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Posts Tagged ‘respect for all people’

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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You cannot go around and keep score. If you keep score on the good things and the bad things, you’ll find out that you’re a very miserable person. God gave man the ability to forget, which is one of the greatest attributes you have. Because if you remember everything that’s happened to you, you generally remember that which is the most unfortunate. (Hubert H. Humphrey)

Inside the seed is the potential for a plant. My gardener friends may recognize the difference between a wanna-be green bean and columbine. My understanding remains in the metaphor realm. Internal beauty needs to fight through dirt to become real.

My fingers have become twisted with age and arthritis. A fractured metacarpal in my right hand permanently curved the middle finger. My music has been affected; my song has not.

Amazing as I realize that the cells of the body change continuously. My face doesn’t look the same as it did twenty years ago. I have an older, drier skin, memories locked inside the wrinkles. Yet, classmates from fifty years ago have recognized me. I have recognized them. The self remains. Hopefully I have changed inside for the better—losing track of the score and gaining interest in the game.

Have I reached perfection? Hardly. Sometimes I realize the condemning words I was told as a child have adhered to my spirit. They need to be pruned. With actions that prove them worthless.

For today I forget the past and begin again, accept who you are and who I am. In this strange, complicated world. May peace win. Somehow.

 

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arthritisDifficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict. (William Ellery Channing)

Be nice. Nice. Nice. The teachings of my childhood. Begin with following all rules with a smile and… I don’t remember what came after the and.

Since I happened to be a girl who grew up in the middle of the twentieth century, options were limited. Rarely mentioned. Mom, teacher, nurse. The arts? Forget it. Not practical. Difficulties during those days needed to be faced with stoic silence.

The result—any pain, sorrow, even joys I felt that weren’t shared by my family seemed bizarre, disconnected with anyone else. I see life differently since I learned the world’s inhabitants have as many similarities as differences.

Empathy is a gift. A celebration of shared humanity.

When people, or groups of people, mock mass deaths for political motives I cringe. Conflict? Inevitable. I’ve shared meals, laughs, celebrations with some of the mockers.

Growth in compassion seems as likely as studying the brain through decapitation. And yet, using a less graphic image, grapes and roses grow after deep pruning.

Do I back down? No. That’s the advice of early childhood, the place where I got lost. Instead I follow the advice of my arthritic hands. They throb.

Mother nature has been sending enough rain to flood rivers and streams to overload the land. Pestering my aching joints with action is the way to be nice, nice, nice to them.

I pray for more people to listen to the survivors of injustices. May the listeners place themselves in similar unjust circumstances, without rushing to judgments.

May the survivors recognize they are not alone. May I somehow not sever all connections with the people I see as creating harm.

An impossible request? Maybe. A-step-up-to-unlikely would be worth the effort. In the meantime, I sharpen empathy by choosing awareness in close-by places.

The man behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store has three items. I have at least thirty. He can go ahead of me. My tired mate who needs a nap doesn’t need to be awakened by the vacuum cleaner. And, I have a friend or two who could use a phone call this evening.

Maybe the larger world is no closer to repair, but my smaller realm has been blessed.

 

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screened vision

(screened vision, black and white, not easily read and slightly off-center)

The most important thing is to be whatever you are without shame. (Rod Steiger)

Even if I had the X-ray vision of the Superman I watched long before flat-screened TV and Netflix, I doubt I could understand human motivation. Friendships with the folk who share a similar sense of empathy, are easy. Those who can’t see a relationship between weapons and death, are difficult for me to figure out.

Someone I know tells a story about direct experience with an individual wielding a gun—at her. No pause for recognition of her experience, the person she tells continues with a statistics-game. No awareness of the damage done by violence.

Yet, this man is worthwhile, genuine in what he does. I have no intention of turning away from him. Argument proves nothing.

A photo taken through a screen isn’t the same as a picture taken in the cold and ice—as it develops. The picture isn’t the same as the photographed space.

Life continues without a set pattern. I need to be who I am, speak my own truth and respect the truth of another. Sometimes this respect is as difficult as seeing through two separate screens, made of vastly different experiences.

Peace. Five letters, each one separated by centuries of misunderstanding. Nevertheless, an essential goal. For all.

 

 

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winter through the screen (2)_LI

All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart. (Tahereh Mafi)

Snow. A four-letter word. Not in a vulgar, but in a testy sense. Nevertheless, I know I’m blessed as I feel and hear warm air rise from the furnace. My husband kept a thick, warm coat in the back seat of the car until we saw a homeless man who could use it. Socks next maybe. Some packaged food…

Inside the house I wheeze. Yet, I have the medications necessary to recover. Outside, who knows how long I would last?

A cardinal stops to snack at the birdfeeder. A squirrel gorges on the feed. I look at my belly and suspect I have more in common with the squirrel.

The snow melts and then promises to appear again. Need never melts completely. However, compassion isn’t a job; it’s a way of life. 

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The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal. (Aristotle)

Monday’s focus: the eclipse across the United States. Nature’s rare event preempts hate broadcasted in a continuous loop—at least for a while. The moment was so brief many of the clickable links have already been removed.

I had appointments during show time, so I look for photos taken by other people, extend that moment and revel in it.

The shadows. Conquering real-life human darkness remains.

Us and them.

Blame taken to blind extremes.

If taken literally, of course all lives matter. However, the notion bypasses struggle that doesn’t fit the whole. Equal as human beings? Yes, we are—in universal acceptance of that fact, no. The privileged don’t need to fight for privilege.

In several different groups, the same topic comes up, and I wonder if it is a divine accident. As friends, the people in these groups trust one another. We talk about both understanding and misunderstanding in the nitty-gritty of the everyday. The blatant and the subtle, the repercussions. The details of our sharing can’t be spread in a public blog. The common human threads can.

The moon and the sun aligned this week. May the people who rely on Mother Nature, eventually, join as family.

(pic: made from public domain photos)

 

 

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The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. (Albert Einstein)

Ella leads our play and I follow: trick or treat, hide and seek, happy birthday in multiple forms—bunny’s fifth birthday and mine. Ella plays the role of Daddy; I am Daughter. I ask how old I am today. The reply? Seventy. In the make-believe world, the next obvious question has an unknown answer. It doesn’t matter.

While my spirit keeps up with the imagination of my granddaughter, my bones don’t. My lower back aches. But, I don’t tell Ella. Later, when her daddy and Grandpa come back from their errands I will put heat on the complaining area. For now, I will move a tad slower.

Then, I notice the microwave announcing my food is ready. I didn’t put anything in it. My bed buddy is warm.

Ella admits she did it. She shows me how she placed the fabric-covered bag of rice inside and hit Express. “For your back.”

How did she know? And get this warmed for me so quickly? During hide and seek?

Ella goes to the toy room and grabs the box of bandages. She places a strip inches from the most annoying area. Comforting heat relieves the discomfort in my back. I sit leaned against the chalkboard on the floor in the room with the toys as we play.

“You are amazing, Ella. How did you know my back hurt?”

“And your throat, too.”

My hiatal hernia has enlarged and burned the inside of my throat. Not a problem I would share with a child of any age.

Ella’s Down syndrome may have affected her muscle tone and other areas of her development. However, she has been reading phonetically for several years. Her intuition is beyond exceptional. She is a blessing in my life.

I’m not sure she knows how to explain how she understands what most people of any age would never recognize. To me, the answer is a mystery. For her, she is simply being Ella.

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