study with a magnifying class? What must I avoid? Reactions like hatred and retaliation become like gasoline thrown on a forest fire. Another form of war.

I pray for peace, one step at a time. One simple vision found inside a complicated world, followed by another step. Then another… May the ending close a worthwhile story.

 

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I have come to believe that giving and receiving are really the same. Giving and receiving—not giving and taking. (Joyce Grenfell)

“Do pebbles grow into rocks?” my young step-grandson asks as he gathers odd-shaped stones and places them inside a cardboard treasure box. The box rides inside a red wagon.

I smile and tell him rocks are more likely to break into pebbles. I smile, but don’t laugh. His innocence warms me. He finds a tiny lock on the side of the road and adds it to his collection. Then, he puts it inside his pocket, to take home.

For him, all of life is a collection of serendipitous learning experiences. The tracks left by a bulldozer, a dusty trail made by the thin wheels of the collapsible, fabric wagon. The dusty wheels create mud after the wheels travel through a deep puddle.

The thought strikes me that rocks and keys may not be the unique metaphors I imagined them to be in my series, The Star League Chronicles. Black rocks act as weapons for the Malefics, the evil League. Chase Powers, the main character, operates an ancient, rusty, magical key. Sometimes, the key knows more than he does.

Sometimes play teaches me. And I haven’t been a child in a long time. My teacher-key contains no magic. Often its key is no more than a realization, a prod to notice a beauty I hadn’t noticed because I’d been stuck inside ubiquitous bad news forecasts.

This little boy trusts me. A breeze cuts through the afternoon heat. I am at peace despite that fact that I have an approaching deadline—and more words to write and edit than I want to think about. Right now, I could be pecking away at the non-magical keyboard-keys (pun semi-intended.) With the hope of creating magical scenes.

Instead, I follow a red wagon into a child’s imagination and allow my love for this boy to expand.

Work challenges will continue tonight…and tomorrow…weeks after. Until the story fits into a whole.

For now, I give and receive experience. And hope to remember this beautiful day in the middle of July.

 

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There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. William Butler Yeats



When some people hear the word travel, their eyes light up Christmas-tree bright. Mishaps slow eager travelers’ tales long enough for a comma’s breath. These individuals could spend a week in an airport, then fall off a camel unharmed. They have the stamina of a million-year-old rock.

I scarcely know my right from my left and have turned the wrong way inside a restroom. Airport Terminals One and Two could be different continents. I would rather be in a guillotine line than a queue for customs.

Once I enter the plane, I see the goal with reasonable clarity. However, getting that far doesn’t always seem worth it.

For me the possibility of meeting friends makes the decision a worthwhile gamble.

The Best of Ireland Tour, sponsored by Trafalgar, could turn me into one of those irritating globe travelers. Okay, once I get beyond the irritating places. Maybe. No one can claim a win from the starting line.

Our tour guide acts as an expert social catalyst. She has a sense of humor. I laugh. And sing. With ease. The song doesn’t need to have Irish roots; it needs to be sincere and come from my heart. This group knows the difference.

The history of Ireland suddenly becomes mine even though my ancestors came from Alsace-Lorraine. Irish history is human. The story of oppression. The story of one ruling group taking over another as if farmers and their families were things and potatoes were commodities, instead of the only food the people had.

Beautiful land and impressive castles seem to sanitize the past. Yet, memory and memorials hold the truth.

In Dublin the colors of the doors stand out: blue, red, yellow, or white. Our tour guide explains. When Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria declared that all the doors of the kingdom be painted black in mourning. The Irish rebelled. The brightness remains.

Time to leave. My husband and I pack our bags, larger now with gifts for our family. I struggle, but not for long. Both fellow coach travelers and world travelers help me lift my load.

I pray kind action be contagious. Simple, yet powerful. One gesture to help rather than center on self, me-only. Peace. A long-term goal. Yes. Yet worth the effort.

 

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